We get a lot of questions about engaging and retaining talent and in particular, millennial talent. Taking a good look at your performance management process can be a great place to gain some ground with your younger workers. A renewed focus on meaningful and timely feedback can go a long way toward improving your firm’s appeal to this generation. Keep in mind, however, that the desire for impactful feedback does not exclusively belong to a particular generation. All of your employees will benefit from continuous feedback cycles.
Getting started with continuous feedback can be overwhelming, especially since it is often a big departure from more traditional methods of managing performance. That being said, it’s also a very worthwhile investment whether you pair continuous feedback with existing appraisal cycles or switch to an entirely different methodology for managing performance.
Your organization, like many, may use one-to-one sessions informally, but you could be missing the opportunity to realize the results and outcomes typically associated with continuous feedback cycles. Detailed records and notes can help both managers and employees stay accountable to one another and drive even greater goal achievement. The ability to easily recall and refer to previous conversations can make a huge difference to employees and managers in the middle of an appraisal cycle. When you utilize the continuous feedback capabilities in Deltek Talent Management, you will have this information at your fingertips.
Continuous Feedback Records in Brilliant Talent Management allow you to refer to previous discussions.
Managers and employees can both view details and notes from prior sessions.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some best practices to help you take your first big steps forward. An initial focus on training will set your organization up for success by ensuring that both managers and employees understand the short- and long-term purpose of feedback sessions. Since most of the work will happen between individual employees and their managers, it is especially important to create some excitement and buzz around this new methodology.
Here are 5 key points to emphasize when you begin training your workforce to implement Continuous Feedback:
There should be clear reasons why the meetings are being held
Create an agenda and set goals for the meeting
Never meet just for the sake of meeting or to check a box
Keep employees engaged by asking them to drive
Give employees some control over their goals, development, and outcomes
Deltek Talent Management can enable both the preparatory steps and the effective execution of continuous feedback sessions. Managers will be able to schedule and add notes or files with the solution to allow the employee to prepare for the upcoming session.
Sessions can be scheduled, accepted, or declined within the solution. Add notes when the session is created to help both parties prepare for the meeting.
When a session is taking place, start by reviewing the purpose of the meeting, along with prior meeting notes, keys wins and noteworthy challenges since the previous meeting. Spend some time on progress toward development and goals that have been previously established. Part of this discussion may focus on past concerns, issues and lessons learned, but the larger focus should be around how to move forward, and what future goals should be.
Look to new project assignments for opportunities to create future goals that stretch performance to a new level. Also, take the time to understand where the employee wants to go in the organization. Are there ways that current or future projects can help prepare the employee for a new direction or even a new role in the organization? At the end of the session, make sure to review the topics that have been discussed, along with action items, takeaways, and expectations of progress before the next meeting.
Conducting these meetings face-to-face, as much as possible, will help your managers and employees build the solid and trusting relationships necessary to be truly effective during these discussions. And, make sure that you do this for all employees, including those that work remotely. Making use of video conferencing solutions can help you make certain that all employees receive the same treatment regardless of where in the world they work.
Here are an additional 5 tips to share with your managers to help ensure that their sessions are as impactful as possible
Be on the receiving end more than the giving end
Be ready only to steer, like assisting from the front passenger seat, rather than doing everything for the employee
Practice active listening with the intent to understand, not just waiting for your turn to talk
Use the time to build and strengthen relationships
Energize and motivate employees by making sure each session is personalized to the employee – know your employees and make sure they get what they need from the sessions.
At Brilliant HR, we live and breathe Talent Management and the project lifecycle. These two important aspects of the project based business share certain synergies that are often overlooked. We are unique in that we have a targeted focus on solving the challenges that organizations like yours face every day and delivering solutions like Deltek Talent Management that provides the features and functionality to help you deliver even better projects.
So, how do you cultivate the project life cycle by optimizing your use of Brilliant HR/Deltek Talent Management? Not every project is identical, but the basic concepts are consistent and by using that as a starting point, we can begin the discussion. It helps to think of a project that impacts us every day, but does not require a formal work breakdown structure and where, the process and requirements are the same. I’ll use farming as my example.
With farming the cycle is well defined, simple, repeatable, and reliable with a clear goal to produce a harvest of natural, organic goods. If we reduce the process to the most basic steps, you have to prepare the land > then plant your seeds > nurture, fertilize and water your plants > harvest your crop, then repeat the process for a new harvest.
Granted this is a highly simplified description of what goes into the process of growing food, but it gives us a good framework of the project from start to finish. Project planning can be that simple, as long as you have a clear and repeatable defined steps. You have outlined your tasks, considered the risks, created a contingency plan, and have the proper tools to accomplish the desired outcome. .
