Archive for the "Performance Management" Category

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?

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?

Doing Gymnastics at Work

by Traci Pesch

US Women's 2016 Olympics ChampionsRecognize This! – The sport of gymnastics offers several lessons we can apply to make work more human.

My daughter did gymnastics for 6 years. It’s an intense sport for which, unless you’re deeply in it, it is hard to understand the level of commitment necessary. To be a top-level gymnast requires dedication of your entire mind and body, relentless practice of 30-40 hours a week, and mental discipline to engage in 6+ hour meets where you must focus completely for less than 2 minutes of competition on one element and then wait an hour or more for another less than2 minutes of complete focus on another element.

Gymnastics is a unique sport, but some elements are the same for all sports that offer us lessons for the workplace, too.

“Superstar” is relative.

Yesterday’s superstar is today’s team player. Look at Gabby Douglas. In the 2012 Olympics, she won the gold medal in the individual all-around competition. By 2016, she missed competing for the all-around final despite having the third-highest score. (Two of her teammates took the top spots, and only two competitors from each country are permitted to compete.)

Is Gabby any less of a superstar? Certainly not! Her talent and skill still place her in the highest ranks in the world. And yet the rulebook lessens her. For those still clinging to a forced ranking model of performance valuation, think  about your superstars who are being labeled as less than stellar for no other reason than strict rules on how many “5s” you’re allowed to have.

False valuation models can break the spirit of even your best employees. Working more human requires us to consider how we can equip and encourage all of our people to do the best work of their lives.

Failure is inevitable.

Simone Biles, by every measure, was the standout hit of the Olympics. The strength, power and grace she packs into her tiny frame is astounding. She set a new American record for the most gold medals in women’s gymnastics in a single Olympics (4 medals) and joined an elite global group with a total of 5 medals in a single games. And yet, she wasn’t perfect. In the balance beam final, she wobbled badly enough she had to grab the beam. On this world stage, that’s failure. She missed the mark.

But she still took the bronze. How? Why was her wobbly performance better than other wobbly performances that didn’t medal? First, she incorporated harder elements in her routine. She intentionally set a higher bar. And when she did wobble, she put it behind her quickly and went on to finish strong.

Failure itself is not bad and can often be a sign of trying to shoot high. But we will never know what we can achieve if we don’t try. How much more innovative would our teams be if we lifted the fear of failure, gave them the room to try, support them as the make the attempt, then help them recover quickly, learn and move forward?

The team is only as good as the team.

I get annoyed by the phrase, “A team is only as good as the individuals on it.” It implies that the individual is solely responsible for themselves. Gymnastics teaches something different. The team is only as good as the team performance overall. Gymnasts must find ways to improve their own skills, yes, while also helping their teammates continually improve too.

How can we all train like gymnasts to support each other and make each other better? How can we build more human teams at work designed to elevate the team to success while simultaneously improving the individual?

With the 2016 Paralympics beginning, new inspiration is all around us. What lessons from the Olympics do you see that can be applied as well strive to make work more human?

Making the Performance Review More Human

By Derek Irvine

Mgr getting chasedRecognize This! – Performance reviews need to reflect the relationships of performance, and stop treating it like a contract.

Read most any article on the transformation of performance reviews and you will immediately come across a line about how universally disliked they are. It seems that no one would object to getting rid of them immediately, but somehow data suggest that very few companies are actually going that far.

Talking over this issue with a few colleagues recently, an analogy to school grades was brought up.  Students dislike the process associated with being graded on their work, but they still rely on grades as an indicator of their progress and achievement. It’s somewhat paradoxical, but mirrors many employee reactions to performance appraisals.

A question remains: is it possible to provide valuable information on progress and performance without doing so through such a disliked process?

One key may be to better understand the changing nature of performance. I was listening to a recent interview with Peter Cappelli of Wharton, where a major question driving his research was whether employee performance represents more of a contract or a relationship.

If we think of employment like a contract, a static mark is set at the beginning of the year and then at the end, employees are assessed against how well they met that mark. Instead, if employment is more of a relationship, expectations and goals are continually revised over time, in response to changing conditions and imperatives. The research found much more evidence in favor of the relationship view.

The problem is that performance reviews tend to impose a rigid contractual structure onto a flexible relationship, diminishing the value of the information about performance as well as contributing to a large portion of the dislike among employees. They are being reviewed on performance that tends not to reflect all of the work that has emerged since the goals were last established.

Framing the process in terms of a relationship also helps us to understand the level of dynamism that providing performance feedback should have: occurring as a natural part of the flow of everyday work while also providing periodic summaries of progress based on the collection of the work being done and the alignment of that work to changing business strategies.

