Derek Irvine - Author Archive

2 Principles for Effective Performance Management

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – The next generation of performance management will be employee driven and focused on contributions. Social technologies are the tools that make it effective.

Across the landscape of companies redesigning performance reviews, there is a diverse range in the way those systems are designed and implemented. Yet regardless of the specific path chosen, the common thread is to streamline and make the evaluative process more efficient while also increasing validity.

At the same time, the big data revolution in HR has begun to provide a wealth of more information about performance events, in real-time and from different platforms. Performance management processes are beginning to take advantage of that trend, leveraging continuous conversations about performance and development.

As I wrote in a recent post on Compensation Cafe, social technologies and tools are well suited to take advantage of these changes in the performance management space.

Specifically, two features stand out among these next generation performance management approaches:

The first is that performance is largely employee-driven, the organization focused on providing the tools that facilitate goals, conversations, and feedback around performance. These tools help to establish both a cadence and continuous improvement mindset. The data provides insight on both current progress and future direction.

The second is the clear separation between discussions around base pay and merit increases (reflecting one’s core skills and abilities) and variable pay and bonuses (reflecting one’s specific contributions over the year). For the purposes of the latter, a majority of employees fall into a group defined by consistent performance (operationalized as having met at least three-quarters of one’s goals). The simplicity of the approach allows for much more focused and ultimately more developmental conversations.

These features balance the needs of individual employees to grow and meaningfully contribute, with the needs of organizational and compensation decision-makers. These approaches will be employee-driven, data-rich and process-light.

What tools is your organization providing to contribute to performance?

Recognize the Givers in Your Company

Compensation Cafe logoBy Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Givers find energy when they give in self-protective and personally meaningful ways, and when they are recognized and reminded of how their contributions matter.

It’s not just about giving and taking anymore.

Recent research by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele shows that the type of giving matters – specifically whether you are a “selfless” or a “self-protective” giver.

The selfless types often give indiscriminately, without regard for their own limited resources or time. They can easily become overloaded with requests and are more susceptible to burnout.

Self-protective givers, on the other hand, focus on high-impact, low-cost giving aligned to their strengths and interests. They are more likely to gain rather than lose energy from their giving.

As Adam and Reb point out, positive giving spirals “free you up to focus on helping where you have the most impact – which replenishes your energy by reminding you how much your contributions matter.”

As I wrote recently on Compensation Café, that last bit reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a colleague:

He recounted [to me] something his spouse, a palliative care physician (and a fan of Adam’s work), had told him about giving in a healthcare setting: When you give, it is more than giving your time, resources, or even “capital” … fundamentally it’s about giving of your whole self.

Giving in self-protective and mindful ways, we all are more personally invested and find greater meaning in the help we provide.  When we are recognized for that investment and reminded of how our giving matters, we are rejuvenated.

Recognition plays an important role in sustaining the energy of givers, particularly as the level of personal investment and meaning increases. Through a strong culture of recognition, the organization is poised to benefit from the positive spirals of self-protective givers.

How does your organization support giving and the recognition of those givers?

(Adam Grant will present “Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World” as a keynote speaker at WorkHuman, May 30-June 1 in Phoenix.) 

Recognition as a Driving Force for Potential

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe blog logoRecognize This! – Changes in the business world are rapidly accelerating. To keep up, companies will need to recognize more of potential and creativity, and less past performance.

Keeping up with the changing world of work is becoming more and more difficult. No longer just about the pace of change, leaders must now also react and respond to the complexity of interacting and overlapping changes.

As I wrote in a recent piece on Compensation Café, the profile of competencies required of all employees – and how organizations recognize and reward them – needs to change in order to keep pace. What follows is an excerpt from the original post.

The imperative for leaders is in the creation of a compelling vision and how to motivate employees around that vision. Unfortunately, those seem to be the skills that are lacking among high-potential (HiPo) employees in leadership pipelines. Recent research published in the Harvard Business Review found that nearly half of participants in HiPo programs are below average when measured on leadership effectiveness.

A portion of these findings might be explained by a “how/best” mindset that has traditionally guided organizational decision-making. Leaders seek out which decisions are the best and then how to implement them. Where data from past performance or best practice exists, that mindset is both effective and efficient. However, that same mindset presents a barrier in response to situations that are novel or uncertain, situations that require creativity in response to change.

