This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m Susan White, a national HR consultant, and I’m here with JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of the “JoyPowered®” workspace, the inspiration for this podcast series. So, JoDee, today we’re going to talk about performance reviews, and I’d love to talk about it both from the employer perspective and the employee’s perspective.
Yes, interesting topic, because anytime I’ve ever discussed this with someone in a leadership position, or as an employee at any level, their response is always “Hooray!” Everyone’s excited. They love the concept of not…
…having employee annual employee reviews, because most people hate it. Right? So they think it’s a great opportunity to do away with something that they’re not comfortable with. And of course, that’s not really our message.
Our message is to think about doing it in a different way.
I agree. I think the rumor that performance reviews are dead is really just a rumor. There was a study done by the Corporate Executive Board, and in this survey, they talked to Fortune 500 companies, and what they found was that only 6% of Fortune 500 companies have stopped doing the annual performance review. Of course, we read about those a lot, because those companies have been very vocal about their glee at having done away with performance reviews. Some of those companies were Adobe, GE, Netflix, and Accenture. Are you familiar with any other firms, JoDee, either locally or nationally, that you’ve heard about having done away with their performance reviews?
I’ve talked to a lot of companies who are talking about doing it, but I can’t say I’ve really worked with anyone who has done away with it, except for the companies that just never really did it to begin with.
And now they have a good reason not to start.
Right. So they’re, once again, they’re feeling excited that “Oh, hey, we’re okay. We weren’t doing it and now we don’t need to start it.” So I do a lot of training on the concept of feedback, or what I like to call it, feed forward information. How can you share information with employees to help them be better, I think is really what we should be concentrating on. But a lot of times, I’ll ask the question, “Do you have a culture of compliance or a culture of communication?”. And I think the concept of getting away from the annual performance review…if you can create a culture of communication, where you are constantly talking about performance, you’re constantly holding people accountable, you’re constantly sharing information that will help them be better, then you don’t need the official formal performance evaluation. But I’ve yet to really see a company who’s made it to that. It’s just a very difficult concept for most of us to grasp. So.
I think you’re right, it’s really feedback – or feed forward, love that term. It is critical. Employees want to know where they stand. Right? And if you tell them all the time, and it’s a real great interactive environment, you probably don’t need a formal process, but I would say that most companies don’t. And as we know, 94% of Fortune 500 companies are in that same camp with us. They…they have kept some type of a formal structure.
Right. I think the key is to have a regular…not just ongoing daily conversations with people about their performance, but some sort of official conversation, whether that be two times a year, I’d love to see it four times a year, where people can sit down and do a check in and talk about performance and goals, specifically. But I know as a former HR director, that, you know, I was one of those who, to some extent, I’ll take accountability for coming off as a culture of compliance, where I was forcing people to fill out a form. Right? Because I felt like if I couldn’t get them to fill out a form, that the employee wouldn’t get anything at all, because I knew we didn’t have cultures of communication, so I thought, well, at least if I can get them to get something down in writing and hold them accountable for it. And certainly, as we know, when performance is not strong, and we need some documented paperwork on performance, it’s important to have those semi-regular check ins where some things are written down.
Right. If you have to defend action that they’re going to take, you want to have something documented. I think the other culture of compliance issue is how do you decide who you want to give raises to when you…when you actually give merit raises, and you are managing by performance? Not everyone’s getting the same, you know, dollar amount each year. How do you decide who’s a exceptional performer who’s going to get a high raise, who is the fine performer who’s going to get a modest raise, and who is, you know, barely pulling their weight and may not get a raise? So that’s, I think, another reason why employers are attracted to the idea of having some type of a formal review process.
Right. Right. It’s difficult to create those systems without having some kind of….
