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Virgin Money Customer Story

How Virgin Money has shifted mindsets to steer performance success

With Francis Lake Head of Organisational Development at Virgin Money

Company info

Virgin Money have created a business which delivers our unique approach to banking and financial services to our customers through our online services, customer contact centres, Stores and in our fantastic Lounges.

  • Industry

    Banking and Finance

  • Headquarters


  • Company Size


Francis Lake

Head of Organisational Development at Virgin Money

Accord­ing to Fran­cis, it was clear that every­one with­in Vir­gin Mon­ey recog­nised a need for change when it came to per­for­mance man­age­ment. He explained: Vir­tu­al­ly every one of our employ­ees had had a bad per­for­mance man­age­ment expe­ri­ence – maybe not in the pre­vi­ous year, or even the year before that, but at some point every­one had been scarred by poor per­for­mance practices.”

Detail­ing some of the flaws with Vir­gin Money’s exist­ing per­for­mance mod­el, Fran­cis point­ed to a weight­ed focus on process over pur­pose, lead­ing to futile per­for­mance score­cards, rat­ings and appraisals being forced upon both employ­ees and man­agers, cre­at­ing resent­ment and demo­ti­va­tion. Need­less to say, the impact on per­for­mance improve­ment out­comes was not a pos­i­tive one. 

For man­agers, this resent­ment was com­pound­ed by the fact that the exist­ing per­for­mance sys­tem was fail­ing them as employ­ees, whilst at a man­age­r­i­al lev­el, the same sys­tem was also prov­ing to be a huge source of frus­tra­tion, cre­at­ing moun­tains of nev­er-end­ing – and ulti­mate­ly point­less – admin. A plan for pos­i­tive per­for­mance change had to be put in place. 

Despite the obvi­ous need for a bet­ter way of doing things’, Fran­cis recounts that the ini­tial – and per­haps great­est – chal­lenge he and his col­leagues faced involved allay­ing a long-engrained fear of change which had arisen as a result of sev­er­al failed per­for­mance improve­ment ini­tia­tives. He explained:

We had to change people’s mind­set in this regard. This time we were deter­mined to get it right. In par­tic­u­lar, switch­ing man­agers away from view­ing per­for­mance man­age­ment as a list of tasks to be com­plet­ed, and instead, encour­ag­ing them to think about how they could help peo­ple to per­form bet­ter. That was a fun­da­men­tal chal­lenge for us.”

Fran­cis continued:

Before we went any­where near a new per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem, we knew that we need­ed to improve the capa­bil­i­ties of our line man­agers – both for their ben­e­fit, and the ben­e­fit of those being super­vised by them. We invest­ed heav­i­ly in a new man­age­ment frame­work, which involved train­ing our man­agers to get the best out of peo­ple. As part of this, we also spent time edu­cat­ing our peo­ple as to why fre­quent feed­back and con­tin­u­ous con­ver­sa­tions lead to sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter per­for­mance out­comes – a key ele­ment that we need­ed every­one to under­stand and show a com­mit­ment to.” 
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Whilst Vir­gin Money’s new man­age­ment frame­work was being con­struct­ed and strides were being made to cre­ate a more pos­i­tive per­for­mance-focused cul­ture, Fran­cis and his team were work­ing on their sourc­ing a new per­for­mance tech­nol­o­gy partner.

Our vision was for a very dif­fer­ent, much more sim­ple mod­el, explained Fran­cis. We want­ed to do away with indi­vid­ual score­cards, instead focus­ing on team goals that would fos­ter a cul­ture of team­work and con­tin­u­al improve­ment. With­in this, our spec­i­fi­ca­tion was for each employ­ee to have two per­son­al goals – one that they would set them­selves, and one that would be set by their man­ag­er. We felt this was the best way to include employ­ees and enable them to bet­ter man­age their own per­for­mance and improve­ment. This employ­ee and man­ag­er approach was also key to us fos­ter­ing the sense of part­ner­ship we need­ed to make this a success.”

As out­lined above, the Vir­gin Mon­ey team was very keen to increase fre­quen­cy of per­for­mance feed­back, some­thing that formed a key stip­u­la­tion in the company’s search for a bet­ter per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem. Build­ing upon this increased fre­quen­cy, the team at Vir­gin Mon­ey also want­ed feed­back to be more sim­ple and con­cise – both in ongo­ing check-in’ con­ver­sa­tions and quar­ter­ly employ­ee-man­ag­er feed­back meet­ings. Specif­i­cal­ly, employ­ees were asked to cite one thing they like and are hap­py with, and one thing that could be done bet­ter. Fran­cis con­tin­ued: This has not only active­ly encour­aged ongo­ing per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions, but ensured they are cen­tred around pos­i­tiv­i­ty, encour­age­ment, and incre­men­tal improvement.”

With the Vir­gin Mon­ey team very much focused on cre­at­ing the right per­for­mance frame­work and invest­ing their time in train­ing man­agers to opti­mise its even­tu­al suc­cess, Fran­cis knew that the com­pa­ny required a per­for­mance sys­tem that deliv­ered a sim­ply yet pow­er­ful end user expe­ri­ence. One that would not cre­ate fur­ther com­plex­i­ty and dis­tract peo­ple away from what was impor­tant: build­ing the right nature of high qual­i­ty, mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions. After meet­ing with Clear Review’s Stu­art Hearn and see­ing imme­di­ate syn­er­gies in per­for­mance phi­los­o­phy, Fran­cis and his team decid­ed to adopt Clear Review’s clean, sim­ple and gen­uine­ly intu­itive” plat­form to sup­port Vir­gin Money’s pos­i­tive per­for­mance transformation.

In March 2019 Vir­gin Mon­ey decid­ed to imple­ment Clear Review across the busi­ness to bring to life one of their key ini­tia­tives — pur­pose led feed­back. Our Per­for­mance is the inter­nal name they have giv­en Clear Review, and as you’ve read they want­ed to use this to encour­age more con­ver­sa­tions and strate­gic objec­tive set­ting. Vir­gin Mon­ey want­ed there to be more con­struc­tive feed­back, by cre­at­ing a cul­ture where giv­ing and receiv­ing feed­back becomes a key part in the devel­op­ment of everyone. 

In just one year, Vir­gin Mon­ey — through Our Per­for­mance — has: 

  • Had 52,227 check-ins — that’s an aver­age of 5 check-ins per per­son in 2019
  • Giv­en over a quar­ter of a mil­lion pieces of feed­back through Our Performance. 
  • Fed-back heart­felt ser­vice 65,000 times.

Check-out this info-graph­ic we cre­at­ed to celebrate: 

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