For many HR executives, these fall months means one thing: planning for the year ahead. It’s a time to set budgets, goals and expectations, in hopes of hitting the ground running come January. To make the most informed decisions, they must look both outside and inside their own organizations and ask questions like “What’s working for other companies, and what’s not working for my own?

From technology innovation to cutting-edge strategies that view the workforce in a whole new way, the HR industry is going through a radical change. While this is exciting, it can be difficult to cut through the noise to understand what’s best for your own organization. Many HR executives rely on third-party research to help them do so. Which processes are best-in-class companies changing?

For 2018, there’s a clear front runner: 79% of executives say redesigning their performance management strategy is a high priority. And with good reason.

  • 90% of companies that have done so see direct improvements in engagement
  • 96% say the processes are simpler
  • 83% say they see the quality of conversations between employees and managers going up

This is all according to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, and these numbers are supported by dozens of other studies and surveys. The reasons why to implement a more modern approach to performance management are clear. However, the issue of how to do it leaves many HR executives on the sidelines when it comes to committing to a new strategy.

Three reasons why implementing new HR strategies stall

Lack of data. To design a new performance management process, HR executives must have a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not. Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine when your current processes don’t provide any insight into employee engagement or performance. For organizations doing paper reviews or managing their processes for surveys, recognition and performance via separate tools, this is the case.

No universal approach. Because HR executives are in the business of people, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t possible. Across thousands upon thousands of businesses, no two workforces are the same. While this is a big reason why talent is a company’s biggest competitive differentiator, it also means that no two workforces can be managed in exactly the same way.

Insufficient C-level support. Any major process change costs valuable time and money. For that, HR needs a high level of support from stakeholders across the organization, and the C-suite needs to understand the ROI of a new strategy. Without solid data showing why a change is necessary and no playbook for how exactly it should be implemented, that C-level support can be hard to come by.

Get data… and fast

Sure, every HR leader wants to implement a new company-wide approach that incorporates the latest and greatest strategies. But to secure buy-in and understand the best way to implement those strategies at your unique organization, you must fully understand the impact of doing so. Now is the time to test out those new processes on a limited scale to gather critical benchmark measurements immediately. By starting now, you’ll gain:

  • A more well-rounded perspective on opportunities for improvement, blind spots and strengths
  • A foundation for creating 2018 goals that will have more business impact
  • Metrics around performance and engagement that will springboard 2018 planning
  • First-hand experience around how a new solution will fit into your current tech stack
  • Qualitative understanding resources required to actualize a new performance management strategy

To achieve peak performance from employees, HR leaders must ensure there’s a process in place to foster development and engagement. Testing new strategies to understand their impact on your unique workforce will allow you to get the results you want in 2018.

With 2018 planning already underway, many companies are mapping out their strategies for performance management in the next year. The most solid approaches are bolstered by data and there’s no shortage of research on what employees expect of the performance management process.

We’ve rounded up some of the stats that can help shape your case for moving to continuous feedback in 2018.

  1. Only 20% of employees strongly agree they have had a conversation with their manager in the last six months about the steps they can take to reach their goals, and just 19% strongly agree they have reviewed their greatest successes with their manager in the same time span. (Gallup)
  2. Only 23% of employees strongly agree their manager provides meaningful feedback to them, and 26% of employees strongly agree the feedback they receive helps them do better work. Those who strongly agree with these feedback elements are more likely to be engaged than other employees (3.5 times and 2.9 times, respectively) demonstrating the need for managers to learn how to coach their employees more effectively (Gallup))
  3. Employees are more likely to learn and grow when they receive immediate feedback that is specific, targeted at their development and able to be put into practice right away. (Gallup))
  4. Three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that in the last six months, someone at work has talked to them about their progress. By moving that ratio to six in 10 employees, organizations could realize 34% fewer safety incidents, 26% less absenteeism and 11% higher profit. (Gallup))
  5. The impact of these new performance practices is high: 90 percent of companies that have redesigned performance management see direct improvements in engagement, 96 percent say the processes are simpler, and 83 percent say they see the quality of conversations between employees and managers going up. (Deloitte)
  6. Among managers who hold at least weekly conversations with their employees, 73% strongly feel these meetings help them better track their employees’ progress. This percentage steadily declines the less frequently development conversations are held; 67% of managers who have monthly check-ins strongly feel they improve progress tracking, compared to 52% who do so biannually or annually. (Kazoo)
  7. Only 18 percent of employees at companies with P2P feedback built into performance reviews report anticipatory nerves. However, this doubles to 36 percent at companies without P2P feedback. ((Kazoo)
  8. 38% of HR teams say their top concern is supporting what employees want such as mobile/social tools, flexible work arrangement, immediate feedback and flexible learning (Silkroad)
  9. 77% of HR teams say the most important component of agile performance management is having more frequent feedback conversations (i.e. weekly or monthly) vs. annual (Silkroad)