To be future-proofed, organizations need to move away from the types of processes and structures that reward a “how/best” mindset and past performance. Instead, they will need to place more emphasis on how to identify and develop a broader range of employee attributes, including potential and creativity.

One way that business and HR leaders can shift the emphasis is through the strategic use of rewards and recognition. Not only will that contribute to a more positive employee experience overall, but social recognition can also provide leaders with the data on which individuals are being recognized for their innovation, their curiosity in solving challenging problems, and for experimenting with new processes.

Click on this link to read the full post on Compensation Café.

Encourage Talent Networks in Your Company!

Compensation Cafe logoBy Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Research shows talent deployment matters more than the raw amount of talent. One effective strategy is to encourage talent networks through social recognition.

The war for talent is most often described in terms of a company’s ability to attract and retain employees with the highest levels of productivity and/or the most potential.

An assumption of that “war”- given that talent is a scarce resource – is that the company with the most talent will be successful. Recent research has tempered some of that assumption, taking a closer look into how talent actually relates to organizational success.

Summarizing some of that research on the Compensation Cafe, I wrote about how the “deployment” of talent matters much more than the raw amount of talent. Highly successful companies differentiate themselves from average companies by clustering their talented employees around critical functions and roles.

I went on to discuss some of the potential implications of that research. One explanation of why clustering is effective can be summarized as follows:

“Teams and networks of talent drive success. When talented employees are clustered around critical areas, there are more opportunities for those networks to grow, for collaboration to occur, and for relational ties to strengthen. If one talented employee can have a large impact on a core area, then the impact of a team of talented employees might be exponentially greater.”

These internal “talent networks” can be a critical factor in ultimately driving success, particularly when they are cultivated and encouraged through human-centered technologies.

Social recognition is one such solution that can help an organization to deploy its talent in networks, especially when paired with complementary practices like continuous conversations, coaching, and feedback.

Recognition moments themselves serve to strengthen the relationships and collaborations between talented employees, as they work across functions and areas to do the critical work of the organization. The data and analytics provided by a social recognition platform offer leaders visibility into these networks in real time. They can pinpoint where interactions and collaborations are having impact, through existing teams as well as less formal collaborations that would otherwise be hidden from view.

How does your company empower talented employees to connect and succeed?

What Workplace Studies Can Tell Us

Compensation Cafe logoBy Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Experiments in the workplace can help show the impact of innovative practices, and provide insight into management philosophies.

Experimentation in the workplace isn’t necessarily a new idea. As early as the 1920s, studies have looked into the effect that various workplace changes, such as lighting and scheduling adjustments, could have on productivity.

Today, many companies and even municipalities continue to experiment, in pursuit of insights that can create a better workplace.

I recently wrote about the conclusion of one such study on Compensation Cafe. This study centered on a government-run nursing home in Sweden that had implemented a 6-hour workday, and the outcomes that stemmed from that change.

Studies like this reflect a delicate balance between two management philosophies.

As with earlier studies of the workplace emerging from the Industrial Era, an emphasis is on factors that can make workers more productive and positively impact the bottom line. But there is a shift as well in some of the outcomes, reflecting an employee-centric view that aligns to the philosophies of the Human Era. In these cases, policies are examined that have potential to improve the employee experience and well-being.

Workplace experiments can offer the opportunity to examine how outcomes related to each philosophy are weighted against each other, tracking the evolution of our thinking about work.

Take the outcomes of the experiment in Sweden for example. Researchers there found that 6-hour workdays were able to improve a whole host of outcomes related to employee happiness, health, and even productivity. Unfortunately, the changes were also reported as costly and difficult to implement, leading to skepticism about such practices among policy makers.

Perhaps the experiment in the nursing home was slightly ahead of its time, or perhaps we simply need to learn more about how to make human-oriented practices more sustainable. As I wrote in the full post on Compensation Cafe:

These experiments have shown that we can increase well-being and productivity, and that things like happiness can have tangible outcomes. As we build our collective knowledge across organizations and settings, we can solve for the remaining variables like cost and ease of implementation.

Much like some of those early experiments, findings may not have supported the desired outcomes, but instead offered insight that is much more valuable over the long run.

What are your thoughts about experiments like this and the future trajectory of the work experience?

The Benefits of Looking Back

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Technology can help us look back at all we have done over the year, celebrating accomplishments and increasing our sense of meaning and belonging through work.