What might that look like in practice? One illustration is through a solution like social recognition where employees’ contributions are identified in real-time by their colleagues. Within each contribution are concrete examples of performance that can be highlighted and reinforced to that person or to the team by the manager. Over time, the sum of contributions are collected in a single and accessible location and can serve as a foundation for routine discussions to enhance performance, rather than purely remark on what has been accomplished in the past or with respect to outdated goals.

Social technologies like this will clearly be a part of more relationship-oriented performance reviews, alongside other processes that help managers and their reports to maintain ongoing emphasis on the behaviors that are contributing to business success.

Have your own performance reviews moved beyond the contractual to the relational?

How Recognition Makes WorkHuman

by Lynette Silva

Coffe mug with foam in shape of a smileRecognize This! – We all have the ability to create more human workplaces for ourselves and those around us, simply by saying thank you.

Recently we released our WorkHuman Research Institute Spring 2016 report, The ROI of Recognition in building a More Human Workplace,” assessing the attitudes and expectations of those fully employed from their workplaces today. (Be sure to tune in Thursday, April 14, for Derek Irvine’s discussion with Sharlyn Lauby of the findings of the report. You can register for the webinar here.)

The report is quite detailed, offering “a blueprint for what practices will drive employee behavior, attitudes, and business results. Specifically, [how] employee recognition is a foundational element of building a human workplace.” To me, the greatest value in the report is in the questions it answers, which I’ve highlighted here.

Why is recognition such a foundational element for building a human workplace?

A human workplace is one that fosters a culture of recognition and appreciation while empowering individuals, strengthening relationships, and providing a clear purpose aligned with achievable goals. Social recognition is vital for many reasons, especially for:

  1. What it communicates – Recognition lets people know, “You are noticed. You and your work have value and meaning.” The research reveals the WorkHuman connection – when employees believe organization leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 90% say work they do has meaning and purpose
    • 78% feel like opinions, voice and ideas matter to leaders
  2. How it helps build relationships – The act of appreciating others naturally connects people more closely, at work and at home. In the survey, 70% of employees say recognition makes them feel emotionally connected to peers while another 70% say recognition makes them happier at home. Timeliness of the recognition matters, though. When recognized in the last month, 86% of employees say they trust one another, another 86% say they trust the boss, and 82% say they trust senior leaders. Again, the WorkHuman connection is clear – when employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 93% feel they fit in and belong in the organization
    • 91% say they are motivated to work hard for my organization and colleagues
  3. How it boosts performance and productivity – Knowing our work is valued and appreciated by others naturally makes us want to contribute more. 79% of employees say recognition makes them work harder, and 78% say recognition makes them more productive. Interestingly, recognition also helps employees feel better equipped to handle the constant change common in today’s workplaces, which is often a detriment to productivity. When recognized in the last month, 69% of employees say they are excited or confident about change, vs. 41% saying the same who had never been recognized. What’s the WorkHuman connection? When employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace, 90% say they are able to find a solution to any challenge.

Perception is reality. How our employees perceive their own recognition and their leaders’ commitment to human workplaces dramatically impacts the bottom line.

How do I join the WorkHuman movement?

The best place to engage with others who care deeply about creating more human workplaces for all employees is the WorkHuman conference, May 9-11, in Orlando, FL. There’s still time to register. Use code WH16RT300 to get the blog reader discount.

And a final bonus question – do you work in a human workplace today, and if not, what would need to change?


Compensation Cafe: Separating Raises from Performance Reviews, But Then What?

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – As companies change their approach to performance reviews, attention also needs to go into how we can improve the pay discussions that used to go with them.

Performance reviews have been top of mind for many in the HR industry and business leaders in general, including this blog, as we collectively seek out ways to either improve or replace the practice. We are to a point where a number of good proposals and ideas have been put forth, but very few have been tested to see how well they play in the real world and which ones can stand the test of time.

As I write over in this post on Compensation Cafe, there seems to be some agreement that one of these good ideas is to decouple pay discussions and raises from performance discussions. Unfortunately, for all of the attention that performance reviews have been getting, considerably less thought has been given to what pay discussions will look like when they become their own distinct process. In that post, I ask:

What’s a better way to determine those deserving of increases? … In contrast to much of the thought that has gone into developing better performance reviews, I rarely see as much attention being paid to the pay discussions that I expect may become a distinct entity. Worst case scenario, they become as burdensome a process as the performance reviews before them, and simply repeat the mistakes of an “obstacle course of hoops to jump through, hurdles to clear, and a raise as a reward at the end” mentality.

A clear path forward has yet to emerge for refining the ways that pay discussions can occur. A good starting place is to simply begin asking questions to start the conversation. In the post, I begin with the following set of four questions as a first step; click here to read them in more detail.

Should pay discussions continue to rely on performance?

How can pay discussions be linked to performance?

When or how do pay discussions take place?

How can pay discussions be structured to avoid “gaming” the system?

