Show Notes: Episode 18 – SHRM Credit: Harassment
December 18, 2017
Show Notes: Episode 19 – SHRM Credit: Performance Reviews
January 2, 2018

Click here for this episode’s show notes.

This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.

Susan  0:10 

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.

JoDee  0:33 

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…

Susan  0:50 

Oh, yeah.

JoDee  0:50 

…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.

Susan  1:08 

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?

JoDee  1:49 

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.

Susan  2:03 

And now they have a good reason not to start.

JoDee  2:04 

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…

Susan  3:14 

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.

JoDee  3:38 

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.

Susan  4:58 

Right. If you have to defend an action that you’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.

JoDee  5:35 

Right. Right. It’s difficult to create those systems without having some kind of…

Susan  5:42 

Basis. I agree. Well, interestingly, the Corporate Executive Board, when you 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.

JoDee  6:25 

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.

Susan  6:57 

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 po…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?

JoDee  7:35 

Well, I think you have to train managers and leaders, supervisors, 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’m…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 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…”

Susan  9:40 

“An even better job?”

JoDee  9:42 


Susan  9:42 

I totally agree.

JoDee  9:43 


Susan  9:44 

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 employees 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 employee and the employer agree that this is how we’re going to measure your performance in this period. And so let’s make sure we’ve created those goals.

JoDee  10:46 

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.

Susan  11:10 

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 to 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’d 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 for a lot of reasons. Do you…in your practice, is there a rating scale or rating system that you’ve found to be more effective than others?

JoDee  11:49 

I’m sorry to tell you that my answer is no.

Susan  11:51 

Darn it. I wanted the magic potion.

JoDee  11:54 

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 ten.

Susan  12:54 

Thank you. Yeah, that’s great. So we have invited a guest today. He’s an author, a public speaker, and business consultant named Mike Hill. Mike has written the book called “Measuring to Manage: Using Measurable Data to Get Maximum Employee Performance.” Mike, welcome to the JoyPowered® podcast.

Mike  13:14 

Happy to be here.

Susan  13:16 

Mike, first, tell us a bit about your book and maybe what prompted you to write it?

Mike  13:22 

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 salespeople that I wanted and the company needed. And so I tried everything. I got a contest, sent the winner to the Bahamas…

Susan  13:50 

Wow. That’s my kind of contest.

Mike  13:52 

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 getting 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, quotes that people have given me, and I put the book together.

JoDee  15:49 

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?

Mike  16:01 

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 sales person 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…

Susan  18:46 

Here’s a way to do it. Yeah. It makes sense. So Mike, why…why is focusing on measurable data really important in evaluating performance, do you think?

Mike  18:56 

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 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.

JoDee  20:20 

Fantastic. And Mike, your example was talking about salespeople, but I suspect this concept can be applied to any position and any role.

Mike  20:32 

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 drag 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 to let 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, and employee in the accounting department. She walks into the department, Bob’s cubicle is empty.

Susan  22:35 

So what was the difference between the time and the first time?

Mike  22:40 

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 sometimes 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…

Susan  23:34 

It was easy to make a data driven decision when he could really see the numbers. That makes sense.

Mike  23:40 

The other interesting part was Bob, the guy in accounting, was the CEO’s brother-in-law.

JoDee  23:47 


Susan  23:50 

That makes for a fun Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?

Mike  23:54 

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 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.

Susan  24:43 

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  25:04 

Mm hmm.

JoDee  25:06 

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 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 they’re…the clarity in their role was so much more specific. So…so it’s it’s a win win for the employee and the employer.

Susan  25:58 


Mike  25:59 

Oh, yeah.

Susan  26:00 

Yeah, I love the fact that they have to understand the why. Otherwise, they’re gonna feel like they’re being micromanaged.

JoDee  26:04 


Susan  26:04 

But they need to understand that…the success that can be yielded by following the numbers or following the guidance. Right?

Mike  26:07 

Exactly. Yep.

Susan  26:13 

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?

Mike  26:25 

Well, my process is a five step process. I’ll give you the…first 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’d 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, help 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.

Susan  27:52 

Makes sense.

Mike  27:53 

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.

Susan  28:40 

How often would you recommend having these kind of conversations?

Mike  28:45 

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 of them would watch them once a month. So everything was very visible, and our 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, and I would 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.

Susan  30:01 

Oh, absolutely. There’s a lot of emotion there.

Mike  30:05 

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.

Susan  30:16 

Well, Mike, thank you.

Mike  30:16 

Those would be my tips.