Now let’s shift that life-cycle model to talent management. Brilliant HR Talent Management is a critical piece in any project because your people are at the very heart of the project life-cycle. Talent Management is where the project begins by identifying, hiring, and cultivating high performance teams and then retaining that top talent for future project positions. Without the right talent solution in place, your project could very easily crash before it even begins.
Similar to the farming example, let’s take a simplified look at what the Talent process looks like when integrated with the project life cycle.
Recruit > Hire & Onboard > Review Performance > Teach or Train > Develop
A Talent Management solution can streamline the process by helping you:
Identify and recruit top talent to build the high performance teams you need to win more projects
Select candidates that best fit the project position(s) based on required skills, competencies and certifications to take the guesswork out of resource planning
Onboard new employees faster and seamlessly transfer their data to your ERP solution without manually duplicating efforts
Ensure employees assigned to projects are up to date on their certifications and provided learning opportunities to hone their skills. This will help you consistently grow the value of your most important asset, while minimizing risk exposure on your projects
Review progress and provide continuous feedback throughout the process on performance and achievements, by using the solution to facilitate discussions and manage goals
These five easy steps can all be accomplished using Brilliant HR Talent Management and that is only the beginning. Once you have the basic framework in place, you’ll be able to implement an even deeper strategy by incorporating in-house learning programs, succession planning, career paths, and mentor-ship programs.
A great talent management strategy is like a road map, but in order to plan, execute, and measure the success of that strategy, you need to have the right solution in place. Think about it. Can you say today that your solution is enabling the success of your talent management strategy? Are you able to find, nurture and retain the best talent to ensure that you’ll be repeatedly awarded the projects your organization needs to continue to grow? At the end of the day, are you able to measure how successful your firm has been in acquiring and retaining the very top talent in the marketplace? If you just shrugged your shoulders, it’s definitely time to start thinking about what an integrated talent management solution could do for your business.
I chose to relate project planning to farming because it is easy to identify with the common theme of cultivation. Doesn’t this sounds like what you do every day? Finding, recruiting, acquiring, developing and cultivating top talent? If you leverage and maximize Brilliant HR Talent Management in this way, you’ll position yourself to deliver more successful projects! It’s often said you reap what you sow – so get to cultivating!
The issue at hand is essentially this…”we aren’t getting it done.” Who makes up this proverbial “we” and what aren’t we getting done? Well, “we” refers to HR and management / leadership, and we are not getting it done when it comes to employees’ needs relevant to development and performance management. Let me restate that. Maybe we are listening, but we are failing to act. I have seen so many credible sources post so much significant data on this topic. Notably, here are just a few statistics that underscore the issue:
A recent Gallup study indicates that only 21% of employees strongly agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.
Gallup also indicates that only 15% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future.
A recent Mercer study indicates that 78% of employees would remain longer with their employer if they saw a career path with their current organization. (Ummm, If? Meaning they don’t see it? Yikes!)
In a Deltek study, we note problematically that 95% of terminations are voluntary. While we know some voluntary turnover can be positive, by and large, we aren’t getting it done. We are hemorrhaging good talent daily.
A joint HR.com/Deltek study informs us that succession & career development planning, employee engagement, retention, performance management and learning are five of the top six issues keeping HR up at night.
…So now that you are tired of the data, what are we going to do about this issue?
Many of the issues we face at work are no different than those in our personal lives. If we aren’t being attentive enough at home, we need to step up and do something about it. In fact, when we know about issues and fail to act, it is viewed even more unfavorably because it becomes an “I/we don’t care” issue rather than just something of which we may not be aware. How does that make people in our personal lives or in our workplaces feel?
One of the most overlooked aspects of employee development (and showing that we are attentive, we care and are paying attention to employees’ needs) starts right in the interview process. Too often, we are either rushing the process just to fill a seat, or are only asking questions that help us determine if someone is a good fit “now”. Many of us are taking time to ask thoughtful interviewing questions regarding things that could really enhance our ability to engage or retain employees. Unfortunately, although we are noting them in interview logs and notes, they are immediately forgotten and not put to use. If we are asking the right questions in the interview, candidates are giving us the answers to the test. What’s the test, you ask? It’s whether or not we can rise to the challenge of putting a great program/strategy in place that is tailored towards meeting the varying needs of our employees, and facilitating their continued growth and development.