What kind of form do you think pay discussions will take if and when they are separate from performance reviews? Are there other questions you think need to be asked?

2 Steps to Cultivate Simplicity at Work

By Derek Irvine

Viewing through lensRecognize This! – Competencies are one example of how organizations can achieve simplicity by paring down and leveraging everyday practices.

I was thinking recently about how simplicity can be applied to improving the human experience at work. The idea grew from Josh Bersin’s report on creating irresistible organizations. In this report, he describes simplicity as fundamental, involving “the removal of formal bureaucratic overhead” while favoring “trust, autonomy, and a focus on cooperation.” Far from being easy, simplicity is something that companies have to work hard to achieve.

As I thought more about it, there is an additional aspect of simplicity to point out. Essentially: simplicity involves both paring something down, as well as putting it into everyday practice.

On the latter point, because simplicity is the desired end state and not a beginning, there is a subjective quality that comes from all that hard work. Something that is practiced and second-nature to one person or organization can appear as very complex and unfamiliar to another, which ultimately impacts the effectiveness of the practice.

Competency modeling illustrates this principle well. Many companies spend considerable time developing and refining these complicated models of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that lead to superior role performance and organizational success.

Done effectively, competency models can succinctly describe core people attributes in the language of the business, align to strategy, and integrate HR and talent functions. Unfortunately, these benefits are difficult to realize with overly complex competency models that become burdensome to use in a meaningful way.

As it stands, competencies typically only show up during hiring decisions and performance reviews- effectively a few times a year at most. Combine the complexity of the models with the unfamiliarity from infrequent application, and it is no wonder they are often viewed as largely ineffective (much like the performance review process upon which competencies can be based).

How do you overcome these challenges in 2 steps?

  1. First remove some of the formal complexity and hone in on the most impactful competencies.
  2. Then, and more importantly, put those streamlined models into practice so they are a familiar part of the organization’s fabric.

How can we actually accomplish this?

We often discuss the effectiveness of social recognition as a solution to align employee behavior to a company’s core values. Given a shared emphasis on superior performance, this same solution can be leveraged to call attention to competencies that employees demonstrate through those very same behaviors that lead to effective performance.

Moments of recognition can catch not only what employees contribute and why it matters, but how the contributions are made, calling out the specific competencies that managers want to develop on their teams or that peers recognize in their coworkers. The social aspect of this solution ensures that an organization’s competencies become part of the everyday language of the business. As employees become well-versed in that language, more sophisticated competencies take on a level of simplicity and ultimately, effectiveness.

Are competencies a part of your everyday work experience? How are you recognized for behaviors that capture those competencies?

What Happens to Me When You are Recognized?

by Derek Irvine

Inspiring othersResearch is split on what happens to the motivation of people who see others get recognized. One solution is to simply recognize everyone.

There is quite the interesting debate shaping up among researchers looking into the motivational potential of recognition. The specific question under investigation focuses on the impact that recognition has not on recipients, but on the motivations of the people surrounding those recipients. Simply put, if I see you being recognized for excellent work, will I be motivated to step up my game or not?

In one camp researchers with the Centre for European Economic Research found data supporting the affirmative. In a controlled field experiment, participants were hired to complete a three-hour data-entry task. The researchers found that providing recognition to top performers drastically increased group performance, with the biggest gains driven by those who did not receive the recognition. It was hypothesized that these findings are largely attributable to a combination of conformity and reciprocity effects, as a “rising tide that floats all boats.”

But what if this effect isn’t as universal as we might expect? This is the question posed by a recent study published in Psychological Science. A set of experiments involved grading peer assignments as part of a massive open online course (MOOC). In a phenomenon termed “exemplar discouragement,” the research team found that students who were given exemplary peer material to grade were much more likely to quit the course than students given typical peer material. The implication for recognition in organizational settings is that individuals may respond to the recognition of others with decreased rather than increased motivation, when they perceive an outcome as unattainable.

What do these findings and the larger debate tell us about designing recognition strategies and programs that will extend motivation beyond the recipients to the entire workforce?

In two simple words: include everyone! Here’s why:

  • To encourage positive spiraling of a “rising tide.” Those who witness recognition clearly step up their games, contributing higher levels of performance. Subsequently recognizing these individuals maintains those high levels, and encourages other sets of workers to perform better. Onwards and upwards the spiral goes.
  • To avoid exemplar discouragement. Instead of recognizing only the best performances, excellent contributions across all levels of your workforce can be recognized and reinforced, from stars to core performers. Everyone can see that higher performance is an attainable goal and is more likely to strive towards that goal (further reinforcing the above spiral effect).
  • To measure and develop a more robust impact. The recognition-performance effect is amplified across teams, units, and geographies in your company. With the help of data analytics, leaders can nurture emerging positive spirals and encourage breadth and depth of contributions.

