Check-ins during the employee lifecycle

In this podcast, the host discusses the importance of having different types of conversations with employees throughout their entire time with a company. Two special guests, Tom and Roly, join the conversation to share their expertise on performance management and improving relationships between managers and employees.

Please accept marketing-cookies to watch this video.
Please accept marketing-cookies to listen to this podcast.
Please accept marketing-cookies to listen to this podcast.

In this podcast, the host discusses the importance of having different types of conversations with employees throughout their entire time with a company. Two special guests, Tom and Roly, join the conversation to share their expertise on performance management and improving relationships between managers and employees.

The podcast focuses on the employee life cycle and its relevance to performance management. The life cycle includes the pre-employment phase, onboarding, career development, and eventually exiting the organisation. The guests emphasise the need for continuous performance management and highlight the importance of attracting, retaining, and developing employees in today's evolving business landscape.

Additionally, the podcast addresses the challenges HR professionals face in the post-COVID environment, where remote work and hybrid setups have become more common. The key focus is on building authentic relationships between managers and employees to foster a positive and productive work environment. The guests emphasise the need for effective communication and support throughout the employee life cycle.

00:00 SPEAKER_00 Hi everyone, and welcome to this appraised talk. I'm going to be your host for today, Emma, and we are going to be talking about the different types of conversations that you should be having with your employees throughout the employee lifecycle. And I've got two very special guests with me today who are going to explain a little bit about why that is so important. But before we get into that, I will hand over to them to introduce themselves. So Tom, you first.

00:26 SPEAKER_01 Thanks a lot, Emma. Hi, everybody. I'm Tom. I'm an independent chief people officer with a real clear focus on helping businesses manage performance to help drive results within their organisations.

00:39 SPEAKER_00 Thanks, Tom. And over to you, Roleigh.

00:42 SPEAKER_02 I am founder of Appraised and I set up Appraised about 12 years ago with the aim of improving what at the time was considered a real sort of pain in the bum for most people, the annual appraisal, to try and find out what it was about it that just wouldn't go away, why people couldn't get rid of it completely. and what could be improved about it. And it turns out, as we all know, that a model of continuous performance management works so much better. But beneath all of that, I think I'm driven by one thing, which is to try and improve the relationships between managers and employees. And I am trying with my colleagues to try and create a system that will help everybody do that. So that's why I'm here.

01:25 SPEAKER_00 Excellent. Two very, very special guests who are complete experts in this. So this is a good start. I guess there's obviously quite a lot at the moment out there kind of in the world if you're HR around kind of retaining your employees, making sure people are still getting development, but all in a kind of harsher, potentially harsher, more difficult environment post-COVID. with people working in a hybrid environment in many cases, all those kinds of things. So that's really why we wanted to have this conversation about check-ins and the employee life cycle. So when we talk about the employee life cycle, what do we actually mean and how is this relevant to performance management?

02:10 SPEAKER_02 Should I take that one? Okay, so yeah, just to sort of set the scene, I think the employee lifecycle, we're talking about the experience of an employee from start to finish at their employer, the company they're working. And in fact, that really starts before they join the company. So that would be how they feel about that employer as a brand in the marketplace, as a potential employee? Do you want to go and work for this company? What have you heard about them? What's the sort of message that you're getting? And more and more importantly, is it a company that you think takes performance management seriously and that you know that if you join, they're going to help you develop your career, develop your skills, and you're going to have a great rewarding time. So I think that's where we start the employee life cycle. Then it goes through the whole onboarding, what are your first few days like, what's your first meeting with your manager like, what are your first three months like, where you have your probation review. how does the company respond to your needs over the years to develop your career to as you as you learn about your industry perhaps figure out a path for your way ahead and then there'll be ups and downs as well there'll be times when you want to go for a promotion you've done something brilliant you want to feel like you're rewarded for that and recognized but there'll be might be times when you're feeling uninspired or you've got other challenges in your life, how does the company help you navigate those? And then finally, if it's time to leave the organisation, what's the process there? What can the employee and the employer do for each other at that point as well? So I think that's the kind of context that we're talking about today.

03:56 SPEAKER_01 from a practical sense, you can boil it down a bit quicker and a bit easier as well. So it's about how do we attract, bring people in, retain, develop and exit. So if you think about the employee life cycle in that way, ideally you want people to stay for as long as possible. I think over the last 20 years, we've seen the longevity of a career in one company change and come down. And so I think the latest research I saw was like average change is about five years now. So actually, how a business is actually starting to respond to that, because that just means that as a business, we need to keep attracting people, keep onboarding people, keep developing people. And we can't just rest on our laurels to expect that people are going to develop through our business in the way that they have in the past. COVID has changed how we're doing things as well. So actually, how we develop those relationships between employees and managers is really as Rosie said, this is the crux of everything that we do. So we can have all of the systems, all the processes, everything in the world, but really what we're trying to focus on, particularly in the HR space, is that real, real relationship, authentic relationship between managers and employees.