If someone is communicating their needs to us in our personal lives, with thought and attention, we can discern what needs to be addressed. We can use communication and interpersonal connection principles that allow us to specifically address the needs. Now, with that said, we need to be honest. We do our best to meet needs; however, we cannot be who we are not, or we will burn significant energy, create resentment, and harm relationships. Let’s apply this to interviews and employment. These needs/desires given in answer format in interviews are hopefully what we can support from a cultural or management perspective in our organizations. We cannot feign these items in order to “fill a seat” or we will end up with turnover, resentment, and a poor reputation in the market. This poor reputation will cause less attraction to our workplace, and drive down engagement and retention.
Career aspirations, short and long-term career development, motivational factors, skill and competency gaps, preferred learning styles and management, as well as cultural desires are key needs that can be uncovered in interviews. Powerful, thoughtful questions on these topics can guide us in our decision making on whether a candidate is both a fit “now” and potentially long-term. As we push through these powerful questions, as noted earlier…we now have the answers to the test. We know who our candidates and new hires are, and what we need to do to successfully foster effective performance management and development processes.
As we onboard these new hires, we have critical pieces of information to assist us in driving effective onboarding development plans. You have valuable information regarding:
Skill and competency gaps for the initial role, and how the employee envisions bridging the gap quickly
Preferred learning style and how they best implement learning and knowledge gains
Preferred frequency, style and methods for receiving feedback
Understanding of what motivates them to succeed and what you can do to incentivize them
Cultural and environmental needs
Much of this same information can be used for long-term development plans for advancement, gap and growth development and ultimate role career-pathing. You know how your employees work best, in what culture, what you can do as a manager to facilitate their development, how they consume and best implement learning, how you can best coach/motivate them, etc. Employees today, by and large, are looking for their roles to be developmental. Gain, grow, move forward (not necessarily up, but onto new challenges). The ability for HR leadership to acknowledge this and have a strategy is critical, and you will find that powerful interviewing will be the key to initiating and igniting the entire process.
Who exactly comprises the “new” workforce? Most likely, your mind went generational, and applied this term in that vein. Perhaps you briefly thought of new employees within your organization. You may have applied the term universally to anyone entering a new career. While this may largely be comprised of the millennials and generation Z, this also applies to those who are entering the workforce at a later stage in life. But what about those of us who adapt and evolve? Those of us who are open to new experiences, challenges, ideas and opportunities? Those of us who are resistant to change, content or happy where we stand? How about just thinking of the “new” workforce as all of us…the “modern workforce”?
When we read studies, observe behaviors, read social media articles, or are just in tune with society, we know that the workforce, and people, have evolved. Unfortunately, no matter how much we read or know, so many of our organizations have just not caught up. If we are approaching this from an HR/business process perspective, let’s use an example that states the following: long gone are the days where employees seek meaningless, exhaustive performance appraisals. That said, feedback…i.e. meaningful, timely feedback is something all generations crave. We seek out feedback both in our personal and professional lives. We desire to know where we stand in our relationships, and we seek specific, relevant feedback than can help us progress, advance our knowledge and position, and solidify and grow our relationships.
In addition to such feedback, autonomy and flexibility are often items we think of with the new workforce, but more importantly, how about versatility? Stability? Financial reward? How about development and opportunity for growth and advancement of skills/our career paths? A recent Forbes article discussed the volume of Generation Z entering the workforce. The article states they are looking for good money, job security, opportunities to advance rapidly, excellent mentoring, the chance to showcase their competitive nature and more. Where I struggle is, are these really qualities of just one or two generations? Although I read more and more that these are characteristics of millennials and generation Z, honestly as a former HR executive, I know these qualities to be important across all employees. This includes generations, different socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. We all have evolved, and while there are differences among us, let’s not be so quick to pin characteristics only on certain groups of people.
As stated, development is also strongly valued. Knowing that, why aren’t most of our organizations meeting this basic employee need? Various studies show anywhere from 60%-80% of companies do not have a formal learning management system that fuels development. A Gallup poll recently showed that only 21% of employees strongly agree that their company’s performance management process motivates them. A recent Business Insider survey shows 71% of millennials are dissatisfied with their development plans and are planning to leave their employer in the near future. Maybe not all of these aforementioned characteristics are important to each of us, but one or more apply to all of us.
Let’s get back to our example about performance appraisals. We know that all generations value specificity and meaningful feedback, yet so many organizations are still mired in long, exhaustive appraisal cycles. We are riddled with a lack of trust, including long approval paths for anything that needs to be moved forward. We are so concerned with measurements (which are very important), but seem satisfied measuring many of the wrong items…items which hold no real business value or are not actionable. Reporting to the CEO that our average accountability score is 4.3 out of 5 is not actionable. Scoring an employee in March on items that happened 14 months ago is not useful. A long workflow that goes through 9 steps and multiple approval stages is not practical in an agile world.