One duty of a manager is to create high-performing teams of engaged, happy employees. To do this, great managers use continuous, transparent feedback as a way to drive better performance and also encourage and develop their employees.

When talking about feedback, we tend to focus on how it’s delivered. There’s the good – continuous, constructive, employee-driven – as well as the bad – one-sided, inconsistent, negative. But for managers, one particular component is hard to get right: determining the appropriate level of transparency to share with employees.

Why transparency can be a bad thing

Transparency can actually hurt the feedback process in some instances. Managers should always first ask themselves if sharing information helps individuals do their jobs better. If the answer is no, then the information shouldn’t be shared. Here’s a few examples.

  • How employees compare to each other. Comparing employees to each other does little to motivate them. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and pointing them out only serves to increase team competition vs. promote collaboration.
  • The performance of a past employee. Similarly, pointing out the strengths of past employees can be demoralizing, while gossiping about their flaws is distracting. Unless there is a strong lesson to be learned with no other way to teach it, past employees should be left in the past.
  • Issues in other areas of the organization. Employees always want to hear that they’re doing a good job, but it’s bad for company morale to do so at the expense of others.

When transparency is a good thing

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Well-informed employees use knowledge as motivation to do good work. Here are some areas where managers should absolutely be transparent with employees in giving them feedback.

  • How an employee’s performance relates to the company’s goals. Managers have an opportunity to help employees feel more engaged and connected to their organization by helping them understand how their work impacts the broader company goals. Doing so gives employees a more complete sense of purpose in the workplace. 
  • How an employee’s action affects the team’s performance. Managers can sometimes rely on their team’s high performers to pick up the slack when others are under performing. This can create a negative team dynamic if not addressed. While employees shouldn’t be openly compared to their peers, they should have an understanding of how their performance impacts the rest of the team.
  • An employee’s opportunities for advancement. This can be tricky, but managers have a responsibility to do right by their employees. If they don’t see a way for an ambitious employee to grow on their team, they should give them an opportunity to take on a new role, whether inside or outside the company.

In feedback, managers have a powerful tool at their disposal. How successful that feedback is – and the impact it has on employee performance – is largely dependent on its level of transparency. Does your company have any do’s and don’ts for revealing information to employees when giving them performance feedback?

We’re getting ready for HR Technology Conference & Exposition next week Tuesday through Thursday at the Venetian in Las Vegas. In advance of this year’s event, we wanted to give a preview of what you can expect. (Yes, the HR Tech puppies are back.) Here’s the what, the where and when you can do next week.

Can’t Miss Breakout Session – How to Manage a Geographically, Generationally and Culturally Diverse Workforce With HR Tech

Where: Delfino, 4102

When: Wednesday, October 11, 3:30pm-4:30pm

Echo Global Logistics is a fast-growing company that’s acquired 20 companies in the past 10 years. While other companies have made headlines for ignoring company culture as they’ve scaled, Echo has always been ahead of the curve. From the start, Cheryl has advocated for a recognition-driven company culture and understood that it drives business outcomes. During this session, Cheryl will walk through how and why companies need to give themselves a reality check when it comes to company culture and where to start if you’re considering a (or need a) “cultural overhaul.”

The Kazoo Puppies Are Back – and More

Where: Booth 1566 (Walk past the Startup Pavilion to the right and keep left toward the food & beverage area to find us.)

When: Our team will on hand the entire Expo and the famous puppies will join us 5-7pm on Tuesday, October 11, 10-5pm on Wednesday, October 11, and 10-3:30pm on Thursday October 13.

Puppies aren’t the only reason to stop by our booth. We’ll be there to give you a Kazoo demo, answer your questions and give away a few other prizes.

We Stand With Vegas

As our team heads to Vegas next week, our thoughts are with those impacted by the recent tragedy. Consider donating here if you’d like to help provide relief and financial support to the victims and their families. Attendees can also donate on-site at the HRE booth in the Expo Hall.

Think of the last time you checked out of a hotel, finished a meal at your favorite restaurant or ended a customer service phone call. Chances are a feedback survey immediately followed. Yet, oftentimes these surveys ask irrelevant questions completely unrelated to the experience, leaving you frustrated and unwilling to even respond. For example, “How would you rate the hotel room service food quality?” But what if you didn’t even order room service?

Surveys are everywhere these days, and for good reason. Feedback – from employees, customers, vendors and anyone else relevant to your business – is vital to the success your organization. Today we’re examining employee surveys, one critical component of feedback. They allow you to evaluate employee engagement, respond to problems or concerns, capitalize on successes and give respondents the opportunity to have a voice and impact change. It also serves as excellent benchmark data to show improvements or decline in satisfaction over time.

However, employee surveys can lead to aggravation if you don’t take the time and effort to administer it correctly. Below are important questions to ask before creating your employee feedback survey to ensure you get reliable, actionable results.

What is the survey’s purpose?

This sounds simple, but it’s actually the hardest part. Determine your primary objectives and clearly define the information you hope to gather. Try this. Instead of coming up with a list of questions you’d like to ask, write down the answers you want and work backward. Forming your questions this way will help you avoid unnecessary questions that don’t match your objectives and will ensure effective answers that are more precise and clear.

Who is my target population?

Define this early in your survey design process. Using language and terminology that resonates with your respondents will yield better response rates. Avoid technical jargon or internal buzzwords that may not make sense to all respondents. For example, your sales team speaks a different language than your engineering group. If you’re surveying both, use common language without oversimplifying the questions. Best-in-class employee survey tools also allow you to create customized surveys available only to certain groups so you’re able to get precise employee feedback that can drive meaningful action.

When will the survey be conducted?

Timing is everything. Sound familiar? When it comes to surveys, it’s true. After you’ve defined your target population, you can determine timing that makes the most sense. Consider upcoming project deadlines, holidays, travel or key meetings. Be sure you provide ample time to complete it, but not too much time so that it’s forgotten.

How will the survey’s response data affect change?

Communicate to your employees the importance of their participation and how the survey will be evaluated. Hold executives and managers accountable for leveraging the data to make improvements. Be sure to include all relevant parties in action planning.

Are you in the midst of creating an employee survey? If so, have thought through these questions? Are there any you would add to this list?

“You did a great job.”

While this bit of employee feedback seems as though it would be helpful – it’s not. Feedback can be a slippery slope. Many things influence how feedback is interpreted by an employee. Determining the best way to help employees improve but also keep morale high is a challenge for managers.

Here are three factors that have a big impact on how feedback should be delivered. (You can get more tips for delivering employee feedback here.) In a follow up post, we’ll share examples of feedback that should be avoided, as well as specific ones that should be emulated.

Length of tenure

How long employees have worked for a company can influence their reaction to feedback. In the case of peer-to-peer feedback, seniority should be acknowledged and taken into consideration when providing constructive criticism. On the other side of the coin, newer managers may lack an understanding of their team’s company history, so it’s important to connect with HR or other longtime managers first so you know which topics to approach with caution.

Personality type

People can be introverts or extroverts, loud or quiet, proactive or reactive, emotional or stoic. Feedback is most successful when it’s delivered in a way that is amenable to a person’s preferences, not those of the manager. Well-intentioned feedback can go horribly wrong when delivered in a way that could be deemed aggressive or negative.

Recent performance

An employee’s recent performance – good or bad – can cloud the judgment of a manager, but it has a bigger effect on employees themselves. High performers who have had a string of bad luck may need more encouragement, as they might have a higher level of sensitivity around receiving feedback. Uncharacteristic performance can also provide subtle clues – a high performer who stops taking initiative could be bored or looking for a new job, or a low performer who is exceeding goals could be responding well to a new team member or project.

In the last few months, workplace diversity has become a regular topic in the news and an urgent priority discussed in boardrooms. As businesses accelerate diversity programs – specifically for women in tech roles — other organizations have stepped up to the plate to offer networking and professional opportunities that would have been unheard of years ago.

Earlier this week two talented members of our engineering team, Marcie Carlos and Nadia Elfarnawani, participated in a WomenHack event here in Chicago. These invite-only events focus on “connecting top female engineers, designers, and product managers with opportunities at tech companies around the world.”

But diversity is nothing new at Kazoo. Since founding the company in 2012, CEO Vip Sandhir, has built a diverse team. Our workforce is 40% female, with the same percentage in leadership roles. Women also fill 30% of the technology roles. We currently have 75 employees and plan to hire another 20 employees by Q1 2018. We believe diverse teams are more creative, innovative and profitable than those that aren’t.

Sound like a place you’d like to work? We’re currently hiring for the following tech roles. If you’re interested, please apply via LinkedIn, visit the Kazoo Careers page or contact [email protected] for more information.

Entry-level Software Engineer

  • Fresh computer science college graduate or 1-2 years of work experience in the software development field.

Senior-level Software Engineer

  • At least 5 years of full-stack software development experience. Ability to lead projects with hands-on coding. Agile methodologies with full SDLC exposure.

Senior-level Mobile Developer

  • At least 5 years of full-stack software development experience. Hybrid mobile development exposure for both iOS/Android platforms.

Mid/Senior-level UI/Web Developer

  • At least 3 years of web development experience. HTML/CSS expertise with exposure to Javascript frameworks.

If you’ve worked in HR long enough, you’ve had plenty of conversations about “bad employees,” “disengaged workers, “underperformers” and even “bad apples.” Managers often need HR’s help in figuring out what should be done next. But it’s not just about giving a bad employee good feedback, it’s about arming managers with the tools they need to be effective advocates and coaches.

Managers might mistakenly assume underperforming team members are a lost cause. Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) are often put in place as a last resort, but do your team leaders take steps well beforehand to ensure these employees are getting the coaching and guidance they need? In many cases, PIPs are the first time those employees are given consistent feedback about their work. If your managers in your organization have come to you requesting guidance on “problem employees,” maybe they’re not giving enough employee feedback. Ask them these questions first:

How were goals developed? Have they been revisited or updated since they were created?

In many cases, companies take a cascading approach to creating goals where employees are handed a set of pre-determined, static goals once a year. People are the labeled “bad employees” when those goals aren’t achieved. However, annual goal setting makes little sense for the way people work today. An employee shouldn’t be labeled an underperformer when goals aren’t met: priorities change, other projects arise or resource allocation fluctuates. Instead, ask employees to create their own goals and encourage them to revisit them with their managers regularly. Work collaboratively to establish new deadlines and deliverables so the expectations are well defined.

Were those goals aligned to larger business objectives so it’s clear to them where they’re adding value?

Underperformers are almost always disengaged employees. Why? Oftentimes, people become unproductive and unhappy when they don’t feel they’re adding value. Your company mission, vision and values should be clear to all employees and even more importantly, should be tied to their personal objectives. Managers should only be concerned when employees still fail to achieve goals they’ve created even when they’re given all the resources and tools to achieve them, which leads to the next question…

When is the last time you had a 1-on-1 discussion about longer-term career objectives?

Even when individual goals are tied to the company’s strategic vision, it’s possible an employee feels uninspired to complete them. Outside of conversations about specific projects and deadlines, employees and managers should have check-in conversations that are exclusively career-focused. Someone labeled as a “bad apple” might have lost motivation to complete their goals because their long-term career aspirations are now different. Managers should be comfortable asking employees about what’s next for their teams professionally. Other opportunities might be available in the organization more applicable for a problem employee’s professional ambitions. It’s possible one team’s bad employee is another one’s rock star.

Do employees have ways to get feedback from other team members, departments and collaborators?

Some employee feedback comes entirely from one person: their managers. However, today’s work is collaborative and top-down feedback alone is insufficient to accurately assess performance. On top of that, managers can be biased. To even the playing field and give problem employees a more equal shot, feedback should be gathered from their peers, frequent collaborators and even customers. With 360-degree feedback tools in place, employees are not only empowered to solicit feedback on their own, managers have a more well-rounded and complete understanding of both pain points and achievements.

