Some interesting discussion points...

Roly Walter
15th November 2018

These Q&As came from our recent webinar with Jan Atikinson at Kier plc and Personnel Today.

You can view the webinar recording yourself here:

Webinar questions

At my organisation, we also review potential as well as performance at calibrations. "Potential" is quite subjective, so it would be interesting to get your view on how to have meaningful discussions about assessing someone's potential.

As you say potential is subjective, but if an employee has the right attitude to succeed this is likely to be spotted by more than one person within the organisation. In this scenario, 360 feedback becomes very useful. Collating opinions from a range of different people across the organisation can highlight how this potential can be maximised, what skills can be developed and what area of the business the employee can flourish in most.

Contacts outside the organisation, such as customers or stakeholders can also be asked for feedback. These people may see a different side to the individual and provide a fuller picture of how they are performing and where they have the potential to grow. Building feedback into your performance management process, encouraging it to become part of your organisation’s culture is a really valuable tool that will help with developing all employees.

Another suggestion is not to ask “Does this person have potential?” but to ask “What does this person have potential for? This may lead to interesting and surprising ideas. Obviously this means a qualitative rather than quantitative response, but in general we encourage clients to move away from quantifying subjective attributes such as potential.

Could you use AI to monitor the quality of conversation between the appraiser and appraisee?

In theory, yes, but we are a long way off. We’ve done our own trials using AI to perform sentiment analysis (where a powerful computer decides whether a comment is positive or negative) and have found the process to be fraught and easily skewed. There are no major AI platforms that are sophisticated enough to analyse text within the context of an performance review discussion and the actual question that provided the comment. So instead we need to create our own AI models which must learn from huge amounts of real data.

During the learning process we need to decide which is a high quality conversation – and this too is subjective across people and across organisations. What seems great for one organisation might not be good enough for another – so it could be a mistake to share the learning model across organisations and thereby achieve performance throuh scale.

What it may also struggle with is the nuances of the specific relationship between the appraiser and the appraisee – how well they know each other, how well they get along etc. This is a very individual and unique relationship, so I would be cautious to rely on data too much and ignore the human dimension. Technology works best when it is used as an informed guide but (currently) requires human interpretation to give an emotionally intelligent perspective.

How do you keep it simple, but make people in different teams / divisions / countries feel like it's tailored them?

This is where an employee-centric approach helps – we believe the buyer (be it HR or the People team) need to let go of the reins and allow a bit of individual freedom. We recommend you enable the settings in Appraisd or your own system to allow employees to add or update their objectives themselves without a workflow or approval process, to have a check in whenever they want, to get feedback without asking permission from HR.

We’ve built Appraisd to resemble a consumer product as opposed to corporate software – and that’s because we want people to feel like they’re individuality is respected and that they’re not just a cog in a machine. By using a system that is clear and simple for employees to use and feel confident with, it encourages them to take ownership of their own personal development. The more the are involved with setting their own objectives, updating their progress and requesting feedback, the more they can feel like the performance management system is dedicated to them and their own particular needs.

Finally, any system you buy should allow you to easily customise the process, questionnaires and templates for different departments or parts of the business. This is not only vital in setting up something that’s fit for purpose but also shows that the system can evolve over time as your business’ needs inevitably change.

Would you encourage managers to keep some sort of track of the conversations?

Definitely. The relationship between a line manager and their report is a vital one that contributes hugely to that employee’s overall experience within an organisation. The stronger that relationship, the more motivated an employee is likely to be.

Scheduling regular check-ins in the diary, signals to both sides the importance of this relationship and ensures that these conversations actually take place. Both the manager and employee know that if a problem arises or if something goes particularly well there is a time where this can be acknowledged or addressed. This ensures timely praise can be delivered or that an issue doesn’t escalate and get out of control. Making a record of these discussions means none of this valuable information is lost and larger reviews become much easier and quicker to prepare for.

The key is to make the act of tracking a conversation extremely fast and simple. Cut out workflow, approval processes, and mandatory fields. These are the enemy of speed and we always discourage our clients to use these whenever possible.

With flexible working, part-time & job-sharing becoming more common, how do you factor in different working patterns into the performance management approach (especially if you have a system that requires you to tier your people)?

This is an issue that many companies are having to address for the first time and requires some thought and understanding. As working patterns change, it highlights how important it is to treat employees as individuals and that a one-size fits all approach is no longer suitable.

It’s important for line managers and employees to collaborate on their objectives to ensure they are possible within the parameters of their working arrangements. For example, this may mean that few objectives are set, or a longer time period is agreed for them to be completed. In this situation regular reviews or check-ins become very important as these employees spend less time in the office, so it’s vital they feel nurtured and supported when they are working remotely to ensure they maintain their focus and motivation.

Using a system to record these conversations allows an overview of the progress achieved to be shared with other departments or senior managers.