Think of a calendar year, and nod along (or off to sleep) to this scenario. We are supposed to be delivering final appraisal feedback/scoring in December; however, because we have outdated processes that are not relevant, timely, specific or interesting/meaningful, appraisals rarely get completed. Next thing you know, it’s March, and 45% of our appraisals are still not completed. We are almost a full quarter into the new fiscal year, and we still can’t tie a bow on the prior year. Are you really interested in spending time in March on objectives from last year? Of course not. So why aren’t we changing, and why aren’t we giving the new/modern workforce what they want?
Every executive roundtable has discussed its organization’s appetite for change. Do we welcome it? How does our staff handle it? Are we good at developing change management principles and do we communicate and execute well? While these are important discussions, Harvard Business Review tells us that there are some significant reasons we (people) don’t move forward with change. When we know change is coming, we fear we will lose control in areas we may currently have control over. We become uncertain about what’s next for us, and as creatures of habit, we are frightened. We dread more work will come with change, and we are fearful that new processes will shed a negative light on the old ones we developed. As a result, we feel we will lose face and begin to feel incompetent.
I get it, change can be scary and intimidating. Changing a business process, switching software, moving to a new town, leaving an abusive partner, etc. The unknown can intimidate us, and the “what ifs” will paralyze us. But as we deal with HR and business processes, or life in general, I choose to look at it a little differently. We aren’t necessarily “changing”. Many times, we are simply “catching up” or moving through phases that we might have had to endure to get to where we need/want to be. And sometimes, we have to go through long periods without good process, innovation, support, care, positive relationships, etc. to get to a better place in life.
Take something like music for example. Most people have their favorite genre or decade. And when we find that era that we love most, we often look at the prior era and think less of it. Here is your example. The 80’s. For many people who loved 90’s or 2000’s rock, they look at the 80’s and think it was a dumpster fire. But for those of us who didn’t like the 80’s (I am not one…I loved them, because who doesn’t look good in a “Frankie Say Relax” t-shirt?), we need to change our perception to understand how it was a necessary part of the evolutionary journey.
So what does this have to do with HR/business processes? Well, we unfortunately had to go through a long period of ineffective performance management, lack of development, and poor understanding of people in order to get to a much easier, relevant, meaningful way of managing people. We had to evolve our understanding of relevance, and develop trust to craft better process. We needed technology to advance in order to have better collaboration or allow remote work/flexibility. We had to suffer through the 80’s to get to the 2000’s, music fans. My question to you now is, how much longer do we need to keep suffering through the 80’s to get to where you want to be? Are you prolonging the 80’s unnecessarily? I know you love that t-shirt, but it may be time to break it out only on throwback day at the office.
Here we are, 2018. My iPhone recognizes my face, I’m playing Jeopardy on my Echo Show (I promise, I do have actual friends too), and an AI chat bot can fix my internet connection. Many of us though, are still mired in outdated processes and approaches to people (personally and professionally). Fraught with fear of change, we are paralyzed daily by our inability to act. So here is the call to action. Stand up. Embrace modernization of HR/business processes. Ditch the old irrelevant processes… long appraisal cycles, lack of investment in learning and development, lack of trust in approval processes, lack of flexibility and inability to manage by deliverables. Stare fear down, and no longer allow it to own you. I keep mentioning the personal side too. Invest in those around you. Seek feedback on how you can improve. Be vulnerable and open to change so you maintain the relationships you value.
You won’t be seen as incompetent, and you won’t lose face. You will be seen as someone who truly values improvement, and is ready to progress through the 80’s to get to the 2000’s…because you care about those around you. You want to be at your best for your loved ones, your employer, and you want to contribute to continuous improvement by staying relevant and versatile.
Spend some time thinking about what the modern workforce wants. Investigate your processes. Are they truly meeting the needs of this workforce? If not, you will suffer massive retention issues, face incredibly difficult uphill battles with talent acquisition, and be irrelevant as an employer in your industry/market. Do not prolong the 80’s. Do not be afraid to admit it’s time for something new, and please be the one to act on it.
Try a keyword search on “employee retention statistics” or “employee engagement statistics” and find yourself inundated with a ton of data that all basically points to the fact that, guess what, this stuff is important. And, as you read those articles in greater detail, you can always find “tips” on what to do to drive these incredibly important measures. The connection many of us fail to make every day is that our professional lives are in reality very similar to our personal lives. Certainly, professional relationships are different in some ways than our personal relationships and have different boundaries due to employment law (see every article in 2017 related to celebrity or workplace harassment, ahem); however, our approaches to mastering both should be, to no surprise, quite similar.
