If you are not already doing it, you may be thinking about changing the performance management process in your organization.
We have been involved in large-scale transformation projects for organizations ranging from 800 to 100,000 employees. Some have involved changing the performance management process in order to reinforce the new culture. We have seen it done well—and not so well.
Here are some important things to keep in mind while transitioning from an old to a new performance management process.
Get a couple of big hitters to sponsor it.
It all flows from the top—senior leaders need to be your biggest sponsors. Get them involved at the design stage. Choose leaders who everyone wants to be, who are mentors and authentic leaders. They need to believe in the process and understand the benefits of a performance management process and not think of it as just another process.
When you have them as partners during the design stage itself, you not only get different perspectives and inputs, but it also becomes easier to ‘sell’ and implement the new process as you have already created strong sponsors for the new system.
Test it first.
Test out your proposed process on three teams: a complex/matrix team, a senior level team, and a front-line team. This can run in parallel to your existing performance management process. Seek feedback from the teams continuously through the test phase and make changes you feel are important, before doing an all-company implementation. This is crucial not only for ironing out any glitches in the system but also in identifying the potential concerns you may have from employees and leaders before doing an all-company implementation.
Communicate, Communicate, and then Communicate some more!
Don’t position it as a process change. Make it about changing the culture. Think of it as a new way of communicating in the organization—communicating about performance. Be very clear about why the change is happening, what the changes are, and who it impacts.
Employees all want to know “what’s in it for me”. So the smallest things need to be communicated too—a change in the cycle, in the rating approval process, the number of times an employee is rated, how he/she is rated, promotion criteria, job transfer criteria, etc.
When implementing, don’t leave any stone unturned. Conduct floor huddles, get leaders to talk about their personal experiences, have employees share their experiences, put it in the newsletter, on the web, have ‘commitment’ badges and posters for the new process, have fliers, computer sign-up pop-ups, role plays—the list can go on! Get people excited about the new process, while keeping the sanctity of the process in place.
Join with business leaders to implement.
Implementation doesn’t need to be done only by HR. We have seen it best when two people implement the training: one, a good team manager from the business, and the other, an HR resource. The employees begin to see the partnership and value of what both bring to the table.
In cases where good managers were trained to train the employees on the new process, we have seen a marked improvement in the receptivity of the new system across the company. An employee will replicate the behavior they see in their leaders. If they see their managers and leaders talking about and believing in the new performance system, employees will replicate that behavior too.
More importantly, if employees start seeing managers having regular and meaningful conversations with them as a result of the new system, it is only the beginning of creating and enhancing a culture of conversations.
Be Patient. Change takes time.
Any change takes time and seeing the results of a new process does too. On a broad level, here is what one can expect:
Year 1: Speaking with the Chief People Officer of a huge NGO, she says “If I were to do one thing differently, it would be to spend more time on implementation and training”. Spend (extra) time on implementing the process and doing it well. If this is done well, that’s 70% of the work done.
Year 2: Employees will be testing the system out for the first time and start seeing process changes. For example, it might be the first year where ratings have started impacting the promotion process. Or the first time when managers have actually started having conversations with them—many times in the year, not just once.
Year 3: Employees start seeing the change clearly; such as seeing the benefit of more conversations, their leaders taking more interest in their careers, and so on. And they start taking personal initiative in the implementation of the process. You slowly start seeing the culture change.
The culture change is slow and steady and begins from the top. If the leaders at the top start taking a keen interest in their employees’ careers, are authentic, and give and receive feedback frequently through regular conversations, the culture change will begin to percolate down.
To hear more about our views on what we think is at the heart of the performance management system, read our Viewpoints here.