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Natalie Homeworking

5 Essential Tips for Creating an Effective Homeworking Team

None of us has ever had to confront personal or work challenges quite like those we’re experiencing right now. Enforced social distancing has required virtually all of us to find new ways of working. But the disruption to normal life has – for some organisations at least – highlighted an opportunity that could lead to a permanent shift in the way they work.

Although re-evaluating and re-inventing work processes has presented enormous issues for many businesses, some service-based companies have been reminded that they don’t necessarily need employees based in one central location.

Homeworking can deliver a range of benefits. There are obvious financial advantages arising from running a business with a reduced physical workspace – or even none at all.  Some global tech companies had already adopted remote models: understanding that productivity is positively impacted when employees no longer have to commute or travel to meetings, and morale and mental wellbeing levels improve as staff have more quality time available for families, loved ones and personal pursuits.

For many businesses now, the realisation that they can operate effectively with staff working from home – and that the homeworking model offers significant advantages, makes it likely they will look to continue working this way – in whole or in part – post-lockdown.

It’s hard to find many positives during this crisis, but perhaps this might be one of them. Could this be the nudge you need to migrate some or all of your team to homeworking?

Are you ready to fully embrace homeworking in your business?

If you’ve previously had reservations about having your team work from home, perhaps the enforced circumstances of the lockdown have made you think again? Or maybe you have already introduced homeworking into your business, and while you don’t need convincing of its benefits, you want to make it work even better for you? You could have made the initial transition without establishing a working from home policy, trusting people to adapt and get on with things.  This may have worked at the outset, but perhaps you now have team members who are presenting challenges or not working as effectively as they should?

Our business model here at Organic P&O Solutions has always been based around a homeworking team, and we know from experience that the key to success is flexibility. Here are 5 essential tips for creating an effective homeworking team:

Be aware that everyone in your team has unique personal & family needs

Outside of work, team members will have very different family and home lives. They might have shared or sole responsibility for looking after young children or be carers for elderly or sick relatives. Support networks will vary for each of them, and they’ll have to balance work with personal responsibilities.

To get the best out of your team, you’ll need to identify the needs of individual employees, then help them to find and implement solutions that accommodate their circumstances. At Organic P&O Solutions, we’ve done this very successfully with our own team, including Natalie, one of our home-based consultants.

Natalie’s husband, Nick, has a full-time job in the RAF, and they share responsibility for looking after their two young daughters. From the outset, Natalie was very clear about what she needed to be able to carry out her full-time role effectively – while still continuing to share parenting duties and be there for her girls.

Some employers might dismiss out of hand the idea that a mum of two young children and a working partner could find the time (or energy!) to undertake a full-time job. But we knew Natalie was perfect for the role, and by taking the time to understand how she prefers to work, we’ve been able to meet her needs, so we all benefit.

“I told Tash I needed to be able to function as a single parent so that if Nick is relocated, nothing changes for the girls. Tash completely understood this, and as long as I make my commitments to clients and meet my goals each week, she’s happy for me to decide what I do, how and when”.

 “While the lockdown is on and Nick and I are both at home, I’m typically working between 6 am until midday, then doing a couple more hours in the evening. It works well as I’m more productive in the mornings anyway. Nick looks after the girls and helps them with schoolwork. We reverse roles in the afternoon, and I get to do the messy, creative stuff with them while Nick works. Then, when the house is quiet again in the evening, I go back to work.” (Natalie).

All of us in the Organic P&O Solutions team have very different family circumstances, but by having open and honest discussions and testing solutions, we’ve reached outcomes that work for everyone and found ways round our collective and unique challenges.

Family-friendly employment policies are an essential aspect of retaining loyal, engaged, productive teams – for more information, read our blog, 5 ways to make sure you’re a truly family-friendly employer.

Learn to trust your team

For an employer used to sharing the same physical workspace with their team, adjusting to the concept of remote managing can be challenging. As with any relationship – personal or professional, trust is vital.