The year’s end offers an excellent opportunity to look back at all of one’s accomplishments. Not merely for the sake of nostalgia, taking time to review one’s own body of work reinforces the depth and meaning of connections that have been made at work.

But as I wrote in today’s post on Compensation Cafe, getting an accurate picture of one’s accomplishments over the span of 12 months is challenging.  It seems we have all gotten busier and the pace of change has sped up as well. So I posed the following question:

Do you remember everything you’ve accomplished over the past year? You might do fairly well with a couple of recent projects or especially big wins, but what about when you think all the way back to January and all the work that has occurred since then.

It turns out that humans have a poor track record of memory over time. We have a strong tendency to focus on recent events at the expense of ones that are older, for example, forgetting much of the work we actually did. Opportunities to look back have also largely been informal and unstructured, which can compound the challenge.

HR technologies, like social recognition, can help change some of that. A record of what one has accomplished can be created in real-time. That record can be easily integrated into continuous conversations between manager and direct report, or even shared more widely among peers to celebrate wins and progress.

Why is it worthwhile to bring more of this into the work day, especially around this time of year? Well, as I wrote in the full post:

Employees derive a sense of meaning and belonging through the work they do. At times, it comes through in how work contributes to a greater purpose or mission for the company. At others, it is about how people have come together to get work done, solve challenging problems, or delight a customer.

Recognizing what people have accomplished and which relationships were built is a way for companies to create a positive employee experience, and ultimately make work more human.

Have you set aside any time to take a look at everything you have accomplished over the past year?

3 Steps to Build a Positive Employee Experience

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe blog logoRecognize This! – With a thoughtful approach, positive organizational strategies contribute to a better employee experience.

The impact of positivity in the workplace is a subject of some debate. Some point to its tangible benefits, but others are somewhat more cynical. While the truth may take some time to uncover, the ultimate impact may be attributable to variability in how positive organizational strategies and initiatives have been implemented.

As I wrote in this post on Compensation Cafe, creating a positivity-driven workplace typically follows some variation on one of two potential paths: “At one end of the spectrum: a fad-like approach to tick a box off the list. At the other end, a holistic approach to integrate positivity into the fabric of the business.”

The closer an organization can get to the latter, the more benefits they are likely to see from building a positive employee experience.  With that in mind, there are three main things to consider to successfully build towards a more positive workplace:

 

1. Focus on drivers that lead to the outcome of positivity. Too often, positivity is treated like a driver instead of an outcome. In reality, organizational practices and norms are the drivers that lead to a positive employee experience. Keeping the two distinct allows leaders to think through the relationships between those practices and positivity, and why those relationships matter to business performance.

2. Focus on long-term practices that tap into enduring aspects of human motivation. Positivity fads focus on quick-fixes that only lead to momentary benefits or unsustainable behavior change. Instead, HR and business leaders need to consider practices that are more durable, tapping into attributes that make work meaningful and create a sense of belonging.

3. Focus on aligning multiple practices into a cohesive strategy. A single practice, no matter how effective, set against a company’s current culture is unlikely to be effective in creating lasting change. Creating a positive work experience requires a set of practices and norms that reinforce one another, gradually creating culture shift that influences everyday work experiences.

 

Click here to read more from my full post on Compensation Cafe. Together, these steps can help an organization to create a more positive employee experience.

What has been successful for your organization in creating a better work experience?

What happens when work becomes a hobby?

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! — In the gig economy, a growing portion of people are working for reasons other than pay. That could mean big shifts for how companies motivate and attract workers in the future.

The gig economy has gotten quite a bit of press recently, as the popularity of technology-enabled platforms has made it easier than ever for people to find and get paid for gigs. The most popular options continue to be ride hailing and online tasks, but the sector is growing to include ad-hoc project work, professional services, and even personal help.

Although the gig economy is still relatively small in comparison to the traditional economy (approximately 8% or so), the dynamics of gig work could end up having a large impact on the ongoing evolution of the employer-employee relationship. Compounding the issue is the rise in automation and machine learning that is spreading from industrial settings to service and knowledge-based jobs.

As I wrote in this post on Compensation Cafe, one of the more striking shifts has been toward a growing segment of workers that participate in the labor market because of reasons other than pay – referred to as “hobbyists.” They seek out opportunities to socialize or have fun, or simply have a desire to do something productive with their time.

The idea of working human is deeply resonant with this approach to gig work – prioritizing a sense of belonging and meaning over pay (although adequate compensation is still vital). There are also implications for the changing landscape of how businesses and HR leaders will need to adapt to this shifting mindset among workers.