Basis. I agree. Well, interestingly, the Corporate Executive Board, when we start to look at the other side of it – why would a company not want to do it – I think we gave up some really good reasons why they feel the need to do it, but some reasons why they said they would not…. They felt like it was a uncomfortable dynamic that was being created between managers and employees, really kind of a class system, where employees might feel as though, you know, a little demotivated that they’ve got a manager who’s constantly, you know, telling them what they’re not doing well. Also, it’s overburdensome, really time consuming. I’ve had number of clients complain about the time it takes once or maybe twice a year to gather all the data needed to conduct a performance review.
Right. That’s…. If you have a long forms or complicated processes, people…people’s lives are busy. Right? And they don’t want to take time to fill out pages and pages of forms on checking boxes, you know, it’s got to be…it’s got to be short and simple, and…and helpful. And helpful to people, helpful to the manager documenting it, and helpful to the employee to help them grow and to help them be better going forward.
I think that’s exactly right. I found this in my own experiences, but also the Corporate Executive Board mentioned that there really tends to be very little belief in the correlation between poor performance ratings and actual business results. So if you’re a staff member, and if you believe your rating really isn’t consistent with what you’ve done that year, the results that you delivered, it just really tarnishes the whole…the whole conversation and the whole process. Maybe we should talk about if you’re going to have a performance review system, you know, what are some things that you can do to really make them meaningful and to make them credible and make them effective?
Well, I think you have to train managers, leaders, supervisor…who’s ever giving the review, they have to be trained, and they have to see it themselves. Right? So you can’t expect a supervisor to hold a great conversation with one of their employees if that supervisor’s not getting it, having a great conversation themselves in a review. So I am…as you know, Susan, I don’t…I’m not a fan of saying that things have to start from the top, but I think if they can start from the top, it makes it much easier. When someone has a positive experience with their own review or their own performance discussion, they’re more likely to want to share that same conversation, that same culture with the people who work for them, too. So if you can start it from the top and start having those good conversations, and just, I think, as much as possible, if they can be true, heartfelt conversations, and not about boxes on a form. No one wants to walk away thinking “I’m a three out of five,” or “I’m a two out of five,” or even that “I’m a four out of five,” right? How can I…How come I’m not a five? What I do wrong? You know? And as…as, you know, we’ve talked many times on this podcast about the power of employees using their strengths, and so many times people walk away from these performance discussions focused solely on what can they do better, what are they not doing well, as opposed to focusing on….Not that we ignore those conversations. I’m not suggesting we don’t talk about those. But I’m suggesting that we allow employees to walk away thinking “How can I do more of what I’m doing well?” or “How can I use my strength to do…”
“…an even better job?” Right. I totally agree.
I think those are great tips. I think the other one that I would add is I think people have to be involved in what they are evaluated on, so it’s important that as objectives are set, that the employee sit down with the manager early into the review period, to say, okay, let’s talk about what it is I really need to accomplish in this period, so then when they get together at the end of that period, the employee is not shocked or surprised with what they’re being evaluated against. Right? And that they both agreed this…these were reasonable, you know, the old SMART goal setting process. S-M-A-R-T. Needs to be specific goals, they need to be measurable, they need to be action-oriented – I hope I’ve got the right A there – they have to be realistic, and they have to be timely. I think it’s achievable. Maybe that A is achievable. At any rate, there has to be something that the employee has bought into, and the employer…and the employer agrees that this is how we’re going to measure your performance in this period. And so let’s make sure we created those goals.
Right. I prefer to see much more of the conversation surrounded around goals, and again, the concept of looking forward versus looking backwards. Not that we can’t learn from what we’ve done, but what will we do tomorrow? Not so much about what happened yesterday, or how will we learn from yesterday, what we’ll do tomorrow?
Yeah, that’s terrific. You know, since we’re talking about performance reviews, I’d love to discuss this for a moment – performance review ratings. I know you mentioned that no one likes to think “I’m a three out of five,” or if it’s an ABC, “I’m the C.” People don’t like don’t like to be labeled, right? And I’ll tell you that I…almost every single performance review I’ve ever given someone, whatever rating I gave them, they say “What does it take for me to be the five? What does it take for me to be the best?” And that conversation can be difficult, right? For a lot of reasons. Do…in your practice, is there a rating scale or rating system that you found to be more effective than others?
