We’re kicking off a blog series to help make 2017 the best year yet. We spend 30% of our lives at work, yet, many of us gain little more from it than a paycheck. But it’s possible for employees to actually like their jobs and feel fulfilled by it (no, really!). If employees are in control of their careers and the direction they’re headed, it’s much more likely that their jobs won’t feel like a necessary evil and instead, it can be something that provides ongoing satisfaction and enjoyment.

This checklist will help employees get the most of their time at work and develop the skills that can turn their jobs into something meaningful and engaging.

2017 Employee Checklist

hook-1727484_1280   Embrace a growth mindset

em-dash  Start the conversation

em-dash  Expand your feedback circle

em-dash  Put your goals to work

Any successful endeavor – whether it be personal or professional – stems from first defining an intended outcome, or setting a goal. Those goals come in all shapes and sizes, and can be short-term stepping stones or a long-term, mountain-sized aspiration.

So, what influences how we get from the start to the finish line? Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck spent years studying the correlation between our mindset and our success, and found people have one of two mindsets.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits.

In a growth mindset, people believe their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.

Let’s apply these mindsets to the goal-setting process in a professional setting. Those with a fixed mindset will often set goals they know are attainable with their current skillset. They’ll likely achieve them, but each year they’ll really just set a different variation of the same goal.

Conversely, those with a growth mindset often set stretch goals, knowing that in order to achieve them, they’ll have to learn and perfect something new. They often gain much more in the process – namely, the skills and experience needed to earn a promotion, step into a management role or move into a new department.

Come 2017, employees might be asked to set goals for the new quarter or even year. They can challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zones. Here are some tips you can share with employees to help them stay in a growth mindset when setting goals:

  • Set objectives for the job you’d like to have. If you perform at the expected level, you’re doing a satisfactory job. If you perform above it, you’re earning your way to a better role.
  • If you have already identified what new skills you’d like to achieve, choose a goal that will allow you to do that. Take any opportunity you can to develop new skills.
  • If at first you don’t succeed… it means you’re probably doing it right! Goals are meant to stretch us past our perceived limits and ultimately help us expand those boundaries. Take the lessons, good and bad, and learn from them.

Happy goal-setting!

Have you seen the latest and greatest 2017 trend predictions for HR? For the past five years, Forbes contributor and best-selling author Dan Schawbel has created a top 10 list for HR trends based on hundreds of interviews, surveys and third-party reports.

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s all you really need to know: five out of the 10 predictions focus on employee performance, development and culture. That’s half of them, folks.

Let’s dive into what Schawbel had to say about these areas for 2017.

Companies focus on improving their candidate and employee experiences.

Today’s executives have realized you can’t hide from bad reviews, and they’re now commonplace. Schawbel referenced one study that found 72% of people reviewed an employer online. Early interaction with your company shapes the way employees feel about and contribute to your culture. Once aboard, HR leaders are revamping old tactics like rewards programs as well as utilizing new strategies like analytics to better understand what keeps employees happy and engaged.

Annual performance reviews evolve into more continuous reviews.

Instant feedback isn’t the exception; it’s now the norm. Schawbel cited that 28% of Generation Z employees (born in the mid-1990s) are already getting regular feedback and they expect it, having grown up in the world of instant gratification with Twitter and Facebook. Companies are even giving this approach a formal name (“check-ins” for Adobe and “touchpoints” for GE).

Millennials meet Generation Z in the workplace.

Gen Z was referenced above, and now these young employees have earned their own spot on Schawbel’s list. Why? Not only do we have a new generation (Z) in the workforce, but a third of Millennials (who companies still haven’t fully figured out) are now managers themselves. It’ll be important to understand how best to engage these newer generations.

The war for talent heats up as the employer/employee contract continues to evolve.

What’s your company’s average employee tenure? Nationally, it’s 4.6 years, and for Millennials, it’s less than two. As such, 90% of companies anticipate more competition for talent. Because of this, Schawbel says, “You will see an even greater emphasis on the employee experience in 2017 because companies are being forced to focus more on corporate culture and values than pay in order to retain employees.”