In our view, team members must be given the latitude to deliver their contributions in their preferred way: working the hours best suited to their situation and temperament – within an agreed timeframe of course. But with that trust, comes the responsibility to own their results, adapt and self-motivate so they deliver. No excuses.

It’s human nature to worry about what you can’t see. But does it really matter if an employee working at home takes five minutes to check their social media during ‘work time’ or get some exercise? We think not. Especially if it means they’re going to get their job done more effectively and be more focused because they’ve taken a short break in a way that works for them.

We’ve had clients question how an employee could possibly work from home if they have to look after their children all day. How could they ever be trusted to be productive, and not put childcare responsibilities first? Our response is always the same. We’ve never let them down or missed a deadline due to our children and when we’re not out delivering for clients, we’re working from home. We’re all parents with differing levels of support, so if we can do it, maybe it’s time for them to think again about what’s being asked of them?

Recognise everyone works differently 

If you’re managing homeworking employees, consider the wide range of personality types within a team. Some people enjoy working on their own and will naturally thrive in a homeworking environment, while others may require a higher degree of support and nurturing.

In an office-based team, employees are generally required to work within a structured, 9-5 day. While this rhythm suits some, it can constrain others who may prefer more elasticity in their routine. Many people are more alert, creative and productive and do their best work outside of these hours.  I know I am and I always have been.

I spent many years working in the retail sector and remember the difficulty I had making the transition to a ‘regular’ working day. I’d become used to working irregular hours with early morning starts, late-night finishes, and week-end working. Making the switch was hard and I found conforming to a regular office day far more tiring than working longer, uncertain hours. Needless to say, I’m far happier working the way I do today! So, our advice is don’t make assumptions about what works for people. We all have different energisers.  Help people find theirs and you’ll see results soar.

Adjust how you monitor individual performance

Monitoring the performance of remote working staff is very different from monitoring performance in an office-based team. When you’re working alongside your employees, you can observe performance first-hand and discuss work in progress, picking up potential issues as they arise.

Technology options abound to make people more accessible but you can’t be there all the time if your team is home-based.  To know what employees have been doing, how they’ve got on and what they’ve achieved, the nature of the conversations you have will need thought, a little planning and some organisation.

So, focus on results – and not necessarily on the process or the hours taken to achieve the outcome. Allow employees some flexibility and freedom to complete work in their own way to an agreed schedule – and be prepared to adjust until you find and keep what works.

Ensure you communicate regularly

With team members working from disparate locations and potentially working different hours, finding time to schedule regular team meetings and one to one catch-ups is vital.

At Organic P&O Solutions, as well as being essential for running shared projects, these meetings help us understand how each of us is managing our work-life balance and can inform our planning.

“We get together for a half-hour team video call at least once a week, discussing what’s going on in each of our areas and sharing ideas. It’s not uncommon for us to start with our children present at first. It gives us a window on what’s going on in each of our personal lives and helps us work better together. I’ll also have a weekly one to one call with Tash to talk about what I’m working on and to plan ahead. This is my opportunity to raise any work-life challenges, and if necessary, discuss any adjustments to the way I need to work.” (Natalie).

 Can We Help Make Homeworking Work for You?

The business advantages of moving to a homeworking model can be significant, but to be effective, it will require careful planning, sensitivity and consultation with employees.

If you’ve implemented home-based team working into your organisation but have encountered issues, or if you’ve considered introducing it but have held back until now because you can’t see how to overcome particular challenges, we can help.  We can work with you to understand your obligations, challenges and opportunities and recommend a strategy that will address your situation and deliver your objectives.

Call us today to arrange an initial conversation.

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5 insights that create order through disruption and chaos

Uncertainty. Upheaval. Disruption. Life as you know it is changing and it’s not letting up.  What’s your response to it?  Foggy head? Clear head? Ok with going with the flow or do you resent changing your clearly defined plans? As an HR specialist who helps people navigate times of change, I’ve observed (and displayed!) many behaviours that support navigating through change successfully (and not!).

This blog captures practices that build resilience and infrastructure to support leaders navigate the changes that significantly impact people and organisations.

