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.”
“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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