How Watford Community Housing is improving employee recognition

Watford Community Housing had an established appraisal process, but it wasn’t supporting the business as well as it could.

Understanding rising starts in the business through Appraisd
of end of year reviews completed in 2021
of mid-year reviews completed in 2021
More than 2,600 objectives completed in 2021

Watford Community Housing is a not-for-profit organisation which owns and manages more than 6,800 homes and associated assets in Hertfordshire. They aim to provide high-quality homes, and to build friendlier communities, allowing tenants to reach their full potential. Around 60 of their employees work offsite, maintaining the homes in their portfolio, the rest are office/home-based.

Szabina Nagy joined Watford Community Housing in July 2015 as their HR Systems and Learning Officer. One of her first tasks was to find a suitable online tool to support their performance management process. Szabina is now HR Adviser and is responsible for ensuring Appraisd continues to support the business as effectively as possible.

The challenge: Moving away from paper-based performance management

Watford Community Housing had an established appraisal process, but it wasn’t supporting the business as well as it could. As it was paper-based, forms were sometimes misplaced, the HR team had to manually chase up managers to complete their reviews, and employees didn’t have a clear picture of their progress. Pay in the organisation is linked to performance, so getting the process right was vital in ensuring that those that excel were rewarded for their efforts.

When Szabina was looking for an online tool, her priority was to find something user-friendly. With some employees having limited IT skills, as well as a significant proportion working out in the field, it was essential that the solution she selected was easy to use and could be accessed via mobile or tablet.

Alongside simplicity, the other requirements for the revised approach were:

  • To provide senior leaders with a complete view of performance across the organisation
  • To allow employees to keep track of their progress
  • To provide transparency across the organisation
  • To save time
  • To ensure everything is held securely in one place

The solution: Centralised performance management and 1-2-1 meetings

After researching several systems, Szabina and the team selected Appraisd and it launched in 2016. It was easy to use and could be customised, allowing flexibility of approach that could accommodate different workflows.

The process they adopted was a 1-2-1 meeting every six weeks between employees and line managers and longer, more in-depth mid-year and end of year reviews. In both of these, employees are rated on their performance. These regular meetings ensure that all relevant details are captured, keeping employees focused and ensuring that both manager and employee are on the same page about progress. When it comes to the longer reviews, all the relevant information is already in place, meaning time isn’t wasted by employees or managers trying to remember what they did in the previous six months.

Encouraging employee engagement

Watford Community Housing has implemented an innovative solution to encourage employees to engage with their 1-2-1s. Every month, all employees who have completed their 1-2-1 and are ‘on track’ or ‘exceeding expectations’ are entered into a prize draw. One name is selected at random, and the winner gets to spin the Wheel of Fortune. On the wheel is a range of perks, including an extra day off, relaxation treats or an early finish. The monthly winner is also featured on their intranet.

The wheel has proved to be extremely popular and helped boost engagement although, during the pandemic, when employees were all working remotely, the wheel was suspended. Now, the organisation has adopted a flexible, hybrid working approach, and the Wheel of Fortune is back due to popular demand.

Another way Watford Community Housing has encouraged employee engagement with Appraisd is through focus groups, asking employees what they think about the system and how it could be improved. Following the last sessions, the same review form was adopted for both reviews. This simplified the process and improved the overall user experience.

“We are always looking for ways to make our performance review process as simple as possible. All our employees are on Appraisd, and we want them to see the value it offers them. Those working in the field have an icon on their work mobile or tablet, so they can easily login when on the move. Initiatives like the Wheel of Fortune and our focus groups ensure they are invested in the process.” says Szabina.

Watford Community Housing Wheel of Fortune
Watford Community Housing Wheel of Fortune

The benefits: Recognizing the business top performers

Over the past six years, Appraisd has become an integral part of Watford Community Housing. In 2021, 99% of mid-year reviews and 100% of end of year reviews were successfully completed, meaning that every employee had the opportunity to discuss their progress and understand the ratings they received. This has created much greater transparency across the business.

These ratings have helped HR build a talent grid, highlighting those employees with exceptional performance and the rising stars within the business. When new positions become available, the talent grid shows which employees might be suitable for the role, supporting promotions within the organisation.

As part of the reviews, employees are included in any development or training requests. This makes it easier for the senior leaders and HR to identify any skills gaps and which areas employees are most interested in pursuing. With a limited training budget, this information is invaluable as spending can be optimized to ensure that as many individuals as possible receive the correct training.

“Appraisd allows us to have a ‘helicopter view’ of performance across the organisation,” says Szabina. “The reports we can create show who is excelling and who needs more support. Everyone across the business is clear about their objectives, is more closely aligned to the overall goals of the organisation and knows what they need to do to progress. Appraisd has become a valued partner. I love their live chat as I know they’re always on hand to help and can answer any questions I have or resolve issues quickly.”<div  class="author">Szabina Nagy, HR Adviser at Watford Community Housing</div>
Talent development