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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Performance or Engagement? And the Winner Is …

www.reviewsnap.comAs with just about every aspect of performance management, opinions are divided on the question of whether managers should focus on the performance or the engagement level of their people.

Those on the performance side of the debate say that performance-oriented managers drive bottom-line benefits such as profitability, market share and competitive dominance by helping their people achieve specific performance goals and remain closely aligned to the company’s/department’s objectives. Those on the engagement side of the debate say that engagement-focused managers help reduce costly turnover and increase employee productivity and loyalty by sustaining high levels of employee motivation and discretionary effort.

Both sides make sense. So what’s the right choice?

Well, a Gallup survey of more than 8,000 employees shows that we really shouldn’t make a choice at all. The best managers focus on both performance and engagement.

According to an article published just weeks ago in the Gallup Business Journal, the most successful managers are “strengths-based, engagement-focused, and performance-oriented. ... Managers who emphasize one approach while ignoring the other risk alienating their team members, lowering engagement, and damaging performance.”

The article goes on to tell managers how to enhance performance by focusing on employee engagement and how to enhance engagement by focusing on performance. “A team will never reach its full potential until it has a manager that is both performance-oriented and engagement-focused,” it states.

Focusing on both performance and engagement will require some managers to rethink their leadership strategies and tactics. For example, they might want to revisit how frequently they meet with employees. As we’ve written in the past, more frequent meetings help managers ensure their teams always perform at a high level by sharing specific, real-time feedback—what they’re doing well, what needs to be improved, and what they can do to advance their careers.

More frequent meetings also pay engagement dividends. As the Gallup article states, “On average, only 15% of employees who work for a manager who does not meet with them regularly are engaged; managers who regularly meet with their employees almost tripled that level of engagement.” These managers always know what their employees enjoy doing, what they’d like to do more or less of, and what they hope to be doing in the future.

Bottom line, when managers focus on both performance and engagement, the winner is …

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Employee-to-Employee Learning: Should We Foster More of It?
Advances in technology and changes to the ways we access and share knowledge are reshaping workplace training and development.

Training magazine’s 2013 Training Industry Report shows how this reshaping is taking place:

·      44% of training hours at U.S.-based businesses were delivered last year by an instructor in a classroom setting—a small but telling decline from 45.2% in 2012.

·      28.3% of training hours were delivered with blended learning techniques in 2013, an increase from 27% in 2012.

·      25.9% of hours were delivered through online or computer-based technologies, up from 24.7% in 2012.

·      About 16% of hours were delivered through virtual classrooms and webcasts, a rise from 13% in 2012.

·      3.3% of hours were delivered via social learning, up from 1.1% in 2012.

·      1.9% of hours were delivered via mobile devices, which is nearly double the percentage from 2012.

While much of the learning occurring in the workplace is still being delivered the old-fashioned way—by instructors who are face-to-face with their pupils—the Training report shows that remote learning, virtual learning, social learning and mobile learning are all trending upward. One question the report doesn’t answer is this: how much of this learning is happening on an employee-to-employee basis?

We found no reliable statistics to answer this question. But a Fast Company article by Sara Kessler makes a pretty good case for why the answer should be “Not enough.”

The article describes a learning program at Google—fittingly called Googler to Googler—that puts employees into teaching roles, which the company believes is a “good business idea.” Kessler writes: “Telling your employees that you want them to learn is different than asking them to promote that culture themselves. Giving employees teaching roles, says Google's head of people operations, Karen May, makes learning part of the way employees work together rather than something HR is making them do.”

In short, employee-to-employee learning at Google is about instilling a culture of learning. And it happens to be an effective way to teach, the company avows. Google’s data (which it declined to share with Kessler) purportedly show that employee teachers perform as well as teachers “who facilitate employee education as their primary job.”

Obviously, employee-to-employee learning won’t suit every organization or fit every learning culture but it’s certainly worth a closer look by employers who want to bolster their learning and development strategies. While employers are exploring alternative forms of learning for a number of reasons, perhaps the primary reason is improved performance. Research from Bersin by Deloitte shows that organizations with strong learning cultures significantly outperform their peers: their employee productivity is 37% greater, they’re 35% more responsive to customers’ needs, and they’re 17% more likely to be leaders in market share.