Deploy consistent habits

Put first things, first.  We are conditioned, many of us, for the ‘end’ point.  Passing the exam, getting the promotion, hitting our sales or revenue targets, getting married, losing weight etc etc. It’s great to have a goal and have a plan.  It’s not possible to deliver the plan in a linear order, illustrated beautifully by one of my favourite quotes “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.

I fell afoul of this personally, only recently. I was running up a hill, that was in the plan. I couldn’t run up the hill because I couldn’t breathe. Feeling like I should be able to do it by now (I’ve done it before, it’s the right stage of the plan) meant I tensed and told myself to ‘just get up the hill!’ I had enlisted the help of a running

coach who gave me some sage advice. “Don’t look at the top of the hill, look just forward of where you are, maintain your optimum posture for breathing and moving and keep going with small steps. Believe in your legs, your mind will quit before your legs will.” She was right, of course. As a coach, I knew this, and I’ve been known to give the advice before, but I was at a point of personal difficulty because I was in my ‘get on with it’ mindset. The answer wasn’t in the grit or the capability (it wasn’t a very big hill and I was determined!). It was all in the technique. It was a great metaphor for life and business showing what happens when we focus on the end point and get frustrated that we’re not where we want to be. Identify and practice the consistent habits and processes and we can keep sight of the end point and focus on the here and now moves to get there. In this example, once I focused on technique, my determination had something tangible to deliver, my heart-rate settled and I ran up the hill with less effort than my starting point.

Prioritise often

Prioritising is a skill that delivers plans and takes practice to make sure, ironically, that we prioritise using it. So, blend vision with pragmatism. It’s important to identify possible outcomes and what if’s in times of change however it’s also important not to overanalyse. Keep your focus on thinking about the likelihood of something affecting your plans and weigh it up with gauging the potential impact, then prioritise the things that will make the biggest difference. Once the plan is executed, keep visiting the ‘what-if’s’ and adjust them. Take time to identify what now, then what next, repeat and/or adjust and you’ll create space for movement in the right way without losing time or direction.

In high VUCA (volatile, uncertain, changing, adaptive) situations, the next right move might not be in the well thought through plan, it’s more likely to be found in the evolution of a situation and so prioritising frequently becomes the tool for adapting once a plan is in ‘play’.  It’s especially important when we’re in uncertainty, as it allows you to adapt as information and resources unfold.

Embrace, manage and don’t judge, your emotions

When something rocks our world, whether we think it should, or whether we think it shouldn’t, it has.  Our attachment to something isn’t logical, it’s emotional. We don’t judge our nerves when they tell us something is hot or cold, so when our emotions tell us we feel happy or sad, we need to drop the notion that our feelings are good or bad. Instead, understanding that emotions are the psychological equivalent of our nerve system mean we can access them as data. Uncomfortable data sometimes, yes, but data, nonetheless. So, take the time to find out how you’re feeling about the changes you’re facing, and notice and you’ll be in a better position to move identify what you need and move into a productive space, quicker. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or helpless, accept it. It makes sense when there’s a lack of information and the implications are serious. It doesn’t need to be dramatic, but it isn’t helpful to ignore it.  It will affect the way you function whether you want it to or not, at some point. So, face into it, look it in the eye and process it. Simple ways to do this are moving to another room, going for a walk, making a drink, listening to some music, exercising, talking to someone you trust.  Allow the same for others and you’ll find collective solutions and build trust so, encourage your team to identify and use their emotions, then enjoy the benefits of a more resilient, rounded, solution focused team.

Live through the unknown

Some people have a higher need for certainty and control than others. High change and high uncertainty situations reveal this. Neuroscience explains that we get an addictive hit of dopamine when we deal with something quickly. This feel good hormone keeps us wanting to complete and conquer over and over.  The short-term hit gets in the way of our ‘better judgement’ though and robs us of the longer-term satisfaction of achieving something worthwhile, because the longer-term piece can’t be done in one hit or in this mode of working.  So, next time you find yourself living off dopamine hits, check you’re working in urgent mode because that’s what really is needed. Then move out of it as soon as you can, allow your adrenaline levels to settle so you’ll restore the ability to see and move towards the longer-term gain.