05:14 SPEAKER_02 Yeah, Tom, I was going to ask you, just you mentioned there about the average longevity these days, and what role does performance management have in that? So if you've got somebody and you really want them to stick around, you know, what are the sort of mechanisms that you can use? Obviously, there's financial incentives and so on. But, you know, where does performance management come into that?

05:36 SPEAKER_01 I think that there is the urban myth that rewarding people extra for staying doesn't work. And let's be frank, it doesn't. If somebody has made up their mind and decides to leave, if you're trying to retain someone at that point, truth be told, you're too late. If you're only thinking about this when that person has resigned, things have gone wrong up until that point, especially if you're the manager and it kind of came as a bit of a bolt out of the blue. If you didn't realise that they're looking, something's gone a bit way, you know, gone a bit off track in the past, So I would always encourage managers to reflect on what has happened, what are the signs that somebody is starting to think about moving on. So in the short term, what we're seeing, particularly post-COVID, is a lot of people are trying to counter and counter offer. And we've actually started to see a bit of a slight weird shift in the market that candidates are effectively going out to get other jobs, not with the intention of taking that other job, but to use it as a mechanism to get a higher reward package in their current job. So it opens up a myriad of issues completely. But I think if we boil it down, what we're really starting to, well, not starting to, what we've been trying to get managers to think about since I've been working, and that's quite a long time now, is how are you developing this individual? How open is that conversation? Are you talking about what's next? What's next for them? What's next for you? What makes it right for the individual to stay in the company? Do you know enough about how the organisation is moving or prepping to move forward so that you can actually drive people on that journey? Or are you not quite sure about what's going on? Ultimately, people want to develop. The vast majority through my career, and I've helped a lot of people through these conversations, The vast majority of people want to come to work. They want to do a good job. They want to develop. They want to learn. So actually, as a manager, how are you facilitating that? Because really, that's your job as a manager. Your job is not to tell people what they should be doing in their careers. It's to help facilitate them learn and grow so that they can move naturally into the next role for them. So I think performance management plays a massive, massive part in this. But I think As we get into this topic, I think what we think about when we think about performance management is something quite big, very clunky, very heavy, that scares the majority of people. And this is where I think what's great we're starting to see is people to talk about it differently and breaking it down into whether we call them check-ins, and I think check-ins is a great term and phrase for them, because that's what you're doing, you're checking in with each other. And actually it's not just managers checking in with employees, it's employees checking in with managers as well. This is about a two-way conversation and a two-way street. But that helps to build an overall picture of how am I, as a person, how am I getting on in this company? Am I learning? Am I delivering on my goals? Am I being stretched? Am I being challenged? Is it enough to keep me engaged in this company? Or do I have to start thinking, It's not quite, something's not quite working. And a lot more people now are generally taking their own careers in their hands. So if their current company can't offer what it is they want, they will start looking elsewhere. And I kind of sit back and I have this conversation with managers and say, do you know what, that's fair enough. If we were too silly to recognize that we weren't offering a path for them to stay, that's on us. Now, If we can't offer them a path to take, again, we have to kind of hold our hands up and go, sure, that's fine. Leave on the best possible terms, because hopefully, maybe they'll boomerang and come back in a few years later. So the way in which you exit someone is actually equally important, because you want that individual to have an affiliation with the company that they've spent a lot of time at. So maybe, just maybe, they might come back in the future if you've done it right while they've been there.

09:48 SPEAKER_02 Absolutely, totally agree. And that's, I would love to pick up on a couple of things that you mentioned there. So one is around managers and the other one is around the the conversations in these check-ins. And if we just start, so, well, on managers, I've got a personal sort of campaign, which is to try and help managers out because I, I think being a manager is really hard for most people, including myself. It's something that I, you know, spend a lot of time working on trying to get better and better and it will be a lifetime's work. and it probably is for most people. So one of the things that I like about having these check-in templates that we've been publicizing recently on our website is that it gives a sort of set of topics that managers can use to have those conversations. So it's not just a check-in is a check-in is a check-in, there are different types of check-ins, there are different conversations, different topics that you might bring up depending on the situation. I think one of the things that we found with some organisations that they've kind of rushed into continuous performance management, right, we're doing check ins all the time, they just have the same conversation every month. And then, because they get into that habit, they fail to have the sometimes to interrogate the deeper issues, some of which you mentioned, like, well, actually, is this really meaningful to you? Or where do you want to go next? And if you and structure each time that can be a bit of a risk. So we've got a whole kind of set of different templates that people can use and it could range from just setting goals or reviewing your goals through to how are you feeling about your work, how motivated are you feeling, where would you, what excites you about the organisation, where might you like to go next, so on, so that you can sort of pick and choose and I think I'm just going to ask you, what it's like for a manager, or what have you found when talking to managers about their ability or confidence, perhaps, in having those wide-ranging discussions? Because I think probably for some new managers in particular, where they may not have gone on a training course or had much experience or perhaps not had a role model to emulate, it can be quite a challenge to have some of those different conversations.

