Category Archives: Performance Management

Engaging Your Workforce: A Front-line Manager’s Recognition Tip Sheet

A recent article published by Engagement Strategies Media, outlined five specific best practices for front-line managers to help them more systematically recognize and engage their workforce.

As you may know, the recognition field has seen a significant shift over the past several years, going from traditional length-of-service awards to programs that focus on supporting critical organizational goals — i.e., quality service to internal or external customers, participation in volunteer initiatives, a willingness to go the extra mile, etc. In most cases, the success of these efforts depends upon the managers at the front lines.

It’s also true that many employees become disengaged or leave their jobs because of an immediate supervisor, not because of the company or pay. Here’s a tip sheet for front-line managers that lists five ways in which they can implement a systematic and effective approach to recognizing team members:

1.) Start With the Basics of the Work
The first step for front-line managers is to show employees that they and their work are valued and appreciated. Initially this might involve giving them a sense of ownership, and making the practice of expressing simple appreciation a standard part of day-to-day management. To ensure consistency, the prudent manager schedules regular time with each employee to make sure they understand their job goals and how their work makes a difference. It’s also important to make recognition meaningful. Don’t go overboard by praising everyday basics such as showing up for work on time or keeping a clean desk.

2.) Continually Reinforce Goals and Values
It’s equally as important to make sure team members understand the organization’s goals and values, which might include a commitment to superior customer service, continuous improvement, innovation, or inclusiveness. Don’t make employees guess—every employee should know the organization’s goals, organizational values and the role they individually can play. Take advantage of team meetings or employee newsletters to regularly reinforce the key messages and goals, and what the values mean in terms of actions and behaviors. This might include simple things such as “how we treat one another,” as well as things more directly associated with how the work gets done.

3.) Recognize employees for both their individual and group contributions. Not everyone likes public praise, so managers must get to know employees and tailor their recognition style based on each person’s preferences. When recognizing a group, make sure to acknowledge each person’s contribution. Be inclusive—recognize everyone who does something meaningful that supports the company’s values or goals through their actions. However, if you publicly recognize someone who doesn’t deserve it, you’ll devalue the whole process.

4.) Planned and Spontaneous Recognition. Formal recognition events can take place monthly, yearly, or almost any time. They’re great ways to celebrate achievements, but try to recognize employees whenever it is merited. In general, praise employees as soon as possible after an accomplishment.

5.) Leverage Internal Communications. If your organization has a print or online newsletter or social recognition platform, an article or post highlighting an employee’s achievement is a very effective way to show appreciation in a way that helps communicate and reinforce values and goals to everyone. How you recognize individuals can be inspiring to their colleagues as well.

Keep in mind that the personal touch, sincerely delivered whenever warranted, is key to keeping your team members feeling valued, motivated and excited about doing the best they can at their jobs each and every day. Studies show that front-line managers can make or break the employee experience.

Read the full article…

Annual Performance Reviews?

Managing Through the Rear-View Mirror?

Annual or semi-annual performance appraisals continue to be a standard component of many performance management programs, despite the fact that they are deemed a source of angst and dread by both managers and team members.

Consider that an annual or six-month review is very much like managing through a rear-view mirror, as the practice involves looking back at a person’s performance with the intent of identifying deficiencies and, hopefully, areas of accomplishment. While this may be a standard approach, the practice does little to impact day-to-day activities that, if modified on a timelier basis, could have positively impacted outcomes.

Along similar lines, Dr. Deming was among the early detractors of the annual appraisal, saying, “Individual performance appraisals nourish short-term performance, annihilate long-term planning, build fear, demolish team-work, and nourish rivalry and politics. Everyone propels himself, or tries to, for his own good… and the organization is the loser.”

And all these years later, Deming’s comments ring true. For example, when a bank implemented formal performance appraisals that evaluated Loan Officers on the dollar value of loans approved, and measured the Credit Department on ‘the quality of the loan portfolio’ (i.e. no defaults), it reduced profits and created dysfunction and animosity. The Credit Department was careful to take no risks, while the Loan Officers focused on quantity, hoping that something, at least would be approved. The bank as a whole suffered.

In addition, many people report that reviews tend to be late and are often “put off,” thus sending a poor message to team members (i.e., “you’re not as important as other things…”). They are also considered among the more onerous of management responsibilities, as it can be difficult to access relevant performance-related data that dates back a full year.

One way to improve the effectiveness of performance reviews is to increase the frequency – possibly from annual to quarterly or bi-monthly. A number of managers and HR professionals we have spoken with said the shortened time-table tends to improve feedback discussions and results in more meaningful and less stressful exchanges. In addition, the enhanced time-line reduces the ‘rear-view mirror’ effect described above, and separates performance evaluations from pay raises.