Preparation and practice for times of high stress also work well here. We don’t see athletes at starting lines using things to distract themselves for their nerves, musicians turn up at concerts at the last minute or emergency services arrive in a harried rushed state. They turn up for their event or situation focused on what’s before them in the knowledge they were prepared to cope with what they couldn’t predict because they have rehearsed the habits they’d need for the things they could predict. They rehearse crucial technical pieces.  I’m a rugby fan. Johnny Wilkinson’s 2003 drop goal is my personal reminder of the benefits of practicing for times of pressure – what’s yours?

So, prepare and practice the small things, so you can employ them in habit form when you need them urgently and develop your ability to hold your nerve through the waiting period so you can be ready and able to act at the right time, in the right way. You’ll feel better, more often, longer term.  You’ll also be easier to work with!

Replace your agenda with empathy

Changing and uncertain times feel chaotic because they involve people who are communicating in different ways, with different perspectives, about an evolving situation. As humans, we experience a loss of control when we wait for decisions from others and we experience a sense of control when the decision is ours.

I see it play out with employers and employees often.  ‘Why is she being so difficult?’ they say.  ‘Why is he being so insensitive?” they ask.  There are differences in agendas and to truly understand what’s going on, agendas need to be replaced with a genuine desire to understand the other person’s view.  I have lost count of the number of times I’ve facilitated a discussion where people agreed, but just couldn’t see it at first because they described their experience and views so differently.

This is where judgements really surface too. The minute we start deciding whether someone is right or wrong, it’s because we are comparing it to our own frame of reference.  If it matches, they’re right. If it doesn’t, they’re wrong. It’s human, it’s understandable but it’s not helpful. So, move towards understanding what someone disagrees with by removing your own listening lense, and then share your perspective responsively e.g. in relation to their view, not in an oppositional reply and you’ll find ways towards solutions.  Sometimes you’ll need to adapt more than others and not everyone will respond well. Once you’ve genuinely dropped your agenda, persevere. It’s less likely to feel like a compromise, and more likely to feel like a good way forward.

In summary

Navigating disruption is exhausting for many because of the constant need to switch between being future focused and working with constantly developing information. It takes concentration and energy.  Clarity, planning, adaptability, high emotional intelligence and strong communication skills are pivotal to navigating change successfully.

We work with teams in small and large businesses to support them in their organisational change needs. Whether that’s supporting senior people with their ideas and plans or leading HR teams to a new level of service to their businesses.

If you would like to see how we might help you navigate a period of significant change, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today.

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5 ways to confident hiring decisions

You know you’ve worked in a great team when you pick up the phone after a few years to a former colleague and when you start reminiscing about working together, the conversation covers three things. What you’re proud of achieving together, how you got through the tough times and how much you enjoyed working and learning together. Yet, when I reflect on conversations I have with employers, job applicants, freelancers etc about what they look for during a hiring / engagement process, these three things aren’t a ready focus point.

In my experience, great hiring strategies involve a combination of deliberate and accidental matching criteria. The most successful processes have a greater degree of the former (criteria and process) so the latter (surprises) can emerge. The best ones focus on what the team needs to deliver next and what they need both technically and behaviourally to do it. Here are some of the ways we help our clients build their teams making sure they use their own unique blend of foresight and hindsight, to make confident hiring decisions.

Values value values
We know that employers need to hire technical skills and experience. We also know that when appointments go sour, the cause is often behaviour. The behaviour is a problem but not the main issue. Quite often, it’s a clash of personal values. This is often a surprise and that’s because values are innate. And, because they’re innate, they’re usually not discussed openly. Get clear about personal and team values and you’ll have a description for your culture and a tool you can use time after time, no matter what the role is. You’ll also have criteria to help manage individual and team performance.

A note of caution here, don’t rule people out just because they don’t directly agree with you or your team’s ‘norms’. Values transcend diversity. More importantly, difference is essential for rounded performance. Do think about how you’ll manage differences though and don’t take it so far that you find yourself on the wrong side of discrimination. Sometimes the path to collaboration, whilst worthwhile, isn’t smooth!

