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Changing Employee Behaviour - Switching Out Annual Appraisals

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No one ever changed the world with a Pow­er­Point presentation. 

It’s a salu­tary reminder that we can, some­times, risk los­ing touch with the human” part of the human resources equa­tion. Sam Nether­wood, who leads on Behav­iour­al Change Design at data ana­lyt­ics con­sul­tan­cy Mudano, gave us a com­pelling 20 min­utes on the impor­tance of test­ing your ideas in the real world and cre­at­ing expe­ri­ences that res­onate with your people. 

We know Sam’s work well here at Clear Review: he was part of the team that deliv­ered con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment at exam­i­na­tion award­ing body AQA (you can read our case study). AQA’s sto­ry is a great exam­ple of a team get­ting deep into the chal­lenges through lis­ten­ing work, then cre­at­ing a strong and focussed rec­om­men­da­tion that was stress-test­ed as it was imple­ment­ed. It’s also an excel­lent blue­print for get­ting stake­hold­er buy-in and chal­leng­ing man­age­ment assump­tions of what is pos­si­ble through per­for­mance management. 

Dur­ing his talk, Sam con­tin­u­al­ly referred back to the impor­tance of work­place envi­ron­ment as a cat­a­lyst for growth. He cre­at­ed a plan based around pro­mot­ing three pil­lars of bet­ter per­for­mance man­age­ment — goals, feed­back and rela­tion­ships — and then designed sce­nar­ios and tests to prove their effec­tive­ness. Mak­ing things hap­pen in the real world, rather than on paper, has the ben­e­fit of cre­at­ing advo­cates along the way. Once you’ve per­suad­ed peo­ple that the new ways can bring pos­i­tive change, they help you sell the idea in to the rest of the organisation. 

Take check-in meet­ings, for exam­ple. It’s easy to tell peo­ple that the organ­i­sa­tion doesn’t do annu­al appraisals any more, and that reg­u­lar check-ins are tak­ing their place. But if you con­tin­ue to do those check-ins in the same meet­ing room you’ve always used for the annu­al appraisal, peo­ple will asso­ciate them with the lega­cy way of think­ing. When you wor­ry about your appraisal, your adren­a­line kicks in and trig­gers your flight reflex. But if you find alter­na­tive ways of hav­ing those check-ins — walk­ing around the cam­pus, per­haps, or going to a cof­fee shop — then you remove that bar­ri­er to adop­tion. Peo­ple instant­ly feel that this is a dif­fer­ent process. As Sam put it, There’s no hier­ar­chy at a pic­nic table.” 

Envi­ron­ment — the con­di­tions an organ­i­sa­tion pro­vides for its peo­ple to thrive — should always be your first thought when you want to change that behav­iour. We’ll leave you with a final anal­o­gy — pos­si­bly stolen from Gand­hi — that sup­ports this point.

The gar­den­er does­n’t blame the seed when it fails to grow”. 

If you’d like to know more about what we do and how we can help you turn your bro­ken annu­al appraisal sys­tem into a con­tin­u­ous cul­ture of mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions, you can check out our short demo film or get in touch right here.