I’m sorry to tell you that my answer is no.
Darn it. I wanted the magic potion.
Yes. I just I think it’s…it’s…those systems were designed because they’re easier for the manager. Right? To check a box and…versus writing a narrative. And then they’re easy to tally up in a system that spits out a raise based on it. You know, that if you were three, you get this raise, if you’re a four, you get this one. So although I keep hearing more and more and more about the importance of data and data analytics, I’m not sure. And I think there’s a place for that for sure, and we’re gonna hear more about that in a few moments, but I think we can’t just label employees as…as a number on a box or even…you know, I do like “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations.” I think those types of ratings are not always perfect, either, but much better than one to five or one to 10.
Thank you. Yeah, that’s great. So we have invited a guest today. He’s a author, a public speaker and business consultant named Mike Hill. Mike has written a book called “Measuring to Manage: Using Measurable Data to Get Maximum Employee Performance.” Mike, welcome to the JoyPowered® podcast.
Happy to be here.
Mike, first, tell us a bit about your book, and maybe what prompted you to write it.
Well, the prompting to write it was at the time, I was in charge of a sales department in a company that I was part owner, and we were just not getting the performance out of the sales people that I wanted and the company needed. And so I tried everything. I got a contest, sent the winner to the Bahamas….
Wow. That’s my kind of contest.
He got a nice PM, our numbers went up for about 90 days. I brought in a sales trainer. I did everything that most companies do, but I just couldn’t get the sustaining success that we wanted. So I started talking with people in our industry from around the country at conventions and that type of thing, and I found out that what the successful companies were doing, they were measuring, measuring, measuring, and they found the metrics that they had to pay attention to, to get their company to do…to achieve the goals. So I came back from one of the conventions and I put some numbers together for the salespeople. And I actually sat down with them and I said, okay, let’s…let’s do this as a group, and in about 60, 90 days, we took off. We started hitting all our numbers, and actually, at the end of the first year, we exceeded the company’s goal for sales by about 15%, and then it snowballed. The other departments in the company came to me and they said, “You’ve got the shining stars here. What do we do?” And so I started working with them to put together metrics that they could go after, and it all took off, and the company just grew very, very nicely. So then, as things tend to happen like this, somebody said, “You know, Mike, you got a book,” and I said, “You know, I probably do.” So I just took all my notes and thoughts and everything and quotes that people have given me, and I put the book together.
So Mike, what…what kind of metrics or numbers did you show their sales team, and why was it that there was such a significant impact from them?
Well, we actually broke it down into number of sales calls that needed to be made by the outside salespeople, number of sales calls that needed to be done by the inside sales people, which everybody would shake their head and say, “Well, that’s a pretty easy number,” but it’s not. When you have a sales force of…at the time, we had 20 outside sales people, and so, you know, one salesperson thinks they need to make 10, the other one says “Well, I always make 30,” and so the numbers got all skewed. So what we decided to do was, we said, okay, we identified four reasons that an outside salesperson could actually knock on a door and make a sales call, and if their itinerary didn’t show one of those four reasons to make the call, we said you can’t make it. You can…you can make a phone call, but you can’t get in your car and drive. Our statement was, we’ll pay for the phone call, but we won’t pay for gas. And so we got down to the metric that the outside salespeople needed, like a normal situation. And then the other thing that we broke it down was we said, okay, after the call, here is the 6, 7, 8 questions we want answered and if you turned in – which most people do nowadays – a call report…of different levels of quality. If they didn’t answer those six or seven questions, we made them get on the phone and call the customer and say, “Hey, while I was there, I forgot to ask you….” And so we ended up with quality reports, which ended up quality salespeople. And when it came to review time, we actually ended up with – 16 was our number – they had 16 visits a week, and this was face to face, it wasn’t a literature drop. And the sales people that made, at review time, that had made more than 16 were always the top commission earners. And the ones below were the ones that were saying, “You know, my spouse is really mad at me, I’m not bringing home enough.” Well, here’s…here’s…
Here’s a way to do it. Yeah. Makes sense. So Mike, why why is focusing on measurable data really important in evaluating performance, do you think?