It’s awfully hard to argue against numbers like those.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Inclusive Leaders Turn Performance Reviews into Gold Mines

www.reviewsnap.comAttention managers and team leaders! Here’s great advice from Great Place to Work (Gulf) CEO, Ron Thomas:

“Our workforces have the ability to be a percolator of ideas and solutions if we would just turn the spigots on. Letting our employees know that we are dependent upon their ideas and thoughts has the potential for any organization to break out of the pack and shift power to the people who are closest to the issues. It’s simple: Turn them loose, unleash their powers, and watch things happen.”

Thomas shared this wisdom in a July blog post on, “Leaders Get More Out of People When They Don’t Wear the Crown.” He cautions leaders against buying into the notion that they’re “the ones with all the gold-plated ideas” simply by virtue of the titles and senior roles they hold. Instead, he says, leaders should remember that they’re in a position to provide useful support, guidance, mentoring and coaching—but only by treating others as their equals.

This is inclusive leadership at its finest. (See Karen Higginbottom’s interesting Forbes article on inclusive leadership here.) Indeed, the vast majority (85%) of business executives agree that inclusive leadership is an effective way to improve performance, as reported by Ernst & Young.

One way to be an inclusive leader and unleash the power of your people is to turn performance reviews into gold-mining operations. Ask individuals to bring their “gold-plated ideas” to the table at review time, and don’t end a review without asking what you can do personally to support and ensure the success of your employees’ ideas. Again, this style of leadership is about embracing the notion that you, despite your title and role, don’t have to have all the ideas and answers all the time. Remember, great leaders are great facilitators. Help your people put their knowledge, experience and ideas to good use and they’ll love you for it.

Inclusive leaders also often practice behavior modeling (showing by personal example the actions and behaviors you want from employees). This isn’t done merely to set an example. Behavior modeling delivers actual business results. As we noted in a prior post, research from Catalyst illustrates that employees who observe selfless behavior in their managers are more likely to report feeling included and engaged in their work and their teams. They also report feeling more innovative, suggesting new product ideas, and going beyond the call of duty, among other benefits.

One of the greatest advantages of inclusive leadership is that it unleashes the intelligence and creativity of your entire team. This means you no longer have to be the sole source of great ideas 24/7. And when you’re no longer trying to shoulder that heavy burden alone, you just might find yourself becoming a happier, more effective

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Revisiting Employee Motivation … and the Power of a Single Word

Part of the challenge of managing people is learning how to motivate them.

In a previous post, we asked, “Is Employee Motivation Increasingly Beyond Our Control?,” citing research that claims employees are less motivated by traditional extrinsic rewards (raises, bonuses, promotions, etc.) and increasingly motivated by intrinsic rewards (an internal sense of achievement and satisfaction) that can’t be handed out by employers.

The good news is that motivating employees to greater levels of achievement is definitely not beyond our control, and both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards can be powerful motivational tools. But it’s important to remember that motivation isn’t driven by “rewards” alone.

A recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog site tells us that “Managers Can Motivate Employees with One Word.” That word is … together.

The post’s author, Heidi Grant Halvorson, quotes new findings from researchers at Stanford University who brought people together in small groups, then separated them to work alone on challenging puzzles. But the researchers also did something quite fascinating: they told a portion of these individuals that they would be working on their puzzles together, despite being in different rooms. These people were also told they would receive a tip at some point from a team member to help them solve their puzzle. The researchers categorized these individuals as “psychologically together.”

For the other portion of individuals in this study—the ones who made up the “psychologically alone” category—researchers made no mention of the word “together,” and these people were told that a researcher would provide them with a helpful tip at some point. As Halvorson notes, “All the participants were in fact working alone on the puzzles. The only real difference was the feeling that being told they were working ‘together’ might create.”

And what a difference it was. Halvorson reports that “participants in the psychologically together category worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly, and had better recall for what they had seen. They also said that they felt less tired and depleted by the task. They also reported finding the puzzle more interesting when working together.” The word “together” signals to employees that they’re connected to others they can trust and who are working with them toward the same goal.