This notion of inclusion provides a straightforward way to reconcile the seemingly disparate findings from the research cited above: by expanding the focus from a single recognition moment to many, and from a few recipients to many. When no one is left unrecognized, discouragement may be hard to come by.

What other kinds of strategies have you seen be successful in keeping a workforce motivated?

Performance Review Redesign: Human and Social Capital

by Derek Irvine

Diagram of interconnected colleaguesRecognize This! – New ways of working rely on collaboration and relationships in addition to individual skillsets. Performance reviews should take this into account.

There has been a lot in the news lately as more and more companies have abandoned their traditional performance review processes in favor of both more immediate and more ongoing alternatives. So far, the Fortune 500 players have been leading the charge, and other mid-size and smaller companies are sure to follow.

Most of this trend has been attributed to a growing awareness that successful companies will need to have systems that not only evaluate, but also develop their workforces. There is also the realization that these processes need to occur more often than annually or semi-annually, and be much more human-friendly to impact performance. The companies on the front lines have been largely pursuing unique approaches to accomplish some of these goals and resolve other common challenges with the practice. It will be interesting to see which of these crosses the threshold into becoming a best practice.

In the meantime, I want to offer a perspective on these trends complementing many of the forces noted above. Fundamentally, human capital is no longer a sufficient force to sustain high performance. In its place, social capital is playing an increasingly important role in helping organizations to manage the complexity and pace of work, and achieve lasting competitive advantage. What’s the difference between the two?

Human capital is captured in the knowledge, skills, competencies, and other characteristics possessed by individual employees. It runs the gamut from tangible (like computer programming skills) to intangible (like creative thinking). Organizations have long sought to acquire and manage the collective human capital of their employees to drive productivity and performance. In this world, traditional performance reviews make a whole lot of sense. Managers want to be able to quantify what each individual brings to the team, and expand that level over time.

If human capital sets the foundation, social capital is what allows you to build upwards.

Social capital are the resources embedded in relationships between people, within and across companies. Proponents of social capital perspectives point to the critical role of these relationships in getting work done: contributing to improved communication, better access to information or resources, and more efficient large-scale action. These are exactly the type of assets that are most needed in solving today’s complex challenges, where novelty and ambiguity are the new normal. These are also the assets that traditional performance reviews are most ill-equipped to capture.

It may go without saying, but… social capital requires a more social approach to performance reviews.

In addition to the focus on improving the timeliness and developmental aspects of the performance review process, companies need to begin considering how best to quantify and develop the social capital of their employees. There is valuable data to be had in the collaborative relationships that employees develop to be at their most successful, as well as a chance to get in on the ground floor of career development discussions around which relationships are the most rewarding and productive.

From my perspective, high performing companies will be those that establish performance reviews that give weight to social capital in addition to human capital, to deliver insight into their employees’ skillsets and networks as key drivers of performance.

What about your own experiences with performance reviews, has anyone asked about the networks you rely on to get your job done?

More Human Workplaces Can Get 70%+ Engagement Levels

by Derek Irvine

Expressive facesRecognize This! – The best competitive advantage available to all organizations lies in building a powerful, positive, WorkHuman culture.

I hosted a webinar with Newsweaver (internal communications experts and software) recently. My topic was how social recognition can contribute to driving a company culture and creating better employee communications. Net of it: how, by making a workplace more human, companies can win, big!

It’s a topic I’ll be returning to a lot as I truly believe the next (still available) dimension of competitive advantage for corporations is to bolster their culture by helping their employees feel more human, be more their full selves while at work. We’ve moved into a new period at work, one we like to call “the human decade”, where it’s no longer enough to just focus on our hands (our skills), nor minds (our knowledge), but we must think much more holistically – it’s time for the heart to become center stage too in HR strategy as it controls both how we feel emotionally about the work we do, and, the place that we do that work. HR strategies that only look to examine the logical, mind focused aspects of employee strategies are missing a vital component of the reality of work psychology. We can’t, don’t and shouldn’t have to check part of our real human selves at the door when we enter work!

So what are some of the items I spoke about as having been proven (through much new comprehensive and compelling research) to successfully boost the “good heart” feelings employees can have at work?

  1. Boost the meaning and purpose of work
  2. Give employees a way to tell & share the stories of their successes
  3. Mark important personal work events in a truly inspiring way
  4. Reimagine performance reviews by involving our community of colleagues
  5. Create a more human focused workplace, encourage great work friendships

Social recognition (saying “Thanks” while mobilizing your community of co-workers) can contribute positively and indeed significantly to each of these human levers. In fact, so much so, that research I shared from IBM Smarter Workforce, SHRM & Globoforce often results in employees having engagement levels at 70%+.

Now that’s truly remarkable!

What could your company achieve if you had engagement among 70% of your employees?   Would that be a competitive advantage your CEO would care about?