Well, it gets everybody on the same page so there’s no confusion sitting down with the employees as to what is to be produced. And then, of course, you tell them, you and the employee can work out the why. But the other part of the…after being frustrated, I thought, you know, this is just the correct way to treat employees. Any employee, from the receptionist all the way back to the warehouse and everybody in between, they should be able to go home after a day at the office and say, again, to their spouse, significant other, whatever, they should be able to say “Hey, today I had a good day. And this is why,” or “Today, I did didn’t do so good. I’ve got to give 110 or 120% tomorrow.” And so it just is the fair way to treat people, if you will, and it sure worked for us. That first year, we identified $100,000 that we put to the bottom line, just from tweaking our evaluation system.
Fantastic. And Mike, your example was talking about salespeople, but I suspect this concept can be applied to any position and any role.
Exactly. Exactly. I have…I worked with a lady who was a CFO for a company, and she came to me and she said – her name was Sarah – and she said, “He’s just not cutting it,” and I said “Okay, read the book.” So we discussed it a little bit, and she said, “I’m gonna read your book.” So off she went, she said, okay, and she came back, and she called me and she said, “This is what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna sit down, discuss the measurements, discuss the numbers with this employee, and then give him 90 days, because I really got to get my department….” He was the one that dragged the department down. So she did it all, and she takes it into the CEO of the company, and she gets about two minutes into her presentation, because she wanted tolet the…let Bob go. And the CEO said, “I’ve heard enough, goodbye, go back to your office,” and wouldn’t hear anything about it. So she called me and she said, “Mike, I just got shot down.” And I said…and she explained the situation that she ran into with the CEO, and I said, “You didn’t read the whole book, did you?” And so there’s this long pause on the phone, and she said, “I’ll finish it.” And I said, “Finish the book and do it again.” And so she did, sat down with Bob, did the whole thing. 90 days later, she goes into the CEO and she says, “I really need to show you what’s going on here.” The next day, she walks into the office, and Bob is gone. And this is…he was, obviously, like I said, an employee in the accounting department. She walks into the department, Bob’s cubicle is empty.
So what was the difference between this time and the first time?
Well, she needed to really show the CEO that this wasn’t…she wasn’t just separating Bob out from everybody else. She was holding everybody in her group to the metrics. And that what Bob was doing was, he was thinking the whole department was doing well, well, he just got to ride the wave, which lots of times happens. And so when she was able to show the CEO that, hey, this is what I’m holding everybody to, here’s the drag on my department, and here’s the numbers that Bob and I agreed to, and there’s a little signature that it’s suggested that you do one of the steps in my process. And the CEO had absolutely nothing…
It was easy to make a data driven decision when he could really see the numbers. That makes sense.
The other interesting part was Bob, the guy in accounting, was the CEO’s brother-in-law.
That makes for a fun Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?
Well, goes to the point, if everybody agrees on the numbers, and you don’t hit them, it’s your own fault. Now, granted, managers need to help. You know, there are some situations where the employees don’t have all the answers, or you wouldn’t be…wouldn’t need a manager. But if everybody agrees on it…. Once I started the process the first time, I never fired another salesperson as long as I was with the company, and that was about eight years before I left. Because everybody knew how everybody was being measured, and so they would leave.
It is interesting. We had a another podcast that was on employee engagement, and it was Nikki Lewallen who joined us, and one of the things she said that really helped employees feel engaged is where there’s a sense of fairness and they understand how they’re being evaluated and being measured. So certainly, you know, your concepts just…I can see where it helps with employees feeling better about where they work.