Halvorson goes on to urge managers “to make use of this word with far greater frequency … Let ‘together’ be a constant reminder to your employees that they are not alone, helping them to motivate them to perform their very best.”

Let’s be clear: Halvorson isn’t advocating that managers use the word “together” as a ruse or a way of tricking employees into feeling a sense of connectedness that doesn’t exist. This cannot be a hollow gesture. Managers must actually be team builders, nurturing work environments that promote collaboration and teamwork. They must also model the right behaviors. Only within such an environment can the word “together” have real impact.

For managers looking to enhance their teams and work environments, a recent Fortune article offers some real-world inspiration. In “Five Secrets To Building Killer Teams,” seasoned leaders offer personal insights into how they’ve tackled the challenge. They recommend actions such as “Throw out the hierarchy,” “Be forthright,” and “Seek out non-traditional diversity.”

The word “together” can make a big difference when it comes to motivating our people. But we have to earn the right to use it. Once we do, we should follow Halvorson’s advice and use it often.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Importance of Discretionary Effort—and How To Inspire It

www.reviewsnap.comWe sparked some interesting conversation when we mentioned Aubrey Daniels in a recent post about the need for more frequent performance reviews.

You might recall that Daniels was among the first individuals to champion the notion of applying behavioral science to the workplace. As a result, he’s widely known as “the father of performance management.” In discussing our post, some people told us that they’re fans of Daniels’ work. Others said that, while important, his ideas focus too heavily on performance optimization and the bottom line—i.e., wringing the maximum amount of hours and effort out of every single employee.

To be fair, that’s not really true.

It is a fact that Daniels’ company focuses on enabling organizations to capture “discretionary effort” from employees. (Discretionary effort is that which goes above and beyond the minimum level required to a job.) But Daniels’ company doesn’t advise clients to extract greater effort at all costs. In fact, its approach to performance management advocates that employers manage their people with sensitivity and manage performance based on behavioral measurement and analysis, ongoing performance feedback to employees, and positive rewards.

Obviously, Daniels’ behavior analysis-focused approach to performance management will not work for or appeal to every organization. No approach does. In fact, Reviewsnap doesn’t agree with every precept or opinion Daniels and his company espouse. But we do agree with the basic concept that the true heart of great performance management is frequent and ongoing measurement, feedback and positive reinforcement. And we firmly believe that performance reviews can be the vehicle that supports and helps to deliver all of these elements—as long as reviews are conducted properly. We also believe that proper performance reviews are instrumental in capturing discretionary effort.

For those who want a fresh look at Daniels’ approach to performance management, check out an interesting post that appeared in Aubrey’s Blog in July, “Overworked? Could Reducing Workloads be the Key to Improved Results?

At one point, the post states: “… oftentimes we find that people confuse discretionary effort with increasing the volume of work. Discretionary effort is about outcomes, not hours worked. It is about achieving business results through fluency in critical behaviors. It is about identifying and reducing the behaviors that don’t have business impact and focusing on the behaviors that do.”

Performance management isn’t about squeezing more and more from your employees. It’s about placing them in the right roles, aligning them closely to the company’s goals and mission, and giving them the direction and support they need to reach their full potential. That’s how we get sustained discretionary effort from our people.

One more note on this topic …

In his post, “What Exactly Is Discretionary Effort?”, consultant and speaker, Jason Lauritsen, points out that most of us assume discretionary effort and employee engagement are closely intertwined. After all, an unengaged employee isn’t going to be dishing out a lot of discretionary effort, right? However, Lauritsen suggests, “discretionary effort is less a matter of engagement than it is of performance.” He also calls into question management’s expectations where engagement and discretionary effort are concerned. Bottom line, Lauritsen believes the time has come to redefine our terms.

It’s intriguing stuff. Then again, isn’t everything in the world of performance management?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Phoning In Your Performance Reviews? Here’s How To Add Real Meaning

Reviewsnap Performance Management SystemYou’ve heard of actors “phoning in” a performance—just going through the motions without making much of an effort. The result is usually pretty dismal: a performance that lacks meaning or merit.