12:05 SPEAKER_01 So I think you are 100% right. I echo your comment. I feel sorry for line managers as well. It's not an easy job. A lot of people think that managing is on top of the day job. When it's not, it is your job. Your job is to delegate and get tasks done through your teams rather than you doing your stuff and then on the side managing. So let me walk back. So, because I'm going to pick up on your point about new managers. But it doesn't actually matter how long you've been a manager for, the issues that you face are the same. So years ago, I used to work in an industrial manufacturer and we used to run a management training program for four days. For four days, we used to get a cohort of maybe 24 people in a room together and did intensive line management training. It was the first time I've actually seen it rolled out this way in any company I've been in, and I think it worked really well for a number of reasons. What you've reminded me of is one of the first exercises we used to do is we would split people into the groups that they were in, depending on how long they'd been a line manager for. And you'd have some people with generally four different groups. And we would split them into, you know, I've just become a line manager all the way through to I've been here for 20 years being a line manager. That's how much experience I've got. And we get them to write up their issues in their groups, blah, blah, blah. We then get them all to rotate and move around and see. And very quickly, the penny drops that everybody is experiencing the same issues. And a lot of it comes down to your point, really. It's about confidence. A lot of the managers don't know what to talk about with their employees, which sounds insane. Absolutely sounds insane. But I think what managers end up doing is they kind of have this trick of going, oh, it is performance management. I must talk performance. When actually, if you get the labels out of the way for a moment and go, have you had a conversation with one of your team in the last week? And did you say to them, how are you getting on? And they all go, yes, of course, I will That's performance management. That's the start of that conversation. You can break it down really easily. So I think there is a fear, a complete fear. So there's a bit of myth-busting that has to happen. And on this development programme that we did, by the end of it, we kind of broken all of these myths about what is and what isn't performance management. It was very much seen as, well, it's my opportunity in the year to re-interview my staff so I can select them to continue doing their jobs. And you're like, this is insane. That's not the point of an end of year review. Ultimately, the end of performance management, if I call it the end in terms of the, it will depend on the organization. Some organizations have a really strong link between performance management and reward, and that's fine. And some organizations don't, and that's fine. It's about the organizational context. And as long as managers understand the context of the business, then actually having a conversation with someone and kind of fulfilling the organizational needs in terms of, I'll say, box ticking, because some of it is box ticking, because literally you have to go in and fill in boxes, it becomes a bit easier. Now, a bit like you really, I'm on a bit of a mission to kind of help demystify what is performance management. I'm on a bit of a mission to kind of put the human back in to these interactions with people, a bit like we're doing right now, right? And that's it. It's no more difficult than that. But the reason I think why managers are afraid of it is because they don't know it's not scripted for them. They don't know how to answer potential questions that might come up. And the biggest kind of killer for any manager is they generally think that if my employee asks a question, I must have the answer. There is a real tendency for people not to want to say, you know what, I have absolutely no idea. We'll go and find out, and we'll go and find out together, actually. But managers feel, and again, it's learning through osmosis, it's seeing others, it's them having spoken to their managers in the past, and their managers seemingly, and I say seemingly, having all the answers, because their managers have never said, I've got no idea. But they don't know if their managers are telling them the right thing or not. They just aren't hearing what their managers are saying. So I think through effective check-ins, And I think it's great that you guys are actually taking on this matter to help kind of structure some of these conversations, to give people ideas as go, oh, actually, if you're kind of facing this type of situation, you know, how is your onboarding going? Having a couple of, a document with a few questions as a guide, I think is great. It's a real shame that most companies don't do this already. They're kind of filling a gap that people should be doing. But the reason why companies don't do it is because they generally just don't have the time to help people understand this, which is why it's been great working with a third party to actually help come in and go, look, use this as a baseline, first of all. But I think the more support and the more time we can give to managers and the more understanding we can give to managers, really, And I think that is kind of the real key to what good employee, let's even break it down, is good employee relations as well. Actually have an open manager who is willing to listen to you.

17:51 SPEAKER_00 Do you think that there's an understanding within this sort of like C-suite though, that there is a line between having good managers that support their teams and driving the business forward? Because I think that's always a gap that's missing, maybe, that there's a connection between those two things.