Susan  30:17 

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.

JoDee  30:23 

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?

Mike  30:31 

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

Susan  30:53 

Excellent. That’s speaker Mike – M-I-K-E – Hill – H-I-L-L – dot com. Perfect. Good. Mike, thank you again for joining.

Mike  31:02 

Oh, well thank you. Thank you very much.

JoDee  31:04 

Have a great day, Mike.

I’d like to go to another expert on performance reviews, and I’ve asked Catherine Schmidt of our Purple Ink team to join us today to speak on this topic. Catherine has a lot of experience in working internally with companies as well as as a consultant to Purple Ink, and she’s also done several speaking engagements to different organizations on this topic as well. So Catherine, thanks for joining us today.

Catherine  32:05 

Yeah, thanks for having me, JoDee. Happy to be here to talk about performance reviews.

JoDee  32:10 

Great. So overall, Catherine, how do you think companies can make the annual process review better? It just seems to be, as we discussed already, a struggle for most organizations to get their arms around this and to have a process that people feel good about and that is helpful to both them and the organization. What are some of your thoughts on it as a bigger picture?

Catherine  32:44 

Yeah, I think this has become such a hot topic lately because of that publicity those big organizations are getting about removing their performance review process. This is something that I think hits home for a lot of organizations, because there is such a…I don’t know, I think for most organizations, there’s a negative connotation with this process. Managers feel like it’s an administrative burden, HR feels like the police in getting these done, and employees, you know, are really looking at their ratings and what raise they might get, so that’s really what they’re in it for. And to some extent, it’s kind of checking off a box for the employee, too, so it just feels like something separate, almost, from their actual work. So some of the things that I think a company and both an employee can bring to the table to make this better is that there is such a focus on ratings and rankings, and I think companies have put these into place to try to make it easier for managers to complete. Right? So rate an employee’s performance in this area, it’s really simple, you just select from a group of one to five. But then the focus becomes so much on the rating, what makes a five on a scale of one to five, and we focus on defining what that rating is, and that takes away from the performance of the employee. So one way I think that organizations can make things better in the performance review process is to remove the ratings from their process. That doesn’t mean now it needs to be a big long narrative form that they fill out, but how can…how can companies make the process more conversational, as we’ve said, and have the focus be on the employee’s actual performance rather than on the rating that they’re seeing on the form? Now, one concern companies have with this is…is that they’re not sure how employees will get paid. And I think part of the rating process has been once an employee gets a rating, that’s specifically tied to percentage points. Do you see that with your clients, JoDee, that that’s how companies make their salary increases?

JoDee  35:21 

Well, interestingly, I think, in the end, most companies don’t really do that. But yet, I agree with you that most companies are very concerned about taking away the ratings, thinking they won’t be able to tie it directly to compensation or to raises. But really, I’m not sure I have any clients who I think really does connect the two…very well, anyway. So I think it’s interesting that that is such a big concern, but I agree with you

Catherine  35:56 


JoDee  35:57 

It is.

Catherine  35:58 

Yeah. But when I speak on this topic, that’s the question that I get most often is, if we remove ratings, which I think makes the performance review better, you know, how can we make sure that our employees are getting paid fairly. And we’ve already talked about how training for managers is so important, and that, I think, is a topic that managers should get more information on, is compensation, if they’re being given discretion to lead their employees, you know, leading a budget for their department or their team is a great skill for leaders in your organization to learn. And some ways that companies are making sure their employees get paid fairly without ratings is to train their managers on budgeting, what the market bears for that kind of position, and for the company as a whole financially, and then giving them discretion to, you know, pay based on performance with, maybe, small bonuses throughout the year, based on the project completion. Some managers use shadow rating, which is the rating system they might have in place currently, but it’s not shared with the employees, so that takes the focus from the employee away from the rating, but it also gives the manager a tool to do increases in a way that’s tied to something more formalized in the company.

JoDee  37:36 

Right. Great point. I think…I’ve got some other questions for you, Catherine, but I want to just stop for a minute and have people think about a couple of key things that she said already. If you do nothing else with your annual performance review process, assuming you have a review process, is to get rid of the rankings. I think that can eliminate a lot of stress, it can eliminate a lot of concern, it can eli…eliminate some bias, it can eliminate some worry about who gives high scores and who gives low scores. Although, on the other hand, I also like your idea of maybe having some rankings behind the scenes or “shadow ranking,” she called it, where the manager is using the ranking system and just not sharing it with the employee. So I think that’s incredible advice already.