Certainly studying work and work processes on a more frequent basis is more closely aligned with a Continuous Improvement philosophy.

Performance Management Best Practices

Bill Conway would say that there are two things that matter: working on the right things and working on them the right way. Performance Management is all about how we as leaders orient our organizations around those two things.

When we asked our Partners In Improvement to define Performance Management, we heard a range of perspectives:

  • the strategic orientation of the organization
  • process performance management
  • setting of goals and objectives
  • individual performance appraisals
  • daily direction and feedback to reinforce desired behaviors
  • providing tools and coaching to help people be successful
  • rewards and recognition

From the strategic perspective, performance management begins with the identification of what’s vital to the organization. If these priorities are not clear and it is not clear what role everyone plays in the priorities, the rest is unlikely to mean much.

Several of the Partners pointed out that performance management refers not just to people management, but to process management, and plant management (which one of the Partners called the “3 Ps – People, Plant, and Process”).

One of the Partners explained that she always starts by measuring the performance of the process. To improve the process, based on the root cause analysis she would work to improve the people performance, tools, materials, methods, the environment, or whatever factor was driving the performance of a process.

While there are clearly a wide range of views about how to manage performance, several excellent points or best practices generated quite a bit of support during our discussions:

  • Performance Management must be about much more than individual performance measurement. As Deming said, over 90% of problems are caused by the system not the person. To manage performance, we must manage the system by which people, plant, process interact to produce results.
  • Frequent observation and feedback is more helpful to people than formal annual reviews.
  • Frequent communication about what an organization needs and wants greatly increases the odds that the organization will get what they need and want.
  • Group rewards encourage teamwork, while individual rewards encourage an individual to optimize his or her own goals even if it may sub-optimize the organization as a whole.
  • Tying money directly to performance appraisal can be a two-edged sword – raising stress and reducing the intrinsic rewards and personal satisfaction from doing a good job for the team.
  • Avoid performance management in the rear view mirror – in other words, avoid “Monday morning quarterbacking.”
  • Make more of the goal setting process which produces targets against which we measure performance and take corrective action

 

Performance Management Contrasts

We’ve had some fascinating conversations about performance management over the years, and have found quite a range of formal and not-so-formal approaches, along with variations in defining the process.

But while different organizations may employ different methods, there are a few areas on which most everyone we’ve spoken with enthusiastically agrees:

  • Positive versus punitive performance management works best.
  • Recognition is an important element of managing the performance of individuals.
  • Management must manage the performance of both individuals and processes.
  • Regularly scheduled performance reviews or evaluations of individuals are key and should be conducted more frequently than once each year.
  • Performance evaluations need not be coupled with merit-based or time-based pay raises and, in most cases, are more effective if not coupled with pay raises.

How does your organization define and execute performance management?

 

Rewards & Recognition Best Practices

Recent posts have focused on “rewards and recognition,” a crucial component of enterprise engagement.

We shared a range of perspectives based on discussions with our Partners in Improvement groups, who agreed that these programs are typically designed to achieve one of three objectives:

  • increased commitment
  • increased desired behavior or motivation
  • increased measurable results

Based on their collective experience the Partners identified the following eight criteria or best practices for an effective rewards and recognition program:

  1. Keep it simple: The most cost effective method of all seemed to be the simple thank you note. The notes, if done well, are widely appreciated and cost nothing more than the time and attention to set up a system of information when an individual or team deserved a thank you.
  2. Be very careful about extrinsic rewards: these can cause more trouble than benefits. Extrinsic rewards require very clear metrics, auditing, and careful, even elaborate design to ensure a focus on the rewarded metrics will not lead to deterioration of other facets of the organization. Obviously, this makes it hard to ‘keep it simple.’
  3. Be specific: it is much more effective to recognize a team or a person for a specific result or accomplishment than for generally doing a good job.
  4. Be timely: the closer in time the reward or recognition is to the accomplishment being recognized, the more impactful it will be.
  5. Be consistent: Be sure that you respond to comparable accomplishments in comparable ways.
  6. Be authentic: Sincerity in words of appreciation and praise are essential to an effective system of reward and recognition.
  7. Communicate widely: Publicity helps extend the celebration and communicates widely what is valued by the organization.
  8. Use team rewards to encourage better organization-wide results.

Rewards & Recognition Part 2: Strategy

Our previous post noted  that a Rewards & Recognition program is an important component of a comprehensive engagement plan, and that there are different approaches or “reasons” to implement the practice.