18:11 SPEAKER_01 There is a disconnect. And let's be clear, there is a disconnect. And there's generally a reason why, because as you come up through the organization, what you start talking about with individuals becomes very, very different. When you're a first-line manager and you're talking with first-line employees, let's call it, you're very focused on their how what they're doing, and that's absolutely right. That is what the conversation should be. It's how you fit in as part of the wider organizational system. How is that organization system helping you to deliver? As you go up, your conversations with your managers start to change. So it's then less about you. It then first of all starts to be coming about your team, how your team delivering, because the success of you is based on the success of your team. And if you think about how that then just linearly goes up, by the time you're the CEO, you have a set of direct reports who have also been working for quite some time. They've kind of come this far on their leadership journeys. It is unusual for a CEO then to have a conversation that kind of starts. So really, how are you getting on? Not your team, not your business unit, not your function, not your finances. How are you getting on? And that the bit is the bit I think that gets lost. So I'm on a bit of a mission to help kind of CEOs have this conversation because, Emma, you're exactly right. It is missing. And I think the bit that is really easy to forget when you are leading the business is that it's the people in the business who are delivering on the goals that you've set that then makes what you want to come to fruition. So without kind of that feedback mechanism of the CEO with their exec team going, we want to achieve X over the next three years. And they're starting to see their teams deliver it. You're kind of getting that feedback to go, okay, it's right. What we set out is achievable because it should be, it should be challenging. Absolutely. Otherwise it gets boring, but it should be achievable. So where is that feedback loop coming through? At the moment, it tends to come through performance dynamics and and data kind of flowing up to the CEO going, oh, great, we've got a bell curve. Well, sorry to tell you bell curves don't work. Humans are humans. One year, you know, you could have a whole company that's absolutely knocked out of the park. And that's represented by your financials or whatever your strategic goals are, the acquisitions you've done, whatever you've made. Some years you might have a downturn. So people's performance is going to be a bit lower. And I think leaders need to accept that. but bringing back in this conversation of how are your teams getting on, how are you getting on, actually then reinforces the human aspect of a culture, particularly if CEOs, which in my experience, most of them like to talk about how open their cultures are. We've all seen it branded everywhere. So you do, internally, you have the conversations to say, look, we need to live up to what we're saying. And that starts with you. And you kind of need to start by saying to your team, How are you getting on? And I've seen, don't get me wrong, I've seen some fantastic CEOs do that. And I have seen the opposite end of the spectrum as well. And sometimes not even through their own doing, they might be introverted. So they feel awkward in the same way that first line manager feels really awkward. That CEO's never learned how to be comfortable having a conversation with somebody when what they might get back is, no, things aren't okay. So there is there is a link, there is a massive link, because ultimately, without your people, you don't have a business, you know, we're not completely fully automated through AI yet, that may happen. But now we're still people and it is people that make things happen. So you need to treat your people in the right way.

22:03 SPEAKER_02 Absolutely agree. And I think I think the modern CEO will do that. But I think you've seen in the press, public companies where things go wrong or a department isn't performing, the board just says, well, we've given them a good go at it. Let's get them out and just get someone else in when actually perhaps a more development focus at that senior level. would be more lucrative, more rewarding for everyone involved, right? Yeah, it's just too easy almost at that kind of board level often just to say, right, let's just get rid of them and let's get a new team in.

22:42 SPEAKER_01 I think you're right. I think, you know, if we, rather than going into the worry about, you know, new CEOs coming in, new boards coming in, because that is automatic change. That's not that. If we think about a static, a business that has had strong leadership for quite some time, And let's say, let's make it realistic. Let's make it a listed business. Well, a listed business is only based on its last quarter's numbers. That is what the investors are looking at. So until there's actually a bit of a change in the investment community about what investors judge as success, as well as what companies judge as success, you are going to have this real focus on the finances because the world wants everybody to believe that shareholders only care about shareholder returns. which if you're a pension fund, of course you do, but we have to kind of think a bit more broadly about the link here. That's me. I'm a pensioner in a pension fund, so I'm a stakeholder, but actually for me personally, it's not all about the return. Yes, of course, I want a decent return on my pension. That goes without saying, but I also want my pension fund to invest in companies where I can see that they're doing the right thing for the world, whether that's through sustainability or through whatever, but also they've got the right leadership driving the organisation forward. So the reason why up until now, and I think I'm starting to sense a shift in the market in general, take out financial services, because that's just a world unto itself. But I think people are starting to wake up to the fact that not everything is about profit. Yes, profitability is exceptionally important. It is how we pay all of our teams. It's how we pay suppliers, how we pay stakeholders, shareholders, return that equity and that investment back. that this is why up until now, it's been really easy to go, Emma, you've not been hitting your numbers, you're out. But actually, no one's ever kind of really got into the detail to go, actually, why isn't Emma hitting her numbers? There's never that kind of supportive conversation to go, look, what's going on? Is it the market? Is it a weakness in your team? Is it Emma? Unfortunately, sometimes it's the leaders at the top that become scapegoats. And you've seen it a lot, particularly, I would say, over the last five years, where actually it's market economics that have driven the downturns, not the leaders. They're just a victim of circumstance rather than anything else. So I think what needs to happen is a culture should actually be transcended by anybody that comes in or comes out. So if you can actually have a company where you've built the culture around continuous improvement, continuous feedback, continuous betterment, we want to be better, Actually, it kind of doesn't really matter who comes in and who comes out at the top, because you bring them in into your culture really clearly. So this is our culture and this is how we lead. You, Roly, you coming in, you might not be used to this way of doing things because you might have done it differently up until this point in your career. So I kind of almost go back to the onboarding of senior executives, which doesn't happen. I'm in the deep end, usually. Well, absolutely. And you know, within a couple of days, you're having to kind of talk about what's going on. So actually, if we spent more time focusing on the onboarding of senior executives, helping them immerse themselves in the company culture, I think that would also provide a greater shift. And then I think you'd also see this slight shift from boards going, cull, cull, cull, axe, axe, axe, because they're not performing. It starts to change the dimensions of a business.