Mike, my takeaway a little bit – tell me if I’m on the right track or not – is that the power of the data and the metrics can be so easy, maybe, to read and to make decisions when it’s all said and done, but that, from the employee side, the important piece of it is that they understand their why or what it is that they need to do. Like, in your example, for the salespeople that they got…How many of these do I need to make? How many calls do I need to make? How many face to face? When do I make a face to face versus a phone call? That their…the clarity in their role was so much more specific, so it’s…it’s a win win for the employee and the employer.
Yeah, I love the fact that they have to understand the why. Otherwise, they’re gonna feel like they’re being micromanaged.
But they need to understand that…the success that can be yielded by following the numbers or following the guidance. Right? That’s terrific. Well, Mike, what advice do you have for employers that are listening today who might want to get started using measurable data to help them manage their staff and in the performance review process?
Well, my process is a five step process. I’ll give you the…first of all, you need to find out that “A number one” goal for the position. In the sales position, it was we wanted everybody to increase their sales. In general, the first year, we wanted to increase everything about 15%. So we have an identifiable target. And generally, that should come off their job description. But then the second step is you have to identify those action steps that, when completed, are helping the employee to accomplish the major goal. And so, like, in our sales example, it was you had to make 16 calls, they had to be quality, and quality was identified by these six questions. And so those were the action steps that, when completed, helped the employee up to accomplishing the 15% increase in sales. So those are the first two steps. You got to got to get those clear, and you got to sit down with the employee and make sure that there’s clarity.
And then the other thing is, most companies are realizing nowadays you can’t do this once a year…once a year review. There’s some headlines now that people are doing away with employee evaluations and that type of thing. They’re really…what they’re doing away with is the old fashioned once a year evaluation. You need to do this more often. And especially with the millennials, the Gen Xers, and the baby boomers, each one of them wants a different type of explanation on their evaluation. So you got to play that generational game, if you will.
How often would you recommend having these kind of conversations?
We did a full sit down every six months. But we also have these tracking numbers that…some of the salespeople would watch their numbers weekly, some would watch them once a month. So everything was very visible, inandour purchasing department got really into it, and they had charts on their wall. And so there would be questions that would come up. But we did it every six months. Full sit down evaluation every six months. The other thing we did was encourage companies to separate talking about compensation from the employee performance. Let them know that at this evaluation, we’re talking about your performance on the job. We’re not talking if you’re going to get 2%, 6%, 8% raise, we will do that in a separate meeting. So be focused and worry about performance at this meeting. Everybody wants to see that last page.
Oh, absolutely. There’s a lot of emotion there.
Yeah. So you just take it away. You know, say, hey, I’m gonna talk to you about it, but I’m just not doing it…let’s put a date on it, but I’m not gonna talk about it when we talk about your performance. So.
Well, Mike, thank you.
Those would be my tips.
I think those are excellent. Mike, we thank you so much for coming today. I know that….oh, JoDee’s got one more question for you.
Well, I was just gonna say, Mike, could you repeat the name of your book for listeners and tell us where they could find it?
Oh, for sure, for sure. The title of the book is called “Measuring to Manage: Using Measurable Data to Get Maximum Employee Performance,” and it’s available on Amazon. It’s also available on my website, which is speakermikehill.com.
Excellent. That’s speaker Mike – M-I-K-E – Hill – H-I-L-L – dot com. Perfect. Good. Mike, thank you again for joining.
Oh, well thank you very much. Thank you very much.
Have a great day, Mike.
JoDee, do we have any listener email or phone messages?
Hi, yes, my name is Michelle, and I just had a question. I’m currently a nanny, and when I interviewed with the family, they had discussed that during the summertime hours that I would be paid more each week, because I’d be with all three kids instead of one or two at a time. So this upcoming week is going to be the first time that I’m going to have all three kids, and I’m not sure how to discuss with the bosses if the pay is actually going to start, or maybe they don’t remember. Should I wait for my upcoming paycheck to see if it happens, or should I discuss it with them prior to that?
