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.
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.