Month: February 2016

Do you need to throw out your performance management system? By guest blogger, Emily Tullock

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Emily-Tullock-croppedEmily Tullock, Communications Officer at CHS Alliance (a member of the Future of Work Research Consortium) attended our Masterclass on Time and Performance. Here are Emily’s reflections:

How do you measure performance management in your organisation? Does your performance management system take into account the modern workplace realities of part-timers, those working from home, checking email in the evenings, and juggling family commitments? A recent Future of Work Masterclass in London challenged participants to consider whether their organisation has the wrong assumptions about performance management.

The majority of performance management systems were designed during the post-industrial revolution where the time spent on a factory floor correlated directly to output. Time remains an important part of how we think about performance which means organisations make assumptions about how people use their time that are no longer valid. Most performance management systems still presume that people can work all the time and that work only take places at the office.

Current workplace trends

  • Both men and women working has led to men entering the world of domestic labour. University graduates of both genders now spend more minutes per day on direct childcare than ever before. This challenges the assumptions that unpaid work is a woman’s domain and if someone isn’t in the office, they’re not a high performer.
  • Blurring of leisure and work time. Performance management systems were designed when people only worked at work. How can performance management systems take into account people working outside traditional working hours?
  • Push towards flexible working. The total number of hours worked has also increased for both men and women in the professional classes over the past 30 years.

What are the consequences of a performance management system that isn’t fit for purpose? A Cerus Consulting research paper suggests performance management systems are killing businesses because they seldom stimulate engagement and more often than not destroy it. “Consequently their real impact on organisational performance is minimal”.

According to Future of Work Research Consortium founder, Prof. Lynda Gratton, it’s now time to reshape the performance management system as many of the assumptions it was created on are broken.

Workplace assumptions

  • Performance is observable. Highly skilled work is difficult to observe and because we can’t really measure what people do, we measure how long they do it for. This leads to people under-reporting how long tasks take, presenteeism, a system that favours working long hours, and stressed and sick staff.
  • A normal distribution of performance that classifies most staff as average with minorities of high and low performers. This forces managers to fit staff into categories that might not be accurate for highly skilled work and results in undetected talent.
  • Employees work fulltime. Today’s workplace is experiencing trends of older workers, joint ventures, freelancers (now 1/6 of the workforce), micro-enterprise (90% of businesses in the OECD have less than 10 staff), and increased women working (865 million women will enter the workplace from developing countries in the next decade).

Masterclass participants also heard case studies from Future of Work members on innovations in performance management.

Accenture has remodelled its system from performance management to “performance achievement”. Eight million hours were being spent annually on performance management with 75% of that on rating and documentation. The new system shifts to talking to people rather than about them with a move away from comparison to an emphasis on coaching from line managers to help people identify their strengths. Conversations focus on the future rather than the past and look to outcomes rather than processes.

Both KPMG and Microsoft no longer have forced performance rankings. Salaries, promotions and bonuses at KPMG are reviewed on a case-by-case basis within a conversation rather than directly following rankings. At Microsoft, managers “connect” with staff every 3-4 months to focus on what the individual is doing to drive impact for the company and customers.

At PepsiCo, there are four stages of performance management: align (setting objectives and closing last year), explore (a quality career conversation on the individual’s strengths, career aspirations and support needed), progress (changing and adapting objectives), and reflect (self evaluation). Half of the individual’s objectives are linked to developing the organisation, developing themselves, and developing others.

While these examples are drawn from the private sector, they undoubtedly offer innovative ideas that could be adapted and trialled in the humanitarian and development sectors. As Alex Swarbrick, Senior Consultant at Roffey Park, suggested in a recent CHS Alliance blog: “No longer can we pretend our organisations are like machines, and humans only ‘resources’. Instead we need to be at home with the reality that our organisations are complex dynamic human systems, with their own unpredictability and ambiguity, and create cultures which sustain effectiveness and allow people to flourish.”

About our guest blogger: Emily Tullock is the Communications Officer at the CHS Alliance, a member of the Future of Work Research Consortium. The CHS Alliance improves the effectiveness and impact of assistance to crisis-affected and vulnerable people, by working with humanitarian and development actors on quality, accountability and people management initiatives. The Alliance has a membership of more than 240 organisations headquartered in 55 capitals and operating in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Why knowledge sharing doesn’t happen at work – and what you can do about it

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Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 09.20.00If you work at a company of more than a few hundred employees, the chances are you spend at least some time each day on knowledge-sharing platforms… or at least you are being told you should. The rise of these platforms has been one of the defining corporate endeavours of the last decade. I say endeavour because despite the big investments in this type of technology, we hear endlessly that they have not achieved the collaborative, knowledge-sharing cultures they set out to.

But why? After all, the platforms themselves are usually intuitive and engaging. They’re rolled out to entire divisions and departments with gusto and in some companies they even manage to get the holy grail that is leadership role-modelling.

One of the answers according to our research here at the Future of Work is signalling. Let me explain.

The investments that companies have made in the systems is only part of what is required. Those systems must be just one element of a wider culture of collaboration. One in which people receive frequent and consistent behavioural cues that knowledge-sharing is expected and well received. These cues, or signals, come from the way in which the work environment is structured, both the physical environment and the processes and practices that surround every day behaviour.

Think about it in your organisation: when you walk into your office (let’s be honest, most of us – 87% in fact – still work primarily in an office) what are the cues you receive about how you should behave? Is it ok to be away from your desk or offline without an explanation for a few minutes, perhaps even an hour, so that you can start a conversation with a colleague and share knowledge the old fashioned way? Or, is any time away viewed with suspicion? Do you have the autonomy to build networks outside of your organisation, or with people in other regions? These are basic, but important questions because without the cultural norms encouraging people to share knowledge in-person, day-to-day, companies are unlikely to see those same people eagerly using knowledge-sharing platforms. Why would we expect an entirely different set of behaviours merely because people are online?

So, what’s the key message for organisations that are looking to enhance knowledge-sharing? Create signals – loud and clear – that encourage people to build on the expertise of others and use their skills to contribute the success of teams beyond their own. This requires an analysis of the many signals sent out by performance management approaches, training and development opportunities, and selection processes – what do each of these organisational tools tell people about how they should behave?

It means providing people with space and time to talk, wander, browse – indulge their curiosity for a few minutes a day and spark the conversations that will get them intrigued enough to search for more information, perhaps on a knowledge-sharing platform. Finally, when it comes to the platforms themselves, ensure they too send out clear signals about their purpose and the format in which people should contribute. The success of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is that they are subtly prescriptive about what you should share and how (Twitter’s 140 characters being the obvious example). And avoid at all costs the fragmentation of employees across platforms. This in itself sends a mixed signal as to where people should be spending their time and contributing their expertise.

Knowledge-sharing platforms are a potentially game-changing tool to harness a culture of collaboration. Just don’t expect them to transform people into new ways of working simply by virtue of moving them online.