Hey, Michelle, thank you so much for calling in. You know, it can be awkward to go back to your boss and remind them that they had promised you a raise. I get that. But in this situation, I think it’s very appropriate, especially because you’re going to go from…tripling your workload from one child to three. I think I would just, the next time that the employer and you have a moment alone, I think I’d first start with an appreciation, because I always think people take tough news or difficult news or things that may not be that pleasant better when you start with what you appreciate. And you might say, “I really appreciate working for you. Being a nanny of your kids has been just a wonderful experience for me. I wanted to make sure I reminded you that we had talked about when the summer started, my salary was going to go up. I wanted to make sure that it was still on your radar and there’s…if you had any questions,” or something like that. Just so that you…I think you do it in a very professional way, I think she’ll be grateful or he’ll be grateful that you kept it at the forefront and you didn’t let too much time. And JoDee, what do you think?
Well, I agree with you. And I think, Michelle – really for anyone, not just Michelle – anytime we have conversations like that, and then we don’t see a change, I think it’s uncomfortable for us because we assume that they remembered and they’ve chosen not to do it. And I suspect probably 50% of the time, it’s not a matter that they’re being, you know, trying to get away with something. They just forgot about. They forgot they had that conversation. They forgot to make the change in the system. They forgot to pay you more, and they’ll be happy that you reminded them.
I agree. All right. Thanks, Michelle. So we have in the news article. I don’t know if you saw this or not. Shrm.org had put it out. It was an article by Dana Wilkie and Alan Smith back in June of 2017 about bedbugs, one of my least favorite subjects. What the article talked about, it said that the Environmental Protection Agency said that bedbug infestations usually don’t start in the workplace, but as you and I both know, they enter into the workplace, because our employees will pick them up, either in their own homes, public transportation, movie theaters, wherever. So it is an issue, if you’re a business person, to really think about…How do I handle it? How do I handle the employees when they get concerned about bedbugs being in the workplace? JoDee, I don’t know if you have experience with this. I do have a little, and I will tell you every time it makes me itch when I start to think about it. Now, if you do have an employee that you know has bedbugs at home, it’s important you have them eradicate that situation before you allow them back in the workplace. And, you know, fortunately or unfortunately, having bedbugs is not a serious health condition. So the time off – which, they need to be off – is not covered by FMLA or the ADA. Now, you may, as an employer, decide it’s valuable enough to you that you’re going to get paid time off. But it’s something that you want to seriously think about, especially if you have a very large employee population, that you don’t wait until the first case comes up before you try to address it with a policy. JoDee, other insights from you?
Well, I would suspect that many times you might not know where the bedbugs come from, or that an employee is not probably embarrassed and not sharing with the company or even, maybe, even thinking about that they might have carried it to work with them. We think about bedbugs…. I think most of the news about bedbugs is that we get it from hotels, you know, sleeping in other people’s beds and not bringing it to the workplace with them. So…. And by the time a company realizes they have it, it could have been already eradicated at the employee’s home. So just the…remembering the importance of getting rid of them in the workplace and going through the procedures, you may not know where they came from.
I do think it’s incumbent on an employer, when they do realize they have it, obviously, work on eradicating them from the workplace, but also to inform your employees, because they have a right to know. And make sure that they understand, it’s not a serious medical condition, but there are ways to, at home, determine, investigate if they have in there. And then I do think the employer, there’s no obligation under law that I’m aware of, but I do think they have a bit of a moral responsibility to help anybody who needs help on eradicating them.
Okay, well, that’s a subject I hope we don’t ever talk about again. So please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you’ve missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free at iTunes or Podbean or Google Play by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” If you have questions on HR topics, remember you can call us at 317-688-1613 or give feedback on our podcast via our JoyPowered® Facebook account or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments. Thanks so much.