26:24 SPEAKER_02 Okay, Emma, one of the other questions we thought about earlier was, this all makes sense. It's kind of a no brainer to have these conversations. So why is it sometimes so hard to make it happen? And what can we do about it? I've got a few ideas, but Tom, I don't know if you want to say a few words.

26:47 SPEAKER_01 I think a lot of it comes back down to what we've already talked about. It's fear on behalf of the line managers. There's a couple of things here. One, if a company has not kind of outwardly said, this is how we manage performance in this business, people don't know there's a void. So people kind of make it up. And if we think about anything, if we kind of have a void anywhere, as humans, we fill that naturally, we fill it with space. And normally we fill it with the wrong space and we fill it with worry, paranoia and fear. So somebody is not telling me how I do this, what I do. I don't know if I'm doing it right. And therefore, because I don't know if I'm doing it right, I'm not gonna do it. That becomes the default. So I think it's about very clearly telling your business, this is how we do it here. So it's about a statement of intent. Then it's about having a really open culture for your managers, for them to be able to turn around and go, I don't know how to do this. You want me to do X, Y, and Z, that's fine, but I don't know how, can I have some help, please? Because we are very bad usually at actually helping managers become managers when they transition. So everybody kind of makes it up as they go along. It's the one area of the business. We would never do that with technical training. We would never allow an engineer to move on to the next set of more difficult tasks and problems without being checked through. We wouldn't allow somebody to do something on a quality front without the quality being checked through. So why on earth we've ever let people have, I think, the most important job in a business, which is to lead others and effectively be responsible for people working 40 hours a week. There's a lot of time at work, but we've never given them the tools to do it. So I think helping managers with tools, templates, check-ins, have this conversation, have you thought about that? But a space and a place where managers can kind of go to go, openly, confidentially, because they don't want to kind of go, I don't want to look like I don't know what I'm doing, because I worry that that will get me fired. They need the space to be able to go, I don't know. And a culture that says, that is okay to say you don't know, and actually more than okay, we welcome it. We want people to say, I don't know, because otherwise we stop learning. That's how we learn. We learn through failing. We learn through growing. We learn through trying differently. So I need your managers to be open to that.

29:12 SPEAKER_00 I want to ask something a little bit spicy because this is something that comes up a lot this idea you know you obviously need to have psychological safety in an organization in order to have some of these conversations and in order for people to really be able to say I don't know or you know to you know, look for the answer themselves, whatever that might be, because it's quite hard to do that. So quite often you hear organisations say, you know, we want you to be able to admit when something's gone wrong or, you know, that things aren't working out. But how do you get past that? Because in most cases, that's just lip service.