Organizations restructure to focus on team vs. individual performance.

Teamwork will reign in 2017. Companies have come to realize the importance of building great teams vs. singling out high performers and relying heavily on them. The younger generations are comfortable working in this way and as a bonus, this increases a company’s agility. Nearly 92% of companies are focusing on “organizational design” to create more of a team mentality.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? Are these five trends high on your list of considerations as you map out your 2017 plans?

Nothing beats a good story. On the other hand, nothing is more uncomfortable than a bad one. Organizations are now realizing the power of a good storyteller and how a compelling narrative can affect your company culture and ultimately, your business. In fact, United Airlines recently announced it named a chief storyteller. According to the airline, “The idea is using stories to give employees and customers a window seat to how we’re doing things and changing things and making a positive difference.”

As United noted above, employees are essential to crafting a company’s narrative. Here’s how employees play a critical role in telling your story so you’re known as one of the best around.

Employees can and should create their own stories

We said earlier that there’s nothing more uncomfortable than someone telling a rambling, aimless story at a party. Unfortunately, many employees feel exactly the same way about their own jobs – it’s going nowhere, it’s getting boring and they’re just looking for an easy way out.

Cision, a Chicago-based software company, understood that employees need a way to own their professional narrative. Employees’ stories begin on their first day at Cision and consist of a series of experiences as they progress through their career.

So the company developed and launched an employee engagement program branded as “StoryBoard.” Cision uses Kazoo’s real-time performance and engagement platform to help employees craft a professional story that propels them toward better development. Ultimately, employees are in control of their professional story.

Like any other story, the best ones are usually told from firsthand experience. When employees create their own goals and are encouraged to initiate regular check-in conversations with their managers, they’re more likely to perform better – telling a much better, more compelling professional story.

Employees are the best narrators of your company culture – good or bad

Even if you don’t have a designated “official” storyteller, don’t worry. Employees are the best ambassadors of your company’s narrative. But depending on your company culture, this can be either a good thing or a very, very bad thing.

If your culture is a mess, it’s not going to be a very well-kept secret. Your company story (in this case, also known as gossip) can be incredibly destructive to morale and performance. Likewise, happy employees are the best spokespeople for your organization. Whether they’re providing exceptional customer service or acting as unofficial recruiters when talking about their jobs, employees can convey your culture in a very powerful, compelling way.

So how do you ensure that employees are telling your company’s story positively? It starts with creating positive employee experiences. Empower your employees to be active participants in not only their own professional story, but listen to their ideas for strengthening the larger corporate narrative. And like any story, it’s not just about listening to employee ideas – leadership must actually take action on those recommendations. Like any story, what’s the point if there’s not a lesson learned?

Who do you rely on to tell your company story? Share your thoughts in the comments.


(In this blog series, we share the stories of companies that have taken the first steps toward their employee development transformation. You can read about our previously featured companies here: Patagonia’s transition to real-time employee development; Adobe’s check-in culture; Goldman Sachs’ decision to remove rankings and Gap’s new GPS system.

For the last installment of the series, we are taking a different approach. The other companies we profiled already have new approaches in place so we wanted to hear from a company that’s earlier in their journey to ongoing performance development. We asked Hitachi Data Systems’ Rupa Amin, Sr. Lead Performance and Talent Management Specialist, and Petter Andersson, VP Global Talent Management, a few questions about their approach to performance management and employee development.

What led you to change your approach to performance management?

Everywhere you go, every industry that you look at, people are talking about speed, digital disruption and the need for building organizational capabilities that can both innovate and drive change. Many companies are faced with the brutal choice to either transform or die. As such, we are seeing fundamental changes in the expectations of leadership and changes in defining what leadership represents.