Business phase and role life span
Have a ‘people’ plan. Something that shows how roles relate to each other and what they will deliver for the business. Identify what you’re happy to invest in and what you expect someone to turn up with.

In your plan, get clear about the phase your business is in. What’s the lifespan of the vacancy? Will it stay in its current form or evolve over time? How much? How quickly? Resourcing is an ongoing activity. Over time, things change. Help people manage careers not job roles and you’ll gain loyalty and commitment that salaries and benefits can’t buy.

Keep in touch
When you meet a candidate you just ‘really liked’ but they didn’t get the job, think about what they would have been right for and keep in touch. Maybe they need a more settled, stable company phase or conversely, there won’t be enough pace, change and challenge in this assignment. If they’re not right for you, they may be right for someone you know and better still, they may be right for your team in the future. There are so many ways to keep in touch, choose what works for you. Perhaps you’ll call them periodically or connect with them on LinkedIn. If it won’t upset their current employer, and you’d like to help them secure a new role, perhaps give them a ‘Kudos’ post. In short, when you meet top talent, keep in touch and nurture it.

Attract the right candidates
Decide on a route to market that will attract and help you identify good candidates, just like you would for attracting customers. Where are the people that would love to find you? What is it that’s unique or different about you as an employer? Spend time building your employer brand as well as your customer brand and you’re more likely to have a quality pool to choose from. For example, where might you find people with the right qualities you’re looking for. Things like empathy, initiative, team player. I have a client who will always interview a candidate who volunteers regularly. They may not get the job every time, but he knows that if they’re a volunteer, they have qualities and values that resonate with what he looks for in his team. The technical training can be learned.

Do more than interview

Good interview skills are essential for giving candidates the best chance of showing you they can deliver. A practical way of looking for an all-round view (technical, experiential, behavioural) is to include a practical exercise in the selection process. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy assessment centre style event, although that may be an option for you. It could be something simple. For example, when I recruit for HR professionals at all levels, I provide scenarios that are unique to the business and role. Part of the exercise will be a form of written correspondence. I need to know the people coming on board can work with more than standard templates. (Tailored, well written correspondence is an absolute must in all HR correspondence, for me).

There are multiple benefits to this, I find out how the ‘fit’ works for the role and business culture, over and above the discussion at interview. I discover congruence so I can assess whether the candidate really can deliver the things they impressed me with during the interview. I receive evidence of things like use of language, tone of voice, empathy, judgment, influence and so on, all critical to the HR role. The blend however may reveal that one candidate is stronger for the assignment than another.

The bonus though, is when a nervous interviewee gets to show me, through the exercise, how they really work and what they’re capable of. Interview nerves don’t go away until they’ve been overcome. Getting through a selection process supports confidence. It’s not always a happy ending, but I can’t put a price on how rewarding it is when it works out.

Where to next?
One of our values is continuous improvement. We make sure we apply our learning from our strongest successes and any of our glorious failures, for future decisions. When it comes to people and organisations, we’ve got plenty we’d love to share and even more passion to continue to explore. Every assignment is unique, every client has evolving needs and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Perhaps you’re a business owner, director or senior manager who could use some fresh ideas or an opportunity to learn from your experiences so far. We’d love to find out how we might help you take your hiring process to the next level. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

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5 reasons performance feedback fails and what to do about it

Giving and receiving feedback is heartland territory for performance conversations. Both delivery and receipt require a combination of skill and character, making it a strong topic for Leadership and Management training programmes everywhere.  It’s essential for continuous performance improvement and without it, effective change won’t gather pace. Yet it’s often delivered and/or received badly; exacerbating poor communication practices and ineffective working relationships.  Here are our top contributors that we believe hamper effective feedback and our ideas for how to solve them.