During discussions with our Partners in Improvement  groups details associated with each of three distinct strategies for implementing a rewards and recognition program  were summarized as follows:

Strategy #1: To Increase Commitment and ‘Team Spirit”
Service awards are an example of recognizing people in order to strengthen the commitment to and satisfaction with their jobs.

Many organizations announce service anniversaries and offer public congratulations and appreciation. In some cases a paper certificate is ceremoniously handed to the individual. Some organizations award gifts of increasing value for milestone anniversaries, such as 5 year, 10 year, 20 year anniversaries. Gifts bearing the company logo were also intended to increase association with and commitment to the organization.

Strategy #2: To Increase Certain Behaviors or Accomplishments
A good deal of our discussion of rewards and recognition focused on ways that were intended to reinforce behavior that the organization wants to see more of.

For example, the CEO of a global engineering corporation with 8,200 employees has made a practice of sending a personal thank you to people who have really contributed to process improvement, with a “cc” to the person’s supervisor. These notes are highly valued. Similarly, the CEO of a defense contractor also described how powerfully motivational a simple thank you can be. He was walking through one of his manufacturing plants and saw the operator of a machine that was under repair, cleaning the machine. He stopped to thank her, saying he really appreciated her effort because he would like the work place to be cleaner. The comment was so motivational that when he walked back
through several hours later, long after the repairman had left and the machine was functional again, she was still cleaning the machine.

Another organization has instituted a ‘Six Star’ program to recognize and reward people for giving excellent service.
Customers and employees can award ‘stars’ for service that they feel deserves recognition. Once employees receive six
such stars they are given a fifty dollar gift certificate. Another Partner described a high five on-line recognition, with a “cc”
to the Director. If the Director saw an accomplishment that was especially good, he or she could promote it into a “Round of
Applause” that would involve a gift.

Strategy #3: To Achieve Better (Measurable) Results
Some organizations used rewards to encourage extra effort to achieve specific goals.

Examples included a one year lease on a BMW that was awarded to the store manager with the best results, and a $20,000 President’s award that was given to the employee who generated the most profitable business.

At another organization, an additional one-week vacation was given to the employee who was deemed to have done the most for the organization in the previous year.

While each of these was awarded to an individual, the intent was to motivate many people to compete for the award. The assumption is that an unusual and substantial reward will inspire people to try and outdo one another in order to win — thereby increasing the results produced by all those who failed to win as well as the winner. These rewards rely on publicity and  extravagance to generate enough interest to get everyone trying to win.

But strategies, goals and objectives do not always translate into the desired results. In fact, some rewards and recognition programs produced unintended consequences, which we’ll discuss in our next post.

Rewards & Recognition – Part 1: Variation

We recently attended the “Engagement World” expo in Galveston, Texas, at which all aspects of enterprise engagement were discussed including ISO 10018 and  standardized engagement plans.

Simply stated, to be truly effective, an engagement plan must contain certain elements, including a method for rewarding and recognizing  desired behaviors and outcomes.

This fact was spelled-out in a prior post, noting that Rewards & Recognition is an important component of a comprehensive engagement plan. In addition, our Partners in Improvement discussed this fact, and shared some interesting insights regarding various ways of recognizing and rewarding people, and the variation in results.

For example,  some, like a service award, are very predictable; if you reach an anniversary, you are likely to receive one. But many other recognition programs include an element of surprise when exceptional service is spotted.

Some rewards cost the organization little or nothing — such as a thank you note or a special parking place. Others are quite costly, such as a one year lease on a car, or an upscale ‘President’s Award.’

Some are for teams, and others are for individuals. Many of the rewards and recognition are after the fact, while some are announced and hyped in advance in order to encourage people to try for them.

The amazing variety allowed us to explore the benefits and unexpected drawbacks of the different types of rewards and recognition. But despite the variety of implementations, the objectives were really quite simple. An organization implements a reward and recognition program for one of these three reasons:

  1. To increase the recipient’s satisfaction and happiness with the organization and his or her role within it
  2. To motivate continuation of certain types of behaviors and accomplishments
  3. To motivate people to work to achieve certain measurable results

We’ll take a closer look at these differing approaches in our next few posts, and share some surprising data points regarding outcomes and predictability.

ISO Quality Management Principles – Balancing Process & People

As you may know, in 2015 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) issued an update to its widely followed 9001 standards. 

This update was not, at the time, officially part of the 9001 standards, but it included the addition of new Quality Management Principles outlining, according to an Engagement Strategies Media (ESM) article, the fundamental conditions necessary for an organization to sustain high levels of quality and performance.