At Hitachi Data Systems, we have a long history of innovation. Data is at the center of all of our customers’ digital transformations and we know that insights from data are critical, but turning those insights into outcomes is equally critical. Our success depends on our ability to harness the full capabilities and potential of our employees as we continuously strive to be a great place to work. More than ever before we need to put ourselves to the test and ask, “Why are we doing this?”, ”What is the value?”, “How can we do this better?”

When we analyzed the results from our employee engagement survey, and listened to feedback from leaders and employees throughout our company, we found that our past performance management process did not provide enough value to the business or the talent decisions made. Armed with data and information, we embarked on a journey to revitalize our approach. We took a step back and we unified around one very clear mission for performance management: to make sure that every employee is fully able to apply their talent and make contributions that take their team and the organization to the next level of success. In our first year of introducing our new approach to performance management, we saw a 15% increase in manager–employee performance conversations, with 700 more performance conversations taking place in 2016 compared to the prior year.

Why do you think so many organizations are undergoing the same self-examination right now?

We live in a time when overall employee engagement is at a record low in many places. With the level of change required inside many companies, there is a definite risk that employees might feel overwhelmed and stressed; employees might get left behind, unclear about the direction, goals, and objectives required for development and growth.

As a response to this, many organizations, including Hitachi Data Systems, are looking for better ways to orchestrate, align and engage talent. We talk about creating a much more adaptable and empowered organization – one that is in frequent sync with the day-to-day realities and capabilities of the organization, focusing on efforts that engage employees and inspire them about the change that is happening. Neglecting these needs is a huge risk to any organization, with the potential for a decline in productivity and decreasing strategic relevance as an organization, which could lead to an inability to retain top talent.

So what has been your priorities and outcome so far?

We believe that the foundation for a high performing organization begins with enabling trust and exercising respect and transparency in everything we do across our entire organization. In addition, we believe we can reach the next level of performance if we excel in the following areas:

  • Goal management
  • Crowd feedback
  • One-on-one employee performance conversations with managers
  • Coaching

Our first step has been to establish simplicity, coherence, confidence and ownership in how we execute in the above areas. While in our first year of practice, though we haven’t had a modernized tool to develop this, we have made strides with stunning results. With the 15% increase in manager-employee performance conversations, we also received feedback that the quality of conversation has improved as well. As a result, we have seen improved clarity around goals and expectations, a more solid understanding of how performance is evaluated, and better management support for employees’ development and growth. And this is just the beginning.

Finally, how do you see your story unfold?

To a large extent we believe the success will be determined by the level of authenticity, trust and respect in the conversations between managers and employees. So our first priority is to continue to shape such behavior in the organization. We believe that the introduction of systems and tools will help with this. For example, we are interested in tools that allow employees to post their goals publicly, introducing transparency and understanding of how colleagues are working—together and individually. As we evolve our tools, we also need to help our employees to master the processes we’ve talked about. Setting and managing great goals takes time to learn but is something that underpins everything from coaching to feedback and great performance conversations. HDS has committed to growing the coaching capability within the organization by developing a Coaching Program and Resource Center for managers.

As technology continues to enable us to monitor engagement, performance, health and other data points, our ability to support our employees to take their performance to the next level will follow suit. By collecting and aggregating data and information and comparing them with other relevant KPIs, we are confident that the data will help us predict success in a way that will improve our talent and overall organizational management. Ultimately, we know that our purpose is to make a difference together.

Strong executive leadership teams go through the careful effort to establish corporate values that can guide their organization’s growth and culture. It takes time, rigor, honest debate and consideration of the tradeoffs. What emerges is deep clarity about the current and desired organizational culture — and what it will take to get there.

What happens next? Posters get made! Sometimes those values get inserted haphazardly, without any context or explanation into already cumbersome performance management processes. Occasionally I’ll see organizations create employee groups to help make progress on the cultural renewal – and at that point, it’s often too little, too late

Where do most organizations fall short? Simply stated, most cultural initiatives end up being “owned” solely by HR, and fail to involve managers who embrace, promote and facilitate the changes that need to happen.