Well, performance reviews are no different. In the business world, when managers and employees simply go through the motions of a review, it usually produces pretty dismal results.

If your organization’s reviews have become a fairly meaningless exercise, you might want to take a gander at an article that Forbes published last year titled, “How To Make Performance Reviews Relevant.” Written by certified career coach, business consultant and former Fortune 500 executive, Lisa Quast, the article shares seven tips to make performance reviews more meaningful to you and your employees.

One of Quast’s tips practically leaps off the screen as an essential piece of sound advice: Don’t close the review until you’re both on the same page.

Quast notes that she treats performance reviews as though they’re sales calls, working to gain agreement during each step of the discussion. She writes: “My goal during a performance review is to make sure I have a complete understanding about the employees’ performance, their achievements and failures/pitfalls, their next year’s goals and objectives, and their development plan. By focusing on gaining agreement during each aspect of the review, it helps me ensure that they hear my point of view, that I hear their point of view, and that we reach a mutual understanding on our shared view of their working world and future.”

Two concepts are crucial to Quast’s approach: 1) Her reviews are two-way discussions in which both parties speak and listen carefully. 2) Her reviews require both parties to come to the table prepared—i.e., ready to speak intelligently about performance successes, failures, stumbling blocks, goals and objectives for the future, etc.

By using the approach Quast advocates, your managers and employees are far less likely to “phone in” their reviews. In fact, her approach practically requires your employees to conduct meaningful self reviews, which can add immense value to your review process.

Another great piece of advice for ramping up the meaning and value of your reviews comes from Sharlyn Lauby, president of ITM Group and author of HR Bartender, in the article, “Bad Vibes? Bring Out the Best in Your Negative Co-Workers.

Asked to share tips on how managers can work with staffers who have a tendency to be negative, Lauby’s response also applies perfectly to negative performance appraisals. Her advice: don’t make it personal. Focus instead on their specific negative behaviors—not their negative personalities. “One of the quickest ways to get someone angry with you is to tell them they have a negative attitude,” Lauby says. “Identify the behaviors that are causing challenges and then coach the employee.”

Clearly, these are just a few strategies to ensure that your managers and employees don’t phone in their performance reviews. And if the goal of your reviews is to drive targeted, results-oriented performance (which it should be), then don’t hang up on them before you give them a try.


Suggested Reading:  For more on implementing meaningful performance reviews, please enjoy this TalentCulture article: At The Crossroads: Where Instinct & Analytics

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Recognizing the Difficult Dual Role Managers Play—Coach and Mentor“All leaders do some coaching. If nothing else, they offer input through performance reviews. But providing feedback once a year just doesn’t cut it. Quarterly formal evaluations work better, but you’ll have greater success with even more frequent feedback, assessment, and mentoring." -- Laura Stack, “The 7 Keys to Great Coaching – and Boosting Employee Productivity;” 6/6/14;

We agree wholeheartedly, Ms. Stack! Frequent reviews, feedback, assessments and mentoring are all essential to good performance management and boosting employee productivity.

Interestingly, Stack offers ideas on both coaching and mentoring in her astute article but never directly addresses the difference between the two. So … what is the difference? Just Google the phrase “the difference between coaching and mentoring” and you’ll be treated to a dizzying spectrum of opinions, some varying widely and some only by degrees. Generally speaking, though, coaching is concerned with an individual’s performance while mentoring is focused more on a person’s development.

In today’s organizations, a variety of individuals may serve as coaches and mentors to an employee but these individuals typically play just one role—either coach or mentor. Only an employee’s direct manager is expected to play both roles, helping the employee to perform well (coaching) while also helping to nurture her/his development (mentoring). This is one of the demands that make being a good manager so challenging.

The difficulty of playing this dual role can become a little overwhelming at times. In an effort to provide adequate guidance and support, managers sometimes go too far and slip into micromanagement mode. It’s a “classic workplace dilemma that can be difficult to navigate,” as Marcus Erb writes in his recent Entrepreneur article, “How to Stop Micromanaging Your Team.” For managers facing this dilemma, Erb serves up five strategies to overcome it that are well worth considering.

