First Rate Exchange Case Study

How a leading international foreign exchange provider gave managers time to manage

With Amy Mellor, Learning Consultant

Company info

First Rate Exchange is a leading international foreign exchange company and the UK’s largest supplier of travel money.

  • Industry

    Foreign exchange

  • Headquarters

    Brentford, West London, UK

  • Company Size

    250 employees

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.”

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