MullenLowe Group's Strategic HR Transformation Journey

Rethinking the way performance reviews are conducted to ensure employee adoption and continuous feedback during the COVID pandemic.

MullenLowe Group's story with Appraisd ensuring a culture of open feedback
performance reviews to focus on career progression
remote working whilst ensuring an open culture of feedback
communication across employees and managers focusing on areas of growth

As an award-winning marketing communications network focused on helping their customers to tell their stories in a relevant and compelling way, MullenLowe Group knows the value of choosing the right words to get a message across. When looking to enhance their review process, their HR team took this very much on board.

They really wanted their employees to realise how important and useful their reviews could be for their own development and success. Redrafting the questions included in the review forms, and shifting the focus on positive outcomes and the future has made a significant difference. This has been especially important as the company and its employees deal with the numerous challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The challenge: Getting employees thinking about their own progression

Jamie O’Connor joined MullenLowe Group in January 2020 as a Learning and Development Partner. As someone who was only with the organisation for a few weeks before the first lockdown began, he has seen the true value of HR systems like Appraisd which keep employees connected and focused wherever they are working.

“When I joined the HR team at the start of the year, they already had in mind that they wanted employees to enjoy their reviews more and see the positive benefits in them, rather than fear or dread the process”, says Jamie. “With Appraisd we had the right tool in place, we just needed to finesse our approach. The way we decided to do this was to change our questions. We redesigned them to get employees thinking more about how they wanted to develop and progress their careers. The focus of their conversations with their line manager then became about how they could achieve these goals and what the company could do to support their efforts. This immediately made the process more positive and dynamic, not dwelling on things from the past they couldn’t change but putting them in control of their futures.”

The solution: Creating a culture of open feedback

“We have reviews twice a year usually in May/June and November. Due to Covid-19, the late spring review was delayed until September. We wanted to get it right while employees are working from home and need that extra guidance and support. We are going ahead with the November reviews, concentrating on what’s gone well and what can be learnt from the experience of the last year. We want to ensure every employee has a chance to properly catch up with their line manager now they are working remotely, providing an opportunity to raise any concerns or highlight successes, ensuring everyone feels included and valued.” commented Jamie.

MullenLowe Group's Team

Continual feedback is vital

While the company has transitioned successfully to remote working, there are some things that are hard to replace when not physically together in an office. One of these is the organic feedback that employees get just by sitting with colleagues. It is possible to pick up so much from the nuances of speech or body language of others.

“Creating a culture of open feedback is really important to MullenLowe Group”, shares Jamie. “We want everyone to feel empowered and comfortable to give and receive relevant, timely and useful feedback. This is enormously useful, providing recognition when it's due and addressing concerns before they become too difficult or messy to deal with.

We have recently altered our feedback process so that it is no longer anonymous. We believe it’s really important that employees own their feedback, especially as they are no longer working side by side. We did receive some initial pushback, but we’ve supported this change with training to ensure employees have the confidence and the tools to both give and receive feedback in an effective way. It has made them really consider their choice of words when passing on their thoughts to colleagues in a way they may not have done so before when they could hide behind their keyboards. Being open and honest may not always be comfortable, but we are already seeing the positive benefits of more transparent communication.”

The benefit: Keeping up the positive momentum

Always look ahead

2020 has starkly highlighted the need for organisations to be agile and adaptable. Looking ahead to 2021, Jamie and the team are considering how they can continue to improve their reviews, so employees and the organisation are getting as much out of them as possible.

“With so much change going on we may look at bringing our spring review forward, so employees have fresh objectives aligned to current business goals at the start of the year. Our leaders are good at making the reviews happen and enthusiasm among employees has grown as they’ve seen the value in our more forward-looking approach. Over the last year we have seen an 80% increase in the number of review conversations happening which has been huge. I want to make sure we keep up this positive momentum to ensure we have the best possible start to the new year.” <div  class="author">Jamie O’Connor, Learning and Development Partner at MullenLowe Group</div>
Talent development