When you think about it, micromanagement is the antithesis of good coaching and mentoring. What’s more, it doesn’t help anyone—not employees and certainly not the managers perpetrating it. Micromanagement actually erodes employees’ self-confidence, motivation and productivity. It also stifles innovation and creativity, two qualities that are proven to drive the success of high-performance organizations. In addition, micromanagement robs leaders of precious time and energy they could be spending on more strategic matters.

Yes, employees want to be managed, coached and mentored. Yes, they want clear direction at the outset of the projects and roles they take on. And yes, they also want a bit of guidance at ongoing intervals to help them stay on course and engaged in their work.

But providing this delicate mix of direction and supervision is no easy feat, not even for seasoned leaders. That’s why coaching and mentoring shouldn’t be reserved for employees alone. Given the difficult dual role managers play, they must be coached and mentored as much as anyone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Performance Management Should Begin Before We Hire Someone
When most of us hear the term “performance management,” we think of performance appraisals, mentoring, employee learning and development—all of the things that happen well after we hire people into our organizations.

But savvy employers know that truly effective performance management starts before we hire someone. It starts with finding and recruiting the right people.

Who are the right people? Danny Gutknecht, co-founder and CEO of Pathways, offers this insightful definition: “individuals whose attitudes, behaviors, mindsets and goals are closely aligned with those of your organization.” Gutknecht also advises employers aiming to raise the bar on their performance management to get a clear picture of what makes their best people a great fit for the organization, then hire others like them.

The upshot of Gutknecht’s counsel is clear: hire individuals who are closely attuned to your organization and your best people, and their performance will be in sync with your needs, goals and mission. As a result, your performance management won’t require a lot of heavy lifting—i.e., you won’t need to do extensive behavioral and performance modification or costly replacement of these individuals. The performance management you provide will be largely positive and developmental rather than punitive and correctional.

So how do you go about finding people who are closely aligned to your organization and who match up to your best people? For many employers, talent assessment tools are the answer.

There are a multitude of assessment tools available to today’s employers. Gutknecht’s company, for example, conducts Essence MiningTM to uncover the intrinsic nature and key characteristics of an organization and its people. Harrison Assessments and Shadowmatch USA, among others, focus on behavioral tendencies and competencies to predict performance. Still other tools are personality-based.

Finding the right assessment solution for your organization is, of course, a matter of fit. It has to meet your needs and goals but it also has to suit your company culture.

A recent article on the SHRM website, “Testing for Talent: An HR Case Study,” presents an interesting case study of the Barnum Financial Group and its use of an assessment tool to guide its coaching, communications and teamwork initiatives. The article also offers four helpful tips (which we’ve paraphrased below) to anyone searching for the right assessment tool for their organization:

1.     Be precise about what you want to accomplish.

2.     Forge a rough consensus among management about the tool that best fits the culture of your organization.

3.     Complete the assessment yourself to gauge its accuracy.

4.     Keep budget in mind, as you’ll need to make both an initial investment and an ongoing one.

Without question, performance management encompasses all of the activities we engage in after hiring an individual—conducting performance reviews, providing coaching, delivering developmental opportunities, and all the rest. But if we’re wise, we’ll remember that the most effective performance management actually begins before any of these activities take place. It begins with making the right recruiting and hiring decisions.


To read more about our thoughts on performance management, click here to download our whitepaper, “From Dread to Moving Ahead — Take the Pain Out of Performance Management.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Case for More Frequent Performance Reviews

Aubrey Daniels, the clinical psychologist who is often called “the father of performance management,” believes the performance appraisal process is flawed and in need of radical change at many organizations today. The biggest problem, he believes, is that reviews happen too infrequently.

He’s right on both counts.

To drive results-oriented performance, we need to change how we conduct reviews, which we’ve written about previously. Please click the images below to read these posts.

We also need to make frequent, one-on-one meetings with employees the backbone of performance management. But this is exactly the challenge for many of the managers we speak with—they have no idea how to squeeze recurring meetings into their already hectic schedules.