The Quality Management Principles are:
  1. Customer focus
  2. Leadership
  3. Engagement of people
  4. Process approach
  5. Improvement
  6. Evidence-based decision-making
  7. Relationship management

As noted in the article, these principles focus on both “process” and “people/engagement.” As the article goes on to suggest, this balanced focus is clearly necessary to achieve and sustain high levels of quality and performance.

Read the full article…

Sales Process Productivity

Previous posts have focused on applying the fundamentals of CI to the sales process, which tends to be a bit more complex than many people realize.

Leaving aside the “selling skills” or “charisma” associated with those perceived as the most successful sellers, when you consider the day-to-day activities required of a field-based or outside sales professional there are numerous pitfalls that can compromise productivity.

There are also some proven best practices that can help to boost field-day efficiency, which include the following:

  1. Pre-call planning: by planning each sales call in advance, in writing, sales people can position themselves to accomplish more in less time, thus increasing personal productivity as well as accelerating overall cycle-time. Not only will running more comprehensive sales calls increase efficiency, but the habit will also make a stronger, more positive impact on customers. Many who have embraced this best-practice report that their customers recognize the difference and, over time, become more willing to schedule meetings or sales calls, thus enabling them to more easily make more calls each day, an important part of the job as noted in the next bullet.
  2. Set a daily call volume goal. This may sound like an unnecessary step, but a surprising number of sales people are unable to quantify the actual  average number of sales calls they make each day. As author Jack Falvey has said, “Want more sales? Make more calls.” By setting a personal goal, which will vary depending on the nature of each territory, sellers are often able to self-motivate more effectively and make more calls per day.
  3. Geo-plan: by creating a strategic geographic or travel plan for each day, outside sales people can minimize drive time and optimize “face” time. The best plans will begin by creating territory quadrants and then mapping the locations of customers and key prospects. The rule-of-thumb is to avoid traveling beyond two quadrants in any given day, so when an appointment is set in one area, try to schedule meetings or plan to visit others in the same general region to enable a maximum number of interactions in a minimum amount of time.
  4. Bookend each day by scheduling an appointment early in the morning and another late in the afternoon. This will promote “staying the course” as opposed to deciding to drive back to the office early to do administrative work. This best-practice might also help to achieve item #2 above.

Managing the Cost of Disengaged Workers

An earlier post summarized the real costs associated with disengaged workers, which is close to $500 billion per year based on research by glassdoor.com, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance (EEA), and others.

Wow!

Fortunately, there are proactive steps that can be taken to avoid these costs and the collateral damage to team morale and brand that is a regular side-effect.

Based on research and data shared by the EEA and The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the following five steps can drive employee engagement, and reduce the number of disengaged workers and the associated costs:

  1. Enhanced recruiting and on-boarding — The first steps involve the inclusion of the organization’s mission and vision into interviewing conversations, and a more conscious effort to identify and hire people with aligned goals. Adding a mentor program to the on-boarding process helps new hires assimilate
    faster so they became more productive in less time as well.
    Enabling people to achieve higher levels of productivity and success early-on promotes greater engagement levels, and reduces first-year attrition rates. Early churn tends to demoralize
    everyone, so in addition to reducing re-hiring and re-training costs, the costs associated with negativity within the existing workforce are also reduced.
  2. Consistent performance management and communication — People need to have meaning in their work, and understand how their work aligns with organizational objectives. This communication works best when systematized as part of structured, proactive approach to performance management.
  3. Learning and development — A young, fast-rising junior executive had been working at a large bank for just over six years. When he was asked about his job and how he felt about it he said, “The job’s OK.” His lack of enthusiasm was evident, and when pressed to say more he added, “Well, I’m not really learning much anymore.” He went on to confirm that he was not truly engaged, and that he did not make much of an extra or discretionary effort, which engaged workers regularly make. Forward thinking
    business leaders understand that the path to sustainable employee engagement is to drive productivity, and to do so through ongoing education and empowerment.
  4. Recognition and rewards — Recognizing and rewarding employees is not a new concept, but if the goal is to engage people rather than simply acknowledge milestones (such as length of service), then the approach must be aligned with what is meaningful to each recipient.
  5. Flexibility and work/life balance — Employer/employee relationships, expectations, and engagement criteria have evolved significantly over the past decade. Data from a PwC survey of 44,000 workers who had become less engaged indicated that “71% said their jobs interfered with their personal lives, and 70% said they wanted to be able to work from home.”
    Employees can also become disengaged when they feel their managers only care about the bottom line. More than one-third of U.S. employees (39%) don’t believe their bosses encourage them to take allotted vacation days, and almost half (45%) say their bosses don’t help them disconnect from work
    while on vacation, according to a Randstad survey.

Read the full article…