What are some characteristics of engaging individuals in the workplace? Authenticity? Credibility? Ability to be forthright? Passionate? Charismatic and supportive? Hmm, do these sound like characteristics of people you would also prefer to surround yourself with in your personal life?
So the question we must then ask, and subsequently answer, is why don’t we think of things in these terms more often? Far too often we start with a question like “Who do I want to be as a Manager?” Perhaps the questions we should start with are “Who am I as a person? Or “What characteristics, traits, skills and competencies do I value in life?” We need to start with those qualities we hold/value and seek to surround ourselves with, and build from there.
These qualities or characteristics come in different forms. Some of them are natural to us. Some of them require hard work for us to gain/achieve or are simply not possible to acquire. Additionally, there are skills and competencies we have or must develop in order to perform in our daily lives, both personally and professionally. How do we develop these? How do we keep our focus in life to know where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there? How do we know what can realistically be learned vs. who we just are as individuals? Finally, I know what you’re thinking, “I thought we were talking engagement and retention here?”
So let’s tie it all together. We want to be around engaging people who treat us like we matter and who demonstrate care and compassion. We want to work for an engaging organization that values our input and contributions. We want to work in a position that excites us, allows us to grow our skills and competencies. Simultaneously, we are looking for the same thing in our personal lives/relationships. We seek opportunities to just be authentic because, in those moments, we are comfortable and we flourish. When we find these things…care, compassion, mutual respect, value, growth, excitement, etc., we tend not to let them go. We retain these relationships and environments.
Bringing this into a workplace discussion, we need to facilitate environments where culture and development are a focus. If we can foster the environment where we show care, compassion, mutual respect, value, growth and excitement, we will be engaging most of those who join our organizations, and retaining them for significantly longer periods of time. Keep in mind though, as stated earlier, authenticity is key. We can’t manufacture culture and care. It has to be genuine and it has to be “who we really are and are capable of being”.
So we need to ask ourselves the following questions?
Is our culture largely based on our values that we have defined and hold employees accountable for demonstrating? Does it feel authentic? Do we hire for and foster reinforcement of these values and characteristics?
Is our organization currently prepared for and/or investing in development, specifically doing so to develop the characteristics, skills and competencies employees are desiring?
Are we investing in this so our employees can become more valuable to themselves (i.e. selfless development) and our organization?
Are our employees becoming well-rounded, increasing their engagement, increasing their billable rates, and performing at higher levels?
We can develop out plans for our business that create the framework necessary to achieve our cultural, engagement and retention-based objectives. From a true HR perspective, engaging onboarding programs, career pathing, development plans, and learning plans are staples in your engagement and retention strategy. They are, simply put, “must haves” in order to show your employees you care about their growth and development. Of course, having the technology to back up your efforts can make a huge difference, and Deltek has made a commitment to help our clients become high performing organizations with our solutions. But, at the end of the day, the onus is on an organization’s leadership to build a culture that fosters a happy and healthy workplace.
In short, a plaque on the wall showcasing a company’s values is a nice sentiment, but without the actions to back it up, they are simply words. It matters most what we do, not what we say we do or what we say we want to do/be. No matter the size of the company, every employee should feel valued in their everyday tasks, and understand just how much they matter to the company’s mission and goals. As Dale Carnegie once said, “Throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.” While the “die for it” piece is a bit extreme professionally, if you largely believe in this sentiment, it is no different for your personal life. Let’s work to be authentic and find that balance where we can flourish personally and professionally. As employers, let’s foster that seamless transition from personal life to the workplace through creating a genuine, authentic environment, driving accountability to exemplify that culture. Let’s use technology when we can to help us facilitate that culture and drive growth and development. If we can do just that, your engagement and retention numbers are certain to soar!
Performance reviews are a common topic of discussion with our clients, and there are many options available to assess the performance of your employees: annual reviews, continuous feedback, 360 appraisals, and project-based appraisals are all tools to support your processes. There are also a lot of reasons to complete performance reviews: compliance, growth measurement, and goal progress tracking are some of these reasons.
However, we want to also point out that while there are a lot of good reasons to monitor employee performance and complete performance reviews, there are some reasons that shouldn’t be at the top of your list. If your SOLE reason for completing reviews is in the following list, you might consider if this process is helping or hurting your employee population.
Because HR says we have to
Because isn’t that what most companies do?
Because it’s expected
Because I like to tell people they are falling short of my expectations
If you are curious on how to improve or make the most of your performance review process, reach out to usfor best practices on how to still manage and grow talent if performance reviews are a process you wish to do away with, or modernize.