Catherine  38:39 


JoDee  38:41 

Now, I did say in there, “assuming you have an annual performance review.” What would it look like if a company decides to do away with the annual performance review? Susan and I talked about this a little bit earlier in the podcast, but give us your thoughts on that.

Catherine  39:03 

Yeah, so it’s a trend or, you know, we’re seeing a lot of this publicized in the HR world right now. And really, what we’re seeing is that companies are taking an approach that works for them specifically. Some companies are using a system that tracks, as they put it, “real-time feedback,” or “continuous feedback,” similar to how we would track information for a performance review, but on a much more, I guess, a smaller scale, but on a more regular occurrence. So employees and managers are using a technical system where maybe an employee says, “I want feedback on this project or this process,” and they’re soliciting feedback, maybe it’s from their direct manager or maybe it’s from their peers or other people in the organization who touch that project, are involved in that process. And so it’s much more conversational, much more real time, and there’s no, you know, that timeframe that on such and such a date, this conversation needs to happen. It’s more as things are going on, and it’s more employee driven, where they are soliciting feedback on their own performance or on a process that they’re managing. Now, that’s nice when you can have a system or technology that helps you track kind of regular feedback. But if you don’t have an annual performance review process in place, or you’re looking at removing your process, it might be that it’s much more informal than that, even that maybe there’s a guideline that managers and employees have these informal check-ins on a more regular basis. And by informal, maybe we don’t need documentation of that process, maybe we’re touching base with the employee through a survey annually to see whether they’re getting the feedback and communication they need and want about their performance, and if not, then we course correct. But it might just be that the expectation in your culture, in your organization, is that managers are serving as mentors and coaches and conversational leaders, that it’s just expected that this ongoing conversation about their employees is happening, either on a set timeframe or with shorter timeframes than an annual timeframe, or that it’s just part of their daily interactions with their employees.

JoDee  42:00 

Yeah. You mentioned earlier about HR people feeling like police, and I know, certainly when I was an internal HR manager, and then an HR director, I always felt like I was the police and I was hounding people to get those forms filled out and I was very uncomfortable with that process, but I always felt like if I didn’t do that, those conversations wouldn’t take place at all. And so I felt like it was my responsibility to get something in writing, something documented, and make something happen, when in reality, my goal was exactly what you’re saying. It was to just have more natural, ongoing conversations all the time. I didn’t really want to have an annual review for me, either, but I wanted to make sure something was happening.

Catherine  42:56 

Right. Yeah, I think historically, we felt like we needed documentation for that reason. And also for legal compliance, we are letting an employee go, we want our annual reviews to reflect that they were not performing to our expectations. But we can capture that information without that information being tied to an annual review, if we have expectations that managers will have these regular conversations with employees. Actually, Adobe, when they took away their performance review ratings they saw an increase in involuntary turnover, because managers were talking about constructive feedback as it needed to occur and documenting that, and employees were, you know, if they weren’t making improvements, that conversation would continue until they exited. And so they thought that was positive, that by removing the ranking system, managers felt more of a responsibility to have those conversations more quickly, rather than relying on the annual review to be when they shared that bad news.

JoDee  44:06 

Right, right. Interesting that most of us think of turnover as a bad thing, but what you’re suggesting is in that situation, Adobe, they were having more positive conversation and increasing turnover in a good way for things that needed to be happening.

Catherine  44:29 

Right. Yeah, I think our managers can struggle. I mean, constructive feedback or, you know, addressing performance issues can be a sticky subject for managers, and through empowering them to have these conversations more regularly and more honestly, not tied to an annual review process, they’re moving employees out of the organization that aren’t contributing the way they need to and allowing for the opportunity to bring in an employee that will. So I think oftentimes when we procrastinate with those conversations, we’re keeping the people around that we could be helping improve or moving on and finding people that will contribute well.

JoDee  45:19 

Right. Right. I know you and I have both had the conversation before about not stereotyping generations, specifically millennials, but I think one thing we do hear about millennials that I think is a is a beautiful thing is that they want more information about their performance, and they’re more willing to ask questions about it. And I think we can learn from them about that process of spreading that throughout the organization. I also liked your comment earlier about that many of those conversations can and should be employee driven. So do you think if…if millennials can ta…. Well, do you think they are making that impact, or is that a stereotype out there? And do you think that might help us engage more performance conversations to happen on a regular basis?