  1. Feedback is delivered as a one-way conversation

I’ve seen it often. The perception is delivered in a ‘let me tell you what I saw, experienced, felt’ style and standard rules like be clear, be factual, give examples, be assertive are followed. Agreed, these are all important, however, this approach doesn’t allow for a mutual understanding and resolution to be reached.  Feedback is a response to something that we want changed or repeated, and this means co-operation is required. For co-operation, there must be two-way involvement.  If you have a skilled recipient, the conversation may hold promise because they may be able to receive the information in a way that is useful, regardless of the delivery.  However, without managing the conversation, it’s more likely problems will surface.  Above all else, check first if it’s a good time for them to receive this information and whether you are the most effective messenger.

A message delivered articulately and empathetically is as important as the accuracy of the content, so tailor your message delivery to match the context, environment and circumstances of the recipient. Things like ‘Is this a pattern they have noticed for themselves?’  work well.  Inviting someone to self-assess before giving your view means you are less likely to encounter resistance. Another example could be when you’ve observed something that’s out of character. In this case, ask what was different that day or in that meeting etc. before sharing your observations. The response you receive may negate the need to give your view altogether.

  1. You prepare for the conversation without preparing yourself

Particularly when there’s a tough message involved, feelings of uncertainty, anxiousness, nervousness about the potential response combined with fear of negative consequences, can undermine your approach regardless of your intentions.  To control the discomfort, it’s human nature to want to avoid it (flight) or push through it (fight). This usually happens when someone is attached to being ‘right’.  To bolster your view, you may seek agreement from someone you trust. Then share the information according to when you’re ready. The feeling of ‘There, said it. Phew! Now it’s up to them. Right?’ may resonate here.  If so, have a think about how many times you have reached a satisfactory result following just one conversation. It’s unlikely to have a high yield, if at all.

When I have something I feel strongly about, I let it ‘sit’ for a while. Then I discuss it with someone I trust to challenge my views.  The stronger the reaction, the longer I let it sit and the more I seek challenge. Examining your motives and judgments is important because these determine your beliefs.  And those beliefs? They’ll inform how you feel.  If the conversation is going to lead somewhere good, it’ll be because you kept your opinions, judgments and emotions in check. Not absent, they count, but not in the driving seat. I believer if you feel ‘right’, that makes the other person wrong.  That’s a black and white position with no room for exploration.  With no room for taking in the other person’s experience / perspective then it’s a one-way conversation. The result is more likely to be an uncomfortable transaction, without a sustainable resolution.  So, seek alternative views, talk to someone who may share the other person’s perspective as well as your own and who can challenge your thinking. It won’t change what has happened, but it could shape a stronger outcome.

  1. The delivery is formulaic and fails to inspire an appetite to change

We use a variety of communication models in our work and advocate many different feedback models however, we urge our clients not to rely on them. Instead, consider these as criteria for preparation. Like a set piece in sport or a recipe for a meal, formulas support how something is put together.  So use formulae for infrastructure then employ empathy and responsiveness. Avoid over-scripting and over-managing as this will undermine conveyed sincerity.  Instead, join forces to explore relevant issues and find solutions to secure your best chance of co-operation and commitment to change.

If you really want to inspire change, be proactive with your feedback by finding ways to give forward feedback.  For example, when we work with delegates who are taking part in an exercise in our longer-term programmes, we will draw their attention to a skill they’ve shown in a previous session. For example, “I know you’re not sure how to approach this right now, but I know you can do this because you achieved {[X] result in the [Y] module. Use your [mention special skill] here and you’ll be on your way to really seeing some traction on this”.  Express what you’re looking to see more of and what difference it could make to the results of the company, team, project etc and motivation will soar.  It will also build a habit and mindset that will spread like ripples throughout the team. Not only for the individuals receiving it but for those witnessing the culture you’re fostering. 

  1. A commitment is expected immediately

I remember a time I received some feedback. It was important I heard it and understood it. It stung a bit!  I accepted it and said I’d go away and think about it.  The person who gave me the feedback was upset that I didn’t have a more committed response. I felt I needed time to work out how best to deal with it.  We found our way through it, but I’ll never forget the feeling of being on the receiving end of feedback that was completely valid, yet outside of my awareness.  Why is this important? Feedback is often a no-brainer to the person giving the information, so the impact it has can often be under-estimated.   Remember, it’s only obvious when you know.  And if they know, it’s not feedback!  In which case, I would challenge you to think about the purpose of the conversation you really need to have here.

