When Amy Mellor joined First Rate Exchange Services, the business was using a performance management system created specifically for them. Although it had been designed to the business’ specifications, it was based around an annual appraisal model and lacked the flexibility to cater for a continuous way of doing performance management. On top of this, the fact that it was a proprietary system meant that every change needed to be done manually: this meant that it was not always cost-efficient to update.
The HR team had reviewed the people strategy, and identified the benefits of moving to a more flexible model of performance management (such as continuous performance management).
“We expect the company to be more agile and to be able to change direction if the market requires it. We needed the ability to do the same with our people. An annual appraisal didn’t offer the flexibility we needed to adapt to the rapid pace of change.”
To do this, the team needed a new platform to work with and Amy was given the task of researching the systems on the market.
Amy started by looking at the practical aspects. She did an analysis of the current system and compared the features to the continuous tools on the market.
“It wasn’t as difficult to make a business case as I’d thought. I started with price, as I wanted to ensure that we got good value for money. But I quickly found that pricing wasn’t going to be a huge issue, because there were a lot of systems out there that would — on paper, at least — do a better job than the system we had. That was a great relief: I felt as though I could look at options on their merits rather than having to worry (too much) about costs.”
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Amy spent a lot of time engaging with team managers to find out what they wanted from performance management. The word that came up, again and again, was “agile”.
Amy came across Clear Review at a conference and spent some time going through the tool with the team. She could instantly see how the system supported the values she wanted to instil. After time spent carefully narrowing down the tools which would support the HR strategy in the most effective way, the team arrived at a shortlist of two. Clear Review was chosen by a focus group of managers in the final procurement process. Amy was finally able to “switch off” the legacy system and start something new.
“We started with a presentation to the entire team talking about the new, more agile way we wanted to do performance management. We focused on the strategic piece — why it was right to work this way — and then introduced Clear Review and explained how it supported that strategy.”
Amy had a very small HR team to work with, so they needed to bring the business on board in a manageable, smart way. She chose to roll Clear Review out with a sequential release of features. When users first logged in, all the team asked them to do was to log their professional and personal development objectives. The following month, everyone was prompted to book their first check-in. In the third and final month of the rollout, HR encouraged everyone to start sending feedback. At the same time, they requested live feedback on how people were using the system.
“We worked in a SMART manner: we did live drop-in sessions and offered training for those that needed it, although very few did. But what we really tried to do was open up the possibilities for people: if they asked for help on one topic, we’d also try to show them something else as well. We wanted people to be enthusiastic about what they could achieve with Clear Review. The rollout helped by launching features in a way that didn’t overwhelm people, but we always had resources available to show them what was possible.”
“What’s pleased me the most is how little effort, relatively speaking, that we’ve put into this compared to what we’ve got out of it.”
The phased rollout of features gave the team plenty of space to get used to the new way of doing things. Amy wanted to give managers time to manage, which meant creating a cultural change as much as a technical one. Feedback, in particular, was something that the team wanted to introduce gradually: Amy describes the organisation as a “nice place to work”, which meant that constructive feedback (as opposed to purely positive feedback) was something of a step change.
“We didn’t want to do too much hand-holding. We’re evolving here: we’re working in more agile teams, we’re trying to treat people very much as adults and create the expectation that they’ll take responsibility for their own development. We’ve just done mid-year reviews and we did have a couple of managers who hadn’t done what they needed to do on the system. We had that visibility, which is great, and we found when we drilled deeper that one or two had not managed to do it for very good reasons: what I might call “special circumstances”. With the others, it was down to them not “getting” the tech and needing a little more support to finalise the details. So it’s been very positive. There’s been virtually nothing that’s been unexpected.”
Overall, Amy is delighted with how the rollout has gone.
“I think we launched it with a real eye on how Clear Review was designed: we’ve created the right connection between why it benefits people and the nuts and bolts of how it needs to work. If I had to do it all again I really wouldn’t do much differently. I might engage focus even more on getting greater buy-in on the cultural change. We’re not just buying tech, we’re changing the way people work. It may not be a painful change but, like any transformation, it takes time. The more people understand what the purpose is, and why doing it this way will benefit them, the more successful we can be.”