In a Forbes article titled, “The Secret To Effective One-On-One Meetings With Direct Reports,” leadership coach and author Kristi Hedges summarizes some of the key roadblocks that keep managers from actually holding more frequent performance-related discussions with their direct reports. These roadblocks include managers’ uncertainty about how to structure such meetings … how to ensure these meetings are productive … and how to avoid turning them into one-way delegation sessions. Another concern is that these meetings will uncover “simmering conflicts or complaints” that will require significant time and effort to resolve.

All are legitimate concerns. However, Hedges offers managers helpful insights on how to implement and make the most of more frequent one-on-one meetings. Her tips include: create an actual schedule and a structure for these meetings; discuss the employee’s needs and issues as well as your own; and be sure to manage accountabilities.

One of the key aspects of frequent performance-oriented meetings is that they should not be heavy-duty critique sessions. Good people don’t need to be micromanaged. (A recent Business Insider article highlights the dangers of micromanagement, for those interested.) These get-togethers should be more about discussing employees’ needs and concerns—for instance, the things that may be getting in the way of carrying out their day-to-day responsibilities

Employees want and need our assistance to achieve their full potential, and this is precisely where more frequent performance-oriented discussions can help.

Of course, this doesn’t mean your people don’t want to speak with you or hear your feedback on a regular basis. In fact, they do. Research has long shown that employees want clear communication from their managers regarding what’s expected of them (responsibilities), what they’re doing right (recognition), what they’re doing wrong (constructive criticism), and what they need to do to advance their careers (development and career guidance).

When you think about it, the “I don’t have time” argument against more frequent performance meetings doesn’t really hold water. The truth is we can’t afford to not make the time.


To read more about the power and potential of sound performance management, click here to download our whitepaper, “Bridge the Gap Between Your Performance Reviews and Employee Development—or Both Are Primed To Fail.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Meeting Employees’ Needs: Culture Management, Engagement, and Preventable Turnover of the primary objectives of performance reviews is to ensure that needs are being met—departmental needs, functional needs, organizational needs, and employees’ needs. And there’s the rub. Too often, employees’ needs are overlooked during performance reviews.

Managers focus on other aspects of performance when conducting reviews: whether goals were achieved or not, an employee’s strengths and weaknesses, skill gaps that must be filled, and the like. However, as a recent Harvard Business Review blog post illustrates, it’s a mistake to overlook whether employees’ needs are being met.

In “The Power of Meeting Your Employees’ Needs,” authors Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath reveal the bottom-line benefits of meeting employees’ basic needs, which fall into four categories: 1) renewal (physical); 2) value (emotional); 3) focus (mental); and 4) purpose (spiritual).

Schwartz and Porath write that when any one of these basic needs is being met employees “report a 30% higher capacity to focus, a nearly 50% higher level of engagement, and a 63% greater likelihood to stay at the company.”

(no surprise that #TalentManagement, #EmployeeEngagement, & #Retention are perennial trending topics in HR social media space)

And this positive impact is cumulative, rising with each additional need that gets satisfied. “When all four needs are met, the effect on engagement rises from 50% for one need to 125%.”

The authors conclude: “Rather than trying to forever get more out of their people, companies are far better served by systematically investing in meeting as many of their employees’ core needs as possible, so they’re freed and fueled to bring the best of themselves to work.”

But how do you know what your employees’ needs are? There’s really only one way to be sure. You have to ask them—and the performance review is the perfect time to do so. But this requires managers to engage in a true two-way dialogue with each of their direct reports, not just a one-way discourse on how they’re rating employees. It means being attentive and discussing employees’ needs with respect. It also means managers must be willing to do two key things: first, to give real thought and consideration to what employees are saying; and second, to follow up on these discussions, taking action in a timely manner to get employees’ needs met when appropriate.

Discussing employees’ needs—and what you can do to meet them—not only helps you reap the benefits cited by the authors of the HBR post but it also shows employees that you value them and care about helping them achieve their goals. If you want to create and sustain a high-performance work environment, this kind of open commitment to employees is crucial.

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Reviewsnap Headquarters Reviewsnap is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, and is a division of Applied Training Systems Inc., founded in 1995.