Catherine  46:26 

Yeah, I think that the millennials, or the perception of the millennials, has definitely driven that shift, that when we think about that group, one of the kind of negative stereotypes is that they don’t stay with companies, they’re not satisfied, and they leave. And so that’s driven companies to say, “Well, how can we satisfy these people? How can we get them to stay?” And one way we can keep these employees happy is through letting them know that their voice is important and we want to hear them. We, I think…the baby boomer generation and generations before the millennials have kind of approached their performance review as no news is good news, and maybe they haven’t felt like it’s been okay for them to ask for information about their performance. They don’t want to be seen as the squeaky wheel or disrupting the workflow by making it about them. But really, it should be about the employee and how we want to make sure that they know where they stand with the company, we want them to feel good about that. And if we let the employee know that you deserve to know how you stand in the company, and if you don’t feel like you’re getting that information, you need to ask for that, and if you want more information than what you’re getting, it’s okay to ask for that and to have that regular interaction with your manager, an open door policy is what we’re striving for, and we really mean that. And I think that that does make a positive impact for generations before millennials, too. I think really, we all crave information about how we’re doing, we want to make sure that we’re doing a good job. And historically, we’ve been able to drive that as the employer and make those conversations what we need them to be – easy, potentially checking the box, so to speak. But really, it’s about what the employee wants nowadays. We need to make sure that our employees are feeling like we’re invested in them and their development, and in turn that will help us retain good employees.

JoDee  48:44 

Right. And it sounds like such a simple process, I think, when you talk about it, but yet is such a struggle for so many organizations, which…personally, I would attribute a lot of that to habits people have developed, habits of not sharing information. And then we learn from our direct reports, our managers, and our leaders, and if we don’t get it, then we don’t share it with others, and so I think it becomes a long cycle. What might some of the pitfalls be with a different process, Catherine, if…if organizations decide to change what they’re doing now?

Catherine  49:27 

So, I think one of the concerns that we have with moving away from this process of annual performance reviews without really establishing a good culture of conversation, and also empowering and training our managers to be this kind of manager….If we do away with the annual performance review process without giving our managers and our employees the tools and kind of setting the framework, we can be setting ourselves up for failure and taking away maybe the only time when our managers are formally talking with our employees about their performance and leaving them out in the cold with no feedback. One of the things that you mentioned just before about habit is if you want to continue having an annual meeting with your employee, but start to shift the conversation into more of a two way feedback loop with the employee, is to use that annual meeting to do a quick stay interview, or as I like to call it, a “re-recruiting interview,” and spend some of that time with the employee giving their own feedback about the organization. Give the organization their annual performance review in terms of how the employee views that interaction and that relationship. You know, is the organization supporting the employee’s professional development? Are they getting enough feedback about their performance? Does the employee have the tools and the resources they need to do their job well? Starting to ask some of those questions of the employee can create that environment of conversation around the employee’s experience there and start to make that shift. So without training your managers, empowering employees to share about their experience, and to ask for more feedback….You really want to make sure that those things are in place before you remove an annual review process entirely. And it can be a slow shift. Maybe that annual review turns more and more into a stay or re-recruiting interview and less about the employee’s performance because that conversation is happening regularly throughout the year and that annual review is really a time for the employee to let their voice be heard.

JoDee  52:11 

Right. I love that. I think goal setting also is something that can be talked about during that time, or even, you know, we’re big fans of Strength Finders. How is the employee utilizing their strengths? How could they look for ways to use them more? I like continuing to have that annual meeting but maybe shifting the focus around it to some other priorities, including ensuring that they’re getting the information they need to evaluate their own performance and their fit in the organization.

Catherine  52:48 

Right. Yeah, yeah.

JoDee  52:50 

All right. Well, thank you so much, Catherine, for being our guest today on the JoyPowered® podcast. And as always, we encourage our listeners to call in with questions, to leave us a voicemail, to follow us on social media, and see how we might be able to help you or answer some questions specifically today regarding this performance review topic. All right,

Catherine  53:19 

Thanks so much for having me.

JoDee  53:20 

Thank you.

Susan  53:42 

JoDee, do we have any listener email or phone messages?

JoDee  53:45 

We do.

Michelle  53:46 

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 discuss 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?

Susan  54:14 

Hey, Michelle, thank you so much for calling in. You know, it can be awkward to go back to your bosses 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. It 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…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?

JoDee  55:13 

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 it. 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.

Susan  56:05 

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.

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Emily Miller
Emily Miller
Emily works behind the scenes at JoyPowered, helping to edit and publish the books, producing the podcast, and running the website and social media.

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