So it’s clear that “bad employees” might have been given a bad rap. To make sure you’re not inundated with any more frenzied emails or conversations with frustrated team leaders, establish an environment where employees and managers work collaboratively on goals, check in regularly and ask for feedback.

Today’s guest post is authored by Petter Andersson, global HR executive, talent development leader and consultant. He is a global thought leader in the field of organizational and talent development with more than 20 years of multinational experience in numerous HR executive, business and consulting roles.


Moving away from annual ratings and rankings might spark worries that your organization is less performance oriented. Some might question if you can still have a “pay for performance” culture and be an organization of meritocracy, where employees’ performance is counted for and rewarded. One way to reduce those worries and make change more understandable, is to think about your employees as professional athletes on a team.

One principle for a professional sports team is the same as for any organization. You win as a team and you lose as a team. Success or failure depends on many variables and everyone plays a part, some more than others. Even with a strong team focus, professional sports teams are often also exceptional in managing individual differentiation in pay, development and growth. How do they do it? I believe it’s through continuous coaching, transparency in evaluation, and ongoing gathering of insights about the athletes, their performance and potential.

A key to acquiring such deep understanding is to foster high intrinsic motivation, a growth mindset (willingness to learn from mistakes), and self-awareness among every professional athlete. Successful athletes on a team do not compete against each other , they compete against themselves. Most set personal goals and collect stats during every game and practice, using the data to understand how they can improve. Together with their coaches, they discuss which strengths to leverage and new ones to develop. The involvement of teammates and others in supporting individual performance aspirations and development is critical.

At a team level, the coach enables a strategy that maximizes on-court capabilities, balancing the players’ strengths with a winning strategy for how to play together.

Everyone has a role to fill and might not be equally successful in doing so. However, ranking players on a team against each other using a five-point scale and a bell curve makes no sense. You risk an inward-looking team occupied with internal competition rather than winning the game. A player’s relative performance against teammates matters less. Most likely, athletes already know how they performed against their personal goals, expectations and how they compare to others. Most likely, the coach understands how the player fits in the game strategy going forward.

One might argue that not all businesses are similar to sport teams and not all employees can are equal to athletes. I’d like to think there are more similarities than differences and lessons to be learned from the sports world for the rest of us who didn’t make it as far on the pitch.

In summary: Eliminating annual rating and ranking doesn’t mean you should stop setting expectations and evaluating employee performance. It doesn’t mean that you disregard data. Instead you will gather and analyze data continuously. Most of all, you are just about to change the principles for whom, how and why you evaluate performance.

The start of the school year brings special excitement – opening up a new notebook to write on the first page, establishing a new social circle and learning from new teachers. It’s an opportunity to re-invent yourself as an individual, friend and student. Once we’ve graduated and started our careers, we might feel that we only get a chance to “start fresh” when we change jobs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Every employee can benefit from using back-to-school time to check in internally and chart a new course for the remainder of the year and beyond. And this opportunity for to re-visit employee development should happen continuously throughout the year – not just when kids are heading back into the classroom.

Long after school ends, we continue on as individuals, friends and students. Here’s how employees can examine themselves as each of these, and take action to improve.

Individual

For many, school is back in session in late August and September. This is the perfect time employees to re-examine individual employee goals for Q4, and how they can set up success for 2018. If employees start thinking now about what they want to accomplish in the year ahead, they can use Q4 goals as stepping stones.

Friend/Co-Worker

We get by with a little help from our friends, right? A lot of us get through challenging work situations by leaning on our co-workers and operating as a team. Now is a great time for employees to reach out to gather peer-to-peer feedback to help them take a step closer to reaching team goals.

Student

Are employees getting the support they need from coaches and mentors? If not, it’s a good time to seek new leaders who can fill that role. Now is perfect for having those one-on-one check-in conversations to help set goals for the quarter ahead and envision what they hope to accomplish in 2018.

How are you continually pushing yourself (or your employees) to perform better? Are you asking them to revisit their employee goals? Requiring them to provide peer-to-peer feedback regularly? Share your thoughts in the comments.