When managers aren’t completely aligned or involved with the organizational culture change, employees hear mixed messages and feel ambivalent toward the initiative. These managers already have multiple challenges competing for their time, yet their involvement is essential for your ideal state to be realized.

What can be done to give ownership to managers and make cultural changes stick?

Include them (and also employees– but that’s another blog!) in the culture change effort. While leadership drives desired culture changes, it’s imperative to solicit feedback and input from the front line to make sure that what you’re building is both worthwhile and achievable. When you incorporate their feedback, it will accelerate buy-in and tackle skepticism.

Provide clear communications expectations. Don’t assume that all managers know your expectations for sharing information with their team– and this is especially true for your new managers. Create clarity for every manager.

  1. How frequently should they meet with their team?
  2. For the team meetings, what do you suggest as a typical agenda? What’s the goal?
  3. How frequently should they meet with each team member, and what should the cadence of that conversation be?
  4. How should they surface resistance to cultural change, and how should they address it?

Cascade messages. Equip your managers to share messages on expectations, why it matters and how each team is essential to the organizational change success. Tailor specific communications for your managers to leverage during team meetings and one-on-ones, so they understand both the “what” and the “why,” they are prepared to address questions and they can better reduce ambiguity.

Establishing cultural values is a difficult exercise, but ensuring they stick and remain relevant is the true challenge. Leveraging your management team to evangelize your messages increases the likelihood of your success.

Catherine Malloy Cummings is a breakthrough human resources strategist known for her ability to transform HR teams into champions of revenue and agents of business growth. She is also a speaker and author, serving as a passionate advocate for HR’s potential to drive corporate strategic advantage. Follow her on Twitter at @ChiefHRChampion.


(In this blog series, we share the stories of companies that have taken the first steps toward their employee development transformation. You can read the other posts in this series on Patagonia’s transition to real-time employee development, Adobe’s check-in culture and Goldman Sachs’ decision to completely remove numerical rankings.)

Anchoring performance management to a philosophy that unites your employees

With five brands and 135,000 employees across 90 countries, making HR process changes at Gap is no small feat. In fact, developing and adopting a new approach to performance management took the company two-and-a-half years. The transformation, however, was well worth the time and effort.

Gap had five main drivers for this change.

  1. Business performance was erratic.
  2. The review process was complex, time consuming and expensive. (For employees at its headquarters alone, the process took 130,000 hours and cost $3.3 million.)
  3. With all that being said, employees didn’t like reviews and they decreased employee engagement.
  4. The company needed a more consistent process globally.
  5. Most HR thought leaders were saying it was time for a change.

Rob Ollander-Krane, Gap’s Senior Director of Organization Performance Effectiveness, felt the company’s existing processes “only gave the illusion that employees will get feedback that is helpful in driving their performance, when it’s really designed to justify a ranking or rating that is tied to a compensation increase.”

Today, Gap’s review process is called “GPS” – which stands for Grow, Perform, Success – for two main reasons. First, the branding of the process matches the company’s stock symbol, also GPS. And second, it describes the main purpose of the process: just as a car’s navigation system guides the driver along a journey, Gap’s program allows employees to set a goal and re-calculate in real time to get back on path.

The program is based on four main components:

A performance standard

The company established a standard that employees use a guide for their performance. In Gap’s case, it asks employees to act in accordance with its company values and for managers to provide feedback and coaching to employees.


Gap asks employees to set eight goals or less by: (1) using the SMART methodology, (2) focusing on outcomes, not tasks and (3) stretching beyond their limits.

The “touch base”

This is the method by which information is collected and shared. For Gap, it means 12 informal, conversations per year between an employee and his/her manager on performance.


Gap managers hold 12 months of performance conversations, followed by one very short reward conversation with each employee each year. Rewards are based on both goal achievement and performance against the performance standard.

Gap has achieved remarkable success in terms of employee engagement and overall performance. A total of 90% of its employees were having monthly conversations with their managers. And, a company survey found that its managers were seeing better performance and its employees found they were learning more from these monthly performance conversations.

You can read more about Gap here: