Archive for the "Performance Management" Category

4 Tips to Move from Frozen and Fixed to Agile and Growing at Work

Everyone can learn and growBy Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – All humans have the capacity to grow, learn and develop but are too often held back by fear of failure. A growth mindset in an agile work environment is key to working more human.

I heard a fascinating podcast recently on applying the agile software development method to your family. (Here’s the TED talk version.) Our company applies the agile method to nearly every part of our business far beyond our software developer group, and I can see how it could easily apply in other areas of life, too. The agile method is all about continuous feedback – try, learn, deliver, iterate, try, fail, learn, deliver, and so on. Agile works because it keeps people focused on consistently moving forward.

This dovetails well with research and emerging thinking on how best to help our employees succeed. Changing the decades old performance review process is just one element of this shift in the workplace to a more continuous conversations model in which employees continually receive and give feedback across the full spectrum from constructive to praise. One of the foremost thinkers in this area is Dr. Carol Dweck with her “growth mindset” approach.

As Dweck explains in this TED talk and in her book, people with a growth mindset fail, learn, and try again. People with a fixed mindset fail and resist trying again. This can be particularly problematic with people managers who perceive their employees through a fixed mindset lens, rarely allowing employees to grow and develop beyond preconceived or early-established notions of skills and abilities.

Dweck speaks in terms of “the power of yet” (we may not yet have achieved the success we desire, but we’re on the path to it) vs. “the tyranny of now” (if I initially fail, then there’s no point to continue trying). If our intention at work is to help our people be agile, to continue to grow and develop, we must free them from the tyranny of now. Here are four tips to get started:

  1. Develop our own growth mindset – Practice an agile development model in our own work. Look for ways to perceive challenges and failure as opportunities to learn and move forward.
  2. Help managers change perceptions of others for growth – Per Dweck, look for managers who “embody a growth mindset: a zest for teaching and learning, an openness to giving and receiving feedback, and an ability to confront and surmount obstacles.”
  3. Praise wisely and reward process instead of results – Don’t recognize people for their intelligence or talent. Praise their process, effort, strategies, focus, perseverance, and improvement. Again, per Dweck: “…praise for taking initiative, for seeing a difficult task through, for struggling and learning something new, for being undaunted by a setback, or for being open to and acting on criticism.”
  4. Transform the meaning of effort and difficult from “dumb” to “helping neurons make better connections and become smarter.” Reward progress in an agile development model, regardless of the job role or function. What did you learn? How did you improve?

Ultimately, thinking in terms of agility and growth is a far more human approach to work – and life. As Dweck says (bold comments added by me):

“The more we know that basic human abilities can be grown, the more it becomes a basic human right for everyone to live (and work) in environments that create that growth, to live (and work) in environments filled with yet.”

There are many aspects to making work more human. I hope you can join us at WorkHuman 2018 in Austin, Texas, April 2-5, to learn more.

What kind of mindset do you have? What about your boss? Your organization?

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?

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?

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 than 2 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.


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?