29:47 SPEAKER_01 Yeah. I like the spicy question. So I think it comes down to actually demonstrating it and doing it yourself. So if there's a boss, you're going, Emma, I want you to tell me when it's not going right. I want you to tell me when you don't know. If I'm not doing, if I'm your manager, if I'm not doing that, why on earth are you going to come to me and go, Tom, I've got no idea. So it comes down to the strength of the relationship. I spend, you know, as I've grown through my career, I probably now spend more of my time with my team telling them that I don't know stuff. Now that's just me. I'm quite comfortable in my own ability. I'm quite comfortable as I know what I know as a leader. I know what I'm trying to work on as a leader. So it's about being comfortable. So I get that, you know, I've been doing this for a while now. So I'm probably a lot further along on my managerial journey than most other people. But I am kind of talking from a space of I've done this myself as well. I've absolutely been there. I have absolutely been that manager that never wanted to admit that I didn't know something or I didn't have the answer or whatever it was. And eventually I had a really strong team, this is going back a few years ago, where I as a manager felt like I could be open. There was a point in your managerial career where you're delivering something based on this persona that isn't necessarily you. So I think as a manager, you have to think about what is stopping me, from being this open. For me, it was fear. My team, no, no, no, I can't let my team know that I don't know this stuff. And then eventually I started to think through, you know, through management training and other things and delivering management training as well. I started to think, why, what's so bad if I admit that I don't know? And I tried it once. And I think sometimes that's what you have to do. You have to kind of go, I'm going to jump in, I'm going to try. I always remember having a conversation with, with one of my teams at the time. So I was the Chief People Officer for Europe in this particular company. And I brought, I was relatively new. I brought my whole team together, my direct team together. So it was four or five of us together. And we were debating what we needed to do as a function. So very, very similar, very, very standard type conversation. And we got on this topic of reward, And I can't just use the term reward, blah, blah, blah, and I carried on. And one of my team tell me, hang on a minute, what do you mean by that? And for me, that I can trace back to how my leadership changed to that conversation. And the reason why is because that then turned into a two hour conversation about what between four people, we all thought what this one term meant. And what that told me really clearly is that we can't make assumptions about anything. I use a word, does Emma have the same understanding? Does Romy have the same understanding as me and Emma, even if me and Emma have got it right? And if you're in a meeting and, you know, I've got this one particular person to thank, because she was really brave. She didn't really know me, and she was like, I don't know what you're talking about. But if we think about it when we're in a meeting, how often do you sit there going, I have no idea what's going on? but you're too afraid to say anything. You just sit there going, and then you just sit there going, I hope they don't say anything to me. I hope they don't say anything to me. But I think it's about being brave. There was a very, I can't remember who said it, but it comes up a lot. If you're thinking something, somebody else around this table is bound to be thinking it, and it does just take that one person to be brave. You as the leader or the manager, you need to kind of have that in mind to go, People are going to be sitting and going, they have no idea what I'm going on about. So you have to find a way to check with people. Does this make sense? The way I do it is, it sounds a bit bizarre in a way, but it's a way I personally learned to open the conversation. I will purposely ask the wrong question because we are really quick as a human race, I have discovered, to correct somebody when they're wrong. but we're really slow at kind of going, if I went, Emma, what do you think about this? You'd be like, no, no, no. All right. If I said, oh, Emma, it's this. You're like, no, it's not. You would correct me. So there is an art of leadership here about doing it in the right way at the right time. I'm not doing it all the time, but knowing you're doing it and being and having that intention of opening the conversation. So you start, your teams then start to say, oh, actually, he doesn't have the answer to everything. He just got that completely wrong. And you might, in your heart of hearts, be going, I did that on purpose, and that's what it is. And I was really open with my team after about six months and saying that this is how I do things. And I'm like, oh, OK, interesting. They then started doing it with their teams. They found they were then building better relationships with their teams, and I was building better relationships with my teams. to the point that those three people who worked for me are now probably three of the closest people that have become really good friends, and they are people I rely on through my career moving forward. So it's all about everybody being brave, and that's a really big word, it is a really big word, because too often we're just kind of going through it and kind of hoping I don't want to get picked on. And for some people that is quite triggering, because you know, If we all remember, if you're as old as I am, you know, you went to school, you kind of learned parrot fashion, and then your teacher went, Tom, what's the answer to this? And you sit there and freeze and go, I don't know. That kind of comes back to people. So we just have to understand where people are coming from. So it's about, for me, that was the right way. That was the right way to open up an open and honest conversation. With other teams, I've done it before, coming out of a meeting with a CEO, me sitting there with a team going, have you got any idea what they're going on about? Because I don't. And everyone's like, oh, no, no, me either. I'm like, well, fine. As long as we all know that, we now know we need to go and find something else. So I think it's about, as the leader, leading by example and taking that risk and knowing, you know, you don't know the first time what's going to happen, but just know you're the manager. People aren't going to come back at you if you're talking to your team and taking a risk. Your team will really appreciate it.

36:21 SPEAKER_02 Yeah, I think that's really interesting. It ties into a lot of what's being talked about in all parts of life now around authenticity and how much more comfortable life can be if you're able to find your authentic leader within you. Yeah. And, you know, words like humility and vulnerability come to mind. In fact, one of our values at Appraised is humility. So I'm glad you mentioned this topic, actually. And it's something that we really strive to create, which is that nobody's going to have all the answers. Your manager might not have all the answers. And that may be why they hired you. it's aimed at making sure there's no kind of blame culture, it's assuming that everybody around you is open to feedback and learning, which they generally are, and that, you know, if someone gives you some feedback you should assume positive intent, and so on. So yeah, I do, but it is a it is something that people tend to have to learn, it doesn't always come naturally. I certainly remember I started out my career at Goldman Sachs and I spent a lot of time wondering how I should act at work and I think everybody does, you know, and eventually you figure out that actually there are some traits within yourself that work as a leader that you can use to your advantage and to everyone's advantage and you just have to try and figure out how it works for you.