Below are some of the biggest implications, summarized from my original post, as some of these changes spread outside of the gig economy:

  • Increasing pressure on organizations to create positive work experiences that can attract and engage these workers, as a solution to high rates of churn and an unpredictable supply of talent over time.

  • Shifting focus away from traditional attractors, such as benefits and employee perks, to leverage more fluid and immediate aspects of their rewards portfolios, such as social recognition.

  • Continuing evolution of performance, balancing the need for one-off gigs with repeat or ongoing work, concurrent with a greater emphasis on continuous performance conversations.

What are some other implications for employees and employers when work becomes less like work and more like a hobby?

The Future of Compensation is Crowdsourced

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe blog logoRecognize This! – Shifting a portion of compensation to the crowd is one way companies can ensure greater effectiveness and alignment to performance.

The transformation of performance reviews is a topic increasingly top of mind for many HR professionals. One of the major driving forces is the changing nature of performance itself. Whether you view it through the lens of the gig economy, teams-based organizing, or the knowledge economy, performance in modern organizations is simultaneously becoming more fluid and complex.

Compensation practices have sometimes lagged behind these changes. Companies can easily find themselves in the position of just throwing money at the dual challenges of attracting and retaining talent, and also increasing motivation and engagement. All without seeing much actual return.

Moving forward, companies seeking to maintain a competitive advantage will need to find ways of more effectively leveraging compensation. Turning to the crowd can be one way that compensation and performance can be more aligned.

As I wrote in a post earlier this week on Compensation Cafe, crowdsourced compensation allows a company to move its investments closer to the contributions that individual employees are making.

Here are four reasons, excerpted from that post, making the case for companies to consider shifting more of their compensation portfolios to crowdsourced methods:

  1. It creates a strong connection for each employee, linking specific behaviors and accomplishments to overall group success and the broader organization.

  2. It creates a culture of performance where the emphasis is not only on what one contributes, but also on recognizing the contributions of others.

  3. It is better able to acknowledge the performance that comes from teams and groups, following the projects and teams that form and reform throughout the year.

  4. It helps an organization attract top talent, signaling the importance the organization places on creating a human workplace and creating an ownership mentality among employees for performance.

As performance itself becomes a more dynamic phenomenon, compensation practices must evolve to keep pace and allow the organization to sustain competitive advantage.

What are your thoughts on the changing nature of performance and compensation?

Don’t Make Your Employees ‘Prisoners’

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Motivating employees requires more than compensation, which can create “prisoners.” Instead, companies need to emphasize a richer employee experience.

There is an interesting “iceberg” effect when it comes to employee motivation. Company leadership tends to focus on what is immediately visible, both for top talent and for severe underperformers for example. This focus can come at the expense of less visible, but no less impactful dynamics

What can get missed are the employees in the middle, an interesting proportion of whom show up and stay at their jobs despite being generally unmotivated, performing just enough to not bring attention to themselves. As I write on the Compensation Cafe, this group of employees was the subject of some recent research:

A report in the Wall Street Journal highlights a study by Aon Hewitt that looked at this group of employees. That study found 8% of employees fit into this profile of “prisoner” employee – defined as those “who stay at their jobs despite feeling unmotivated” – which was related to both longer tenure and salaries above market rates.

The article goes on to suggest that compensation is generally an ineffective lever in increasing motivation, and in fact may only contribute to increased feelings of being “held prisoner.” The net impact is a reduction in functional voluntary turnover, negatively affecting colleagues and sapping the company’s potential.

The solution is probably two-fold. For employees who are either unwilling or unable to become more motivated and productive performers, the business and HR need to have processes in place to identify and move those employees out. For everyone else, there is much more hope.

As I write in the full post, I argue that it may be helpful to leverage solutions that can create a more positive employee experience. Some of those solutions can include:

  • Developmental coaching and ongoing feedback can help to uncover barriers to that employee’s motivation and find solutions in the form of new roles or responsibilities.

  • Social recognition can also be a powerful motivator that builds on those conversations, amplifying examples of good performance and engaging a positive cycle of behaviors that align with the company’s core values.

  • Finally, a greater proportion of the overall compensation portfolio can be aligned towards real-time performance, creating more opportunity for motivation creation.

What are your thoughts on the best ways to transform “prisoner” employees into productive and energized contributors?