PerfectHome started out in 2006 as a store-based retail business selling products via weekly payments. In 2017, the organization went through a complete pivot and switched entirely to an online model. There were a lot of changes to the way we were staffed. The business worked very hard to retain as many people as it could. Lots of people needed to reskill, to switch from a store model to a digital one. At the same time, ongoing performance management became less of a priority as we worked to adapt.
In 2018 we were acquired by a new owner, we had a new leadership team. I joined in April 2019 and immediately started to look at the HR functions, how we could improve people’s experience at work, how we could make sure we were developing people as well as we could.
I ran a procurement process and looked at four vendors. I thought Clear Review stood out from the beginning but I realised how important it was for everyone to buy into it, so I involved 15 senior managers in the process and captured their feedback too. I wanted to make sure that people were bought into the platform from the start. The managers’ feedback was very positive and we made the decision to go ahead.
My philosophy is always “let’s communicate more”. We launched at our quarterly roadshow, and we really explained the vision of the business: how we wanted people to grow and develop.
Following on from that, I identified a list of people across the organization. I represented pretty much every department, at every level. I wanted 15 advocates that would help me lead this within their teams.
It’s tempting to go for the people who you think will embrace something like this, but I wanted to get the cynics on board as well. I deliberately chose people who I thought might be sceptical of check-ins and continuous feedback. We did three sessions with those 15 people: two hours per session, giving people the chance to play with the system, ask questions, get a feel for how it works. I wanted them to understand that this isn’t an HR initiative, this is a way we want to operate as a business.
Those ambassadors are now holding sessions of their own where they walk people through Clear Review. It was hard work getting that advocacy set up, but the fact that it’s now working in this way has really shown me the value of the preliminary work.
But organization-wide, the biggest change so far has been in goal-setting. In the past, people might have used objectives as a sort of to-do list. We’ve done a lot of work to show people how their objectives apply to organizational goals. How can we cut costs? How can we do things more efficiently? If you’re really clear on those goals, everyone can see how the jobs they do, every day, are a part of that.
We send out a company-wide email regularly and, for the first time, people are adding likes and comments to it in SharePoint. It’s energising people.
The board are doing sessions on Clear Review with their own teams, not the HR team. They love that connectivity between strategic goals and everyone’s objectives. Having them in those sessions — not running them, necessarily, just being a part of the team — communicates to everyone how seriously we’re taking this. Like I said, it’s not an HR thing: it’s how we work now.
Some people find that harder than others, but if you take the time to explain where they fit into the wider scheme of things, you see the benefits.
We had advice from the Customer Success team to launch the feedback function by asking for feedback about the Clear Review system. We had already launched a recognition tool earlier in the year and that went well, so people quickly embraced the positive feedback function. The challenge now is now to teach and embed the constructive feedback culture, to help people understand its importance and what they need to do to get the most from it. It’s not about negativity, it’s about suggestions and gradual improvement.
Historically our communication wasn’t always good, we didn’t talk enough as a business, and those ambassadors have worked incredibly well for us. Normally I’d deploy the HR team to do this but those advocates have done that job for us.
The truth is that this project comes down to a binary choice. “Is it better or worse to talk to employees more often?”. When you put it like that, it’s simple.