37:52 SPEAKER_01 Yeah, I think you're right. I think that all of us are, in any given situation, all of us are showing a particular side of ourselves. It's how comfortable you are. And for me, that's what being authentic is about. It's do I feel comfortable in this situation? If I don't, what needs to change for me to feel comfortable? We could probably have a whole other conversation about authenticity, bringing your whole self to work, you know, because there are things that are within people that they might not want to share. And again, that's fine. That's, you know, because we, as long as we are curating a right culture where people feel comfortable enough to allow themselves to decide what parts of themselves they show, then that's good enough. Because there are some things within people that they might not want to show. And again, that's fine. And I think that's the art of management as well. It's about understanding your people. The only way you understand your people is talking to them. And again, you know, we're kind of going through this renaissance again of the conversation around hybrid working, which is interesting because, you know, I hear a lot of rhetoric around people going, well, I can't build relationships with people on a screen. I'm like, well, why not? My last Right, so at the moment, I work as a fractional CPO. I've basically been doing my work virtually, and I've built really strong relationships with people. You can still have the time to do it. Yes, there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation. Of course, we all accept that. But to say that it becomes an excuse if we're kind of blaming virtual working for really bad management practices, or for managers not wanting to pick the phone up to their teams. This is what it comes down to. So as a manager, the more you talk to someone, the more you're going to start understanding what is it that is authentic about this particular person? Are they going to start confiding in me? And I've, you know, I've had people confide personal stuff in me. Absolutely. That stays between me and them. Of course it does. But it also gives me an understanding of why they might behave in a particular way, in a particular situation. So I think as a manager, you have to be open to that. And that can be really hard as well. You know, I have had horrible situations or, you know, horrible, absolutely horrible for the individual, but sometimes they can be, you know, they don't know if they're saying something that might trigger something in me. And it's not for them to know, but it's about making sure that you are creating the right open space. If the conversation is getting to a place you are not comfortable as a manager, actually not even as a manager, as a person, you're well within your eyes. So you go, do you know what? This is making me feel uncomfortable. We need to stop because there is nothing worse than being kind of almost held hostage in a conversation that's just going the wrong way. So this is why though, I say that managers are fearful because they don't know what's going to come out. They sit there and go, and this is coming from, you know, hundreds of conversations I've had with managers. Well, I don't know what Emma's going to say. I'm like, I don't know what you're going to say to me. So why does it matter? that you don't know what Emma's going to say, or the worst is, I know exactly what Emma's going to say, and I don't want to hear it. I'm like, well, really sorry, but you now need to pull off your big boy boots. And there is a differentiation between things like humility and openness. Some people like to think that they cannot coexist with good performance management. Some people unfortunately view it as a sign of weakness, might view it as a sign of strength, Because yes, unfortunately, sometimes you are gonna have to part ways with someone. You just are, there's no two ways about it. If you've been a manager long enough, you're gonna go through that at some point in your career. But being humble, being open, being honest does not stop you holding somebody to account on their deliverables. It's that simple. And that's kind of where the trust starts as well. Because I've, I had, again, years ago, had quite a big team. And I was carrying someone for quite some time. And by quite some time, we're kind of going on like six months. And eventually I did what I had to do. I really didn't want to do it. It was really hard. I felt really upset. I felt awful, all the turmoil. But, you know, I pulled up my big boy pants and I got on with it and I did it. Now, what that actually, in a way, led to was a conversation with my team going, you should have done that earlier. So your inaction is And actually what could have happened if I'd let it go on for a little bit longer, because I had very open feedback from someone who was very good at giving very open feedback. Like you are in danger of losing all of our respect. So actually thinking that you're being nice, actually you're not being nice. Thinking that actually, and what stopped me for a good two months, and I know this because I was there, it was me. What stopped me for two months was because I didn't want to do it. I just did not want to do it. And then eventually I had the conversation And do you know what? It was fine. All of these fears, and this is where I go back to as a manager, there are always fears that come out. So actually, as a manager, your job is to then go and talk to your boss about, do you know what? I'm worried about this. I'm worried about how this will go down. I'm worried about firing this person because of their personal circumstances. And we get into, if we didn't get into this psychological torture on our own heads, then we are not human. And the brilliant thing about us is that we are human and we feel and we have emotions and these things are supposed to be hard. And I'd always say, I always had a manager, this particular manager that I was working with, my boss, he was kind of helping me through it. So if you didn't feel bad about this, I would really worry about you. It would be a real worry as to whether you're cut out for being a manager, not being an HR, but just being a manager because you should have feeling here But the organisational system should be designed to help support you through that. And that's, for me, that is the whole point.

44:24 SPEAKER_00 So with only sort of 10 minutes left, I'm really interested to take both your points and your views on if, because obviously a lot of this has been focused on managers as well, which is really good because I think we all know that that's where the challenge lies, especially if you're listening to this in your HR, you're probably nodding along going, yep, yep, yep. So if you're, if you are HR and you're listening into this, how do you go about getting that leadership buy-in for performance management in the kind of performance management that we're talking about here? Not just, not just the box ticking.