On the flipside, you may receive an emotional or highly charged response.  In this case, give it some time and distance. Then return, don’t avoid it.  During the gap think about your timing, delivery, what might help reduce the emotional charge when it’s revisited? Go back to your trusted source(s) for some perspective.  I’m not suggesting you accept unhelpful behaviour; I am suggesting you consider the emotional make-up of the receiver and what their motives might have been for their original actions.  In short, re-visit the qualification points and then adjust from there.  And if you got it wrong, apologise and treat it as feedback for yourself.  Boundaries and ownership are key to achieving personal change, so encourage it by being a role model for it by adjusting your approach if you need to.

  1. Agreed actions sit only with the recipient

Feedback is particularly effective when we know what we want to be different.  I hear people express what they did or didn’t appreciate yet fall short on the required change.  Just as the feedback may have been a surprise to the recipient, the actions required to make a change may feel equally like an enigma.  A strong leader will be clear about what good looks like and will understand how to support without reducing ownership on the individual.  So, it’s a good idea to think about how you will make sure you manage the change and progress that you’re asking for. What are the review timescales? What is reasonable to expect and when? What do the incremental changes look like? For example, if it’s greater accuracy, what’s the reduction in mistakes you’re looking to see? If it’s a more positive contribution in meetings, what does that look like? Then think about what support you need to provide. What will you do to actively encourage commitment to the change? What will need repetition and what will need enough space to allow progress from you?  If you’re thinking about how you can support the process, you’ll handle the conversation and subsequent follow up better, and you’ll be in a better place to use it in an exploratory, solution focused way from the start.

At Organic P&O Solutions we’ve worked with individuals and teams, high performers and underperformers, in high output departments and in personally charged employment disputes. We always talk about constructive dialogue being key and we’ve witnessed it deliver improved performance when done well.  It has also supported companies to manage the destructive effects of toxic relationships and move into a more productive way of working.  If you’d like to find out more about how we might help you build a stronger performance amongst your team, we’d love to hear from you.

 

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4 Reasons Your Performance Reviews Are Failing (And What You Can Do About It)

If you’re running a team, no matter how small, you’ve probably conducted a performance review. They’re fairly simple on the surface – a periodic meeting between manager and direct report to assess performance and suggest improvements. We’re finding they are increasingly the subject of much debate, with many people questioning their effectiveness in the workplace. Done right – the reviews can be incredibly useful for everyone involved, but mishandled, they can be a waste of time and energy for all concerned. Today we wanted to share with you 4 of the most common reasons performance reviews fail to deliver the results managers want, and how you can change that for the better.

All The Wrong Focus At The Wrong Times

Let’s start with an easy one. Many businesses are conducting performance reviews once a year. This means that managers end up storing store up all the things employees may have done wrong (and right), and rather than addressing them at the time, pour them all out in one go. This could be months after they actually happen. In our experience, performance reviews are most effective when they are done weekly or monthly. This doesn’t have to be a big formal meeting – just a 15 – 30 minute catch up weekly or monthly with each employee, to address issues and suggest improvements that are relevant at the time. This means they can be acted upon quickly, and so the opportunity to make changes stick increases.

That brings us to our next point. Performance reviews/appraisals are supposed to give an in-depth look at how individual employees are contributing to the overall direction and goals of the team. So that’s what the constructive feedback should be about. Yet we find many managers struggle with creating outcomes that leave employees feeling charged and ready to perform better, and instead focus too heavily on the weaknesses of individuals rather than on what’s needed to drive better performance and what the employee can do about it. While highlighting negatives and planning improvement is important, it can de-motivate if there’s too strong a bias or it lacks context. Great managers identify what didn’t work and find ways to recognise and praise what they want to see more of. Focus on what an employee’s strengths look like and how they can be used to enhance performance, and there is a much better basis for improving performance in the long run. To create a really clear and aligned focus, mutually agree goals and then agree what the key activities are that will achieve it. So, for example, if there is a need to increase sales next quarter, what activities need to happen to achieve that goal? This way you can synergise your differences, capture ideas and be clear about expectations about how something is achieved, not just what needs to be achieved.

