Creating a manageable, meaningful and measurable framework aligning behaviour and values to organisational objectives.
Moving away from traditional methods of appraisal can be daunting for organisations, yet so many others seem to be doing this now. There are also a number of organisations that are trying to reframe the process of supervision and appraisal and make it less of a combative process focussed on getting or withholding ‘reward’.
For an organisation I helped with this, it was about reframing the process so that it was more interactive, linked better to the values of the organisation and demonstrated a clear alignment with how that organisation wanted to business. It also became a visual nod to a shift in culture and direction – moving away from the old and into the new.
Creating a framework meant:
• Having a clear understand of how the business conducted itself, its values and why they were important (and distinctive)
• Engaging staff in the process of identifying behaviours
• Creating a realistic expectation of contact points (check in’s) between staff and managers
• Keeping the paperwork very simple (and fairly quick to complete)
• Training and supporting staff to operate in a new way
• Creating a ‘toolkit’ (hard and soft copy) for managers and staff to refer back too, making it easy for them to engage in the process
• Set realistic timescales for completing
First order of business
Understanding what the business is trying to achieve.
Without this, it is difficult to include the right behaviours – they should reflect how the organisation wants to be seen to be doing business. What it feels is important for staff to exhibit. For example, if the organisation wants to create a customer centric approach, then proactive engagement with the customer through regular calls/mail/meetings/updates is behaviour you should see, as opposed to failing to use customer input in product design.
To really flesh this out, we engaged with staff through focus groups and ‘coffee and chat’ sessions to get their input for descriptors of behaviour against the organisations values. This way, we also created ownership of the framework and early engagement in its use, as it meant a number of staff were already familiar with the concept and its content.
From this, we had nine dimensions with four levels of achievement. All presented on a ‘spider web’ diagram in order to make this easier to work through.
Objectives and Development Plans
These are still two important factors for appraising and managing staff expectations – particularly to give them a measure of what they need to achieve and how they will be supported to do that. With this element, we helped the organisation to streamline these and give them a clearer focus: 5-7 SMARTER objectives, linked directly backed to organisational objectives (made available to all managers online) and a prioritisation for development (short vs long term, business need vs personal interest) to help manage budgets as much as expectations.
These three elements were set out on very easy to use forms, with aide memoirs and guides to setting up a good appraisal session.
Timings and Engagement
The appraisal in terms of objective setting continued to happen in an hour long session annually, however, the process was widened to include one to ones (check in’s) and team meetings as part of the review process.
These other touch points were established as ways to catch up about objectives (on track/over ridden by something else/delayed/changed etc.) and ensure development was being accessed and helping.
The important factor was that performance management was seen as a positive engagement between two people; an opportunity to ask and tell how things were going and to ensure that issues were dealt with as and when they arose, and in appropriate settings – including team meetings, where members were all working toward s a common objective, or where there was likely to be overlap or dependencies between individual objectives.
Overall this was also about structuring the sessions so as to maximise the time and make them meaningful.
By seeing this as an ongoing process, rather than storing it up for once a year, encouraged there to be meaningful dialogue and constructive relationships. And, to reduce the need to spend so much time looking back.
All managers were given training for the new framework, not via power point though – rather, through small group discussions to allow managers to ask questions, try out the language, and to think through any sticking points.
Managers and Staff were then given the appropriate forms, along with a series of one pagers and rib sheets for things like:
• The one to one/appraisal environment (getting it set up right first time)
• Coaching questions
• SMARTER objective Action Words
• 6 Core needs of individuals (helping get the most from performance management)
• Reward and Recognition
Staff could access these online or in hard copy, and use them to refresh their knowledge, plan their one to ones, team meeting and objective setting sessions or to help guide their own practice.
The aim of this, and any, framework is to make it as easy as possible for all parties to engage in the process and be able to take something from it that actually supports progress.
• Performance Management needs to be clearly linked to organisational values and objectives (create a clear lone of sight)
• Get staff involvement at the design phase, let staff help shape this and they are more likely to engage
• Be clear about what the organisation wants to measure, and why – staff will need a reason to engage (even if its about money, be honest about that)
• Get senior level buy-in; it has to be seen as important from the top down
• Make it an ongoing process – not an annual one