When we were looking for a topic for this event, one sprang to mind immediately. It has been a perennial bugbear since I launched Appraisd and it’s one I hear time and again from customers and prospects – how do you get the board onboard with performance management?
The support of senior leaders makes an enormous difference. There is no coincidence that our most engaged and enthusiastic customers are those that have their board and executive team fully involved in what they are doing. When customers are having difficulties getting employees to engage with the process, more often than not, it’s HR ploughing a lone furrow, with little or no help from those at the top of the business.
Our Appraisd Community is all about sharing knowledge, pooling our experiences to help solve problems or provide inspiration. As this issue is so fundamental to ensuring performance management can be a success, it’s something well worth discussing.
For those that couldn’t join us in person, here are the insights from our panel which hopefully will give you practical ideas for getting your board onboard.
On our panel were Appraisd customers Anna Golc, HR Business Partner at Casio and Joanna Roddy, HR Governance & Learning Development Manager at Gulf International Bank, plus friend of Appraisd, Tom Blake, a senior HR executive and consultant who has worked with global giants such as Kraft Heinz and Barclaycard. A big thank you to all three for being such enthusiastic participants.
What are your top three tips for getting that all important buy-in from the board?
- The game changer for me was changing their mindset around performance management, moving away from the notion that this is something that only needs to be addressed once a year. Presenting it as a core business component that is central to the success of the business, rather than a chore, really helped them to appreciate the benefits.
- Simplifying the process so that it was easy to understand and follow really helped too. By making it easier, we could demonstrate reviews need not take hours to complete.
- We used data from engagement surveys to show that performance conversations were something that employees really wanted too. By seeing this demand, the board realised the potential value in having more regular, meaningful conversations.
- The point about simplicity made by Anna really resonates with me. Going back to basics and taking small steps ensures you can take everyone on the journey together, addressing any concerns or reservations as you go.
- In my organisation, a lot of work had been done on cultures and behaviours and I found connecting to these in the performance management process really helped to show the board where it fitted into the business as people development is one of their major priorities.
- Being aware of the overall business plan and making sure employees relate their objectives to it, demonstrates to senior leaders the value of the process. They can see for themselves the benefits of regular reviews, feedback and recognition to keep employees focused and motivated.
- For me it’s all about finding the hook. What is that the board really cares about? From there you can build a case for performance management that feeds directly into their agenda.
- It's also really important to speak their language. They have no interest in what system you select, they trust you to choose the most appropriate one. What they want to know is how it will benefit the business.
- Show them what is possible by creating a small test group to demonstrate what you are talking about will work. Doing this manually might take a bit of time and require a fair amount of commitment on your behalf but the results can make all the difference.
Is there one “golden ticket” that will do the job?
Jo: The most persuasive factor in my current business was tailoring our approach to the individual. A key business objective is enhancing the employee experience and moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach which recognises that everyone has different needs. Once the board realised we could do that, they were definitely more engaged.
Tom: I’ve not found there to be one simple answer, it really depends on each business, their circumstances and what they want to achieve. Finding out what that is and putting that at the heart of your business case ensures they will listen to what you have to say.
How important is ROI? Can you demonstrate it convincingly for performance management?
Tom: This is really difficult to do. My best advice is to partner with your marketing team, who have a similar problem tracking attribution compared to spend. Work with them to create compelling arguments that will resonate with the board. Be open about the lack of certainty around ROI and gather third party research to show how it works in the wider world.
Anna: In our organisation, senior leaders wanted to see an increase in engagement and we can show this through how employees have embraced their reviews. By creating career progression plans for everyone, we are capturing their ambitions and can demonstrate how we can help them develop within the organisation. We are tracking employee turnover and we expect to see a reduction as a result. This is crucial for retaining talent within the business and reducing our recruitment costs.
Jo: By moving from a paper-based process to an online one, we were able to demonstrate clear efficiency savings as the process is so much quicker and less labour intensive. We can then show that employees can spend more time on the tasks that directly impact our company goals, helping to drive improved productivity.
Does pointing out the dangers of not embracing performance management work?
Tom: When pointing out deficiencies you need to tread carefully, as the last thing you want to do is criticise the board, but identifying where things could be improved can be very effective. Find evidence to back up your arguments, such as exit interviews which might identify a lack of clear opportunities or confusion over the direction of the business.
Remember the board is human too, so sharing real life experiences of employees can help to put them in their shoes. Building this emotional connection can be the thing that gets cut through.
Anna: I agree that sharing real life examples can be very powerful. We can point to how continuous feedback has helped employees to develop, address issues head on and given them recognition when they deserve it. It has now been embraced by the business and become a part of working life.
Even when you are pointing out dangers, using positive language is very important. As Tom says, you want to focus on enhancing what you have already rather than scaring people into action.
Jo: We’ve emphasised that performance management is not a process that is “done to” people. Part of the problem with old style appraisals was that they were very top down, with little input from employees, who were often left without a say. Performance management should be something that everyone is involved in, right across the business, and we encourage them to think of Appraisd is a tool that belongs to everyone, not HR.
Once you have it, how can you retain the buy-in of the board?
Anna: Persistence is the key. Keep up the dialogue and make sure they know how the process is working. It will naturally need to evolve over time as circumstances and objectives change, so always look at how it can be tweaked and improved.
Introduce an element of competition between heads of department to see which division can give the most feedback or recognition. I’ve found this can really capture their imagination.
Jo: My board is really switched on to employee development, so I make sure they know how this can be tracked and improved through our performance management process. Understanding what their main focus is, ensures I can supply the most relevant reports.
Tom: Demonstrating how performance management can help with future planning is key. It is the business’s responsibility to look ahead and see whether an employee’s role may need to change or become obsolete in the future. By identifying these risks, you can ensure both the organisation and employees are prepared for what lies ahead.
Tools to help
Hopefully, the insights from Anna, Jo and Tom will give you some practical ideas of how to sell in performance management to the board. For more support, we’ve produced a comprehensive guide and business case template to help you present your arguments in the most compelling way possible.
Thanks to everyone who can to the breakfast debate, it was fantastic to meet you all. Look out for more face-to-face and virtual events in 2024 on our new Community page, which also has lots of useful free resources to help make performance management work better for your business.