44:56 SPEAKER_01 So I think from my perspective, it kind of starts with knowing your audience. And by that, I mean, knowing what the CEO wants. And if you have a traditional CEO where you're, where they're really great, no, no, this is it. I want a bell curve, I want this, and we've all seen those CEOs. You have to approach it in a completely different way. You have to start using the data that you have available to you. Now, most organisations finally have got into doing things like employee opinion surveys, whatever acronym you want to chuck into it, that's your data. In HR, we have traditionally, I say traditionally because it's changed over the last five years, traditionally we've been really bad at using data. And my background, I'm a bit of a strange HR person. I'm a data analyst by background. So I kind of get and understand. The power is in the data. This is what the CEO wants. The CEO wants a data-driven conversation. So if in your employee opinion surveys, there is something in there that tells you about performance, culture, openness, or whatever, and it's not where you want it to be, that is where you start the conversation with the senior leadership team. Now, it's going to depend on you, the CEO, the senior leadership team, because sometimes you go straight to the CEO and go, look, this doesn't feel great, does it? How can we change this? What can we do? Well, let's think about it differently. Sometimes you might have to work your way through the senior management team or your peer group, first of all, to kind of go, I can see really good management practice over there. And no matter what the organizational system is, there are always going to be pockets of really good management practice of what we've been talking about. So the idea is to find them, to spotlight them, to raise them up on the platform so that people can start hearing why managing this way works better. So there's something around data. There's something around the organic stories that are in the business. The third thing And the most important to the CEO is to come back to, well, it will empower and strengthen our performance. So if you want to hit these really challenging goals, you're not going to do it with a disengaged, disenfranchised organisation. All we're doing is spending millions replacing people year on year, because we can see from our exit survey, people hate working here. Great. So something has to change. And ultimately, CEO, you are judged on the output of your business by your shareholders. If your costs are going up and your shareholders start to track those costs because you can't retain people, you're going to start facing questions about it. And it's the culture that's going to drive people wanting to stay. And this is the way to open up the culture by having open, continuous conversations. So it's really easy for me to say that, for me to do all of that. But this is what I've done in a couple of companies, right? You, as an HR leader, part of your role is to reflect. with the CEO or the senior leadership team to go, well, hang on a minute, CEO, actually talk me through your background. And you get people to open up and talk and you kind of, you can be that neutral point to go, it doesn't feel like this here, no matter what we want it to be, is it what we want it to be? So it's a bit of a check-in with them. So in the same way that you do with your goals, like your goal is here, where are we with this goal? If you're having a conversation with your CEO to say, What do we want our culture to be? We want our culture to be this. Well, where is it? We use your data to tell you where it is. Anecdotally, obviously, anecdotally as well, you'll have some CEOs or leaders that never believe the data. Well, you know, you just let them go. Well, the data is the data. This is what people are telling me. take it on board or don't. But it's kind of take it on board. So, you know, don't take it on board at your peril is what I've started to say to CEOs because this is a loud enough voice now, particularly if it's been consistent over a few years. So data is kind of where it all starts.

48:56 SPEAKER_02 Yeah, I would love to echo that, I think. more data you can have, the easier it is to be objective, the more impactful everything can be. And to give you a practical example, we once worked with a large government organization and the data coming out of employee surveys was that it turned out that people who were on the fast track graduate development scheme and we're about three to four years in started to feel disenfranchised disillusioned and started to leave and this is a very costly serious problem for the organisation. So a bit more research and a few more interviews and drilling down into it and they discovered well What people were saying was, you know, I joined this organization because I thought it was going to be exciting. I was on this fast track program. I'm really ambitious. I've deliberately chosen not to go into the city, let's say, and get a much better paid job. But because this is an organization that I believe in and I'm excited by. But what I'm finding is that I can't move up the ranks as quickly as I would like to and that I feel like I should, despite what people are telling me. And I've seen other people around me that I don't think perhaps should be holding up those roles for me. And so in that case, we then put in place a performance management process system and training for all senior managers to help them understand how to spot people who were, really wanted to kind of get ahead, what to do about them, and also to spot people perhaps who'd been hanging around in roles longer than they should, and how to deal with them to enable other people to thrive. And so having that data just made it a bit of a no-brainer really for HR, again a very compelling case to put this system in place, so that was really interesting. And You also made me think of another idea that I like to have. So yeah, again, going back to one of my first jobs, there was a massive canteen and it was amazing, amazing food. And you could fit probably nearly 400 or 500 employees in there. It was enormous. And I remember the chief executive walking in one day and I just sort of tried to imagine what might be going through his mind and what it would be, what would be going through my mind if I had been there in that role. And I just thought, you know, what I might've done earlier that morning is go on a big teams call with all employees in all hands meeting and try and set out the strategy and my objectives for the company and how it relates to everybody and all of that. I'd just love to know that looking around the room that everybody could remember and articulate that back to me really clearly and understood it and was excited by it and knew that. And if I if I just knew that everybody had a good relationship with their manager they're all working on these things together the messages were traveling up and down really easily and really cleanly. then I knew I'd be really happy. And I think that's the sort of picture I'd try to paint to CEOs and boards of other organizations, what it could be like if you've got these great relationships and great conversations happening on a daily basis.

52:18 SPEAKER_00 Excellent. Well, that is a very good story for us to end on. So thank you so much, Tom. Thank you, Roly. Really good advice in there for HR and managers alike. We'll hopefully try and get this out to as many managers as possible and HR people will be going, yes, please. We will also make sure that we link through to the check-in templates that Roly mentioned. And also, if you are a member of the HR Ninjas community, please do come and say hi, because we are in there. So thanks once again, everyone, and we'll take care and we'll see you soon.

Roly Walter
Roly Walter
Linkedin icon
Roly Walter
Founder and CEO
September 2023
More Episodes