One Size Fits All

Every person is unique. Everyone’s perceptions are different, which means we will interpret information and respond to news differently to one another. So taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to performance reviews limits success. A little time planning each review individually will reap big dividends. Think about that specific person – what you want to say, how you want them to feel when they leave the meeting – and tailor your messages to achieve that goal. And don’t stop there – provide direction for that person based on what they need, and make sure you give them the chance to contribute to their own goal setting and review process. Then you’re more likely to get ownership of the activity that follows from the people delivering it. Finally, remember to consider personal circumstances. Don’t tolerate excuses, but if there’s a new baby in the household or a sick parent to care for, make sure you’re fair and considerate about your expectations and approach. Consistent care for individuals counts as recognition, often far more than a small percentage salary increase could ever achieve over the long term.

Too Much Listening, Not Enough Hearing

When two people have a conversation, they are listening to each other, but they’re not always hearing what the other is saying. In performance reviews this becomes really obvious – particularly where someone is trying to give difficult feedback or deliver uncomfortable news. Inviting perspective about the issue before giving your view as the manager is essential before embarking on this type of conversation. It’s also worth considering whether it should form part of the appraisal discussion or be dealt with separately. When we tiptoe instead of saying what we mean clearly, it’s all too easy to think we’ve made ourselves clear, when in actual fact the person you’re speaking to hasn’t really heard and understood you at all. Equally, being too direct can have the same effect, because we haven’t given the other person the opportunity to absorb the message and ask questions of it for their own sense of clarity. This leads to mismatched expectations, and means managers and employees become upset when they can’t see a change they were expecting. When we deliver training around this we encourage the following question – ‘What did you hear?’ – The response can be surprising and very useful in making sure a point has hit home in the right balance, not too hard and not to soft and such a way that it compels the individual to want to take positive action.

Expecting Instant Results

Human beings are creatures of habit. There are no two ways about that. But it’s no bad thing – it simply means that if you want something to change, you need to give it two things. Time and repetition. Far too often I have seen managers suggest some behaviour changes and then be disappointed when those changes haven’t manifested according to their timescale. Research suggests that it takes 21 – 28 days to accept and implement a new habit, and much longer for it to become a permanent change in behaviour. That’s because people develop organically, based on what they relate to and understand – at that time – in their world as they know it – for themselves. Change is a process, not an event. So instead of expecting change right away, allow time for evolution and a few mishaps after your reviews. Let the learning and change happen in layers, as an iterative process. And through the process – understanding to action, mistakes, review and new understanding – change will happen. As a manager, it’s important to notice and recognise the incremental changes throughout this cycle, and guide your employees accordingly. Then you’ll really get some traction towards the results you’re looking for, your employees will feel recognised and they’ll appreciate your support too.

Organic Top Tips

Finally, let’s round up by sharing some of our own tips for conducting successful performance reviews and appraisals gathered through observation of achievements and learning opportunities of our own over the years:

  • Be specific about expectations in both directions. What do you expect from the employee, and what do they expect from you as their manager?
  • Be honest. Don’t undo the feedback you’re giving by generalising (or saying everything is OK when it’s really not, which we’ve seen too many times!)
  • Balance responsibilities and feedback fairly. Don’t give one employee a goal that the whole team will need to contribute to, or give a negative review if a flawed task, or other team members were involved in a failure. 
  • Focus on the activity, not just the goal, if you want to see results.
  • Allow time for change to happen naturally – don’t demand it instantly. 
  • Encourage ownership of performance by demonstrating it yourself. Set an example to your employees about how to be active in your own improvement.

At Organic P&O Solutions, we specialise in helping managers understand the review process, and learn how to adapt their leadership style to get the best results from their teams. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help with your leadership style, approaches to performance processes, or training and development programmes for you and your teams, please get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you.

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