There was no easy way to give feedback, and my team wasn’t getting better. I was running a multi-million-dollar I.T. services company, we had more staff than ever, our profit was amazing, and yet – I wasn’t sleeping at night. Patterns and trends told me we weren’t growing anymore, we were maintaining. Clients were starting to raid concerns about the same sorts of issues. We kept making the same fundamental mistakes. Opportunities weren’t being pursued because we didn’t have the expertise to capture it. Projects ran long, delivery suffered. The wheels were about to come off the wagon.
If it sounds like a familiar tale, pull up a virtual chair and let’s talk about Employee reviews. The situation above happened at my old business, we were growing like a weed, hit a plateau, and multiple systemic issues bubbled up. A key thread across all of them was that we didn’t have an effective, repeatable, predictable process around employee review and feedback that delivered for both the organization and the employee. To be clear – not having effective employee reviews didn’t cause sales to stagnate, delivery to become sporadic, projects to run long in terms of cost and timeline, and the company to contract – but it was foundational to allowing us to change the behaviors that did cause those issues.
When I started looking at employee reviews, I was inundated and overwhelmed. There were entire books and classes around the topic, form after form, process after process was out there. I found a few universal truths:
- All the processes didn’t seem to “fit” my company – They were too big, too complicated, too boring, and too hard.
- The review was an island; the processes had a way to conduct a review but didn’t help me understand how to use the review for improvement, discipline, and opportunity and threat analysis.
- I couldn’t get “into” doing them – all the processes were stuffy and uptight, it seemed artificial and like a chore to talk to my team.
- I didn’t know how to get other members of my team to be able to perform reviews in the same way I did. I couldn’t delegate the task away.
After multiple false starts, we found a way to get reviews into the organization that not only gave our employees some data-driven feedback on performance but also let us set collaborative goals for each team member and get the feedback and steering we needed for the organization to help us continue to pivot and optimize.
What we did:
- We defined the key performance indicators (KPIs) for each area / team of the business that drove our company vision and finances to a health state.
- We defined “Why” those metrics helped the organization, the team member themselves, and our clients.
- We assigned the KPIs to Job Roles in our organization. Every KPI has a role that “owns” the number – they are directly responsible for the health and maintenance of that metric.
- We adopted a common way of measuring the metrics – The metrics were assigned a Stoplight health measurement (See more here) so that everyone knew how any area of the company was doing.
- We created an agenda for our meetings with our team members. Every meeting had key items to talk through (Openers, Metric / KPI review, Goal Review, Issue Resolution, Wrap up and final thoughts).
- We established a cadence that fed into the quarterly review session through series of weekly and monthly meetings.
- We created tracking tools and forms that fit the process to make it easy to document.
- We created a second track of meetings to collect feedback and do trend analysis on that feedback to allow management to items of concern from the front line team into the light and allow those concerns to be addressed.
- We specifically walked every team member through each part of the process, so everyone knew what to expect and when to expect it.
These meetings didn’t follow anyone else’s process, not directly. They were OUR meetings, with OUR metrics, and OUR agendas and cadence. We took bits and pieces from many sources and shifted them to fit our culture and organization. Most importantly, by building the process from beginning to end, it became our own way of doing things – it made it easier to adhere to the process because we built the process.
When we combined the process we detailed above with our pay scale, we were able to create paths for the team on how to move from their current financial situation to their ideal situation. When we started pulling items from the employee feedback section into our all staff meeting agendas, we were able to get better alignment with processes, procedures and policies organization wide, as well as identify some key gaps that had not previously been visible. Once the process had been utilized consistently, employees reported communication and understanding of company direction was much improved, and that they knew what was expected of them. We were able to get our team in alignment with company strategy, and able to make the changes organizationally to adjust to the risks and constraints we had identified as holding us back from achieving our organizational goals.
The key “Ah-ha’s” I took from the experience were that consistency was key – We could never skip a part of the process and expect it to work. Everyone in the organization had to understand the process – all of it – for it to be effective. Employees needed to know that if they brought up a concern, it would be heard and addressed. Documentation was key, we needed consistent notes to refer to and utilize to be able to make improvements over time. Lastly, we couldn’t use something “out of a box” – we had to do the work of creating the process ourselves to make it OUR process, nothing else would fit our company culture and skillsets.
If you’re struggling with defining an employee review process, company culture, or an organizational strategy, Richardson & Richardson can help. Check out our case studies for stories of organizations that we’ve assisted with similar issues and download our white papers for deep dives on tools you can use in your organization. If you’re wondering where to start, book a complimentary session with one of the Richardsons today to come up with a plan on how to move forward.
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