Chapter 4

Visibility and Accountability

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Know­ing what’s going on

The final areas to con­sid­er for a suc­cess­ful cul­tur­al shift towards reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tions are vis­i­bil­i­ty and account­abil­i­ty. If you are not track­ing who is and isn’t hav­ing those con­ver­sa­tions, then you have no way of know­ing what is going on. And man­agers can’t be held account­able for some­thing that you have no vis­i­bil­i­ty of, so the two things go hand in hand. You can, of course, ask your man­agers if they are hav­ing those con­ver­sa­tions, but I have heard too many sto­ries from organ­i­sa­tions where their man­agers said they were hav­ing reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions with their staff, only to find out lat­er from the annu­al engage­ment sur­vey that those con­ver­sa­tions weren’t in fact hap­pen­ing and staff were dis­sat­is­fied as a result.

Get­ting vis­i­bil­i­ty of per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions and feed­back can only fea­si­bly be done using tech­nol­o­gy that mon­i­tors activ­i­ty. Some organ­i­sa­tions have tried to track activ­i­ty using spread­sheets and failed. Indeed, one of our cus­tomers, the Val­u­a­tion Office Agency, part of the UK Civ­il Ser­vice, were attempt­ing to track their month­ly coach­ing con­ver­sa­tions and quar­ter­ly per­for­mance reviews on Excel spread­sheets. Whilst the new process of reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tions was gen­er­al­ly being pos­i­tive­ly received, the admin­is­tra­tive bur­den cre­at­ed from the asso­ci­at­ed data col­lec­tion exer­cise was get­ting in the way and under­min­ing the per­cep­tion of the new frame­work. With over 3,500 staff across mul­ti­ple loca­tions, it involved a lot of time and effort. And to com­pound the sit­u­a­tion, the data was unre­li­able due to the amount of man­u­al copy­ing and past­ing involved between dif­fer­ent spread­sheets as the data was aggre­gat­ed up the organisation.

Once they embed­ded the Clear Review plat­form, they imme­di­ate­ly removed the admin­is­tra­tive bur­den and got vis­i­bil­i­ty and accu­ra­cy as to what was going on. They can now see at a glance what per­cent­age of their work­force is hav­ing meet­ings, get­ting feed­back and who has objec­tives. The reports enable HR to drill into fur­ther detail to see which teams, man­agers, employ­ees are not fol­low­ing the process and who may need fur­ther coach­ing or support.

Encour­ag­ing accountability

Hav­ing the vis­i­bil­i­ty is one thing, it’s what you do with it that makes the dif­fer­ence. New­port City Coun­cil, for exam­ple, has used the data from their Clear Review plat­form to increase account­abil­i­ty for hav­ing per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions. They have tapped into the human desire for recog­ni­tion and pro­gres­sion by shar­ing depart­men­tal leader boards inter­nal­ly. Divi­sion­al lead­ers are pro­vid­ed with a leader board dis­play­ing what per­cent­age of their man­agers are hav­ing check-ins and giv­ing feed­back to their teams. These are also shared with the CEO.

Of course, no leader wants to be at the bot­tom of the list. They all want to progress and to get their per­cent­ages up. The leader boards have result­ed in the divi­sion­al lead­ers mak­ing their man­agers account­able, rather than HR hav­ing to chase them. This then frees up HR to add val­ue by offer­ing coach­ing and sup­port to areas of the busi­ness where the con­ver­sa­tions are not happening.

Perk­box has come up with anoth­er inno­v­a­tive way of encour­ag­ing account­abil­i­ty. They have a process where the man­ag­er can’t rec­om­mend some­one for pro­mo­tion unless they demon­strate that the nec­es­sary check-in con­ver­sa­tions have tak­en place and that the individual’s career has been ade­quate­ly discussed.

At the end of the day there are many dif­fer­ent ways of try­ing to encour­age account­abil­i­ty and what the right bal­ance of car­rot and stick is for your com­pa­ny is going to depend on your cul­ture. How­ev­er, it’s a fact that with­out vis­i­bil­i­ty of what is hap­pen­ing, you have noth­ing to work from.