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How to Set Up Employee Assessments

Employee reviews should benefit both of you. Here’s how to make the most of them.

Entrepreneur

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HowToSetupEmployeeAssesment

The start of a new year is an excellent time to take inventory of your most important business assets. Your employees should be at the top of that list.

Keep in mind that employee assessments should be an ongoing process, not something that happens once a year. An effective year-end assessment involves reading the notes you’ve been making about employees’ performance and attitude throughout the assessment period. (If you haven’t been taking notes this year, it’s well worth considering for next year.)

This annual or semi-annual assessment allows you to provide and receive feedback. It’s also a wonderful chance to summarise your perceptions of an employee’s performance and compare it to the employee’s self-appraisal. And you can share and compare views and plan for the new year.

Performance appraisal or assessment interviews allow you to do the following:

  • Re-cap positive and negative events, interactions, attitudes and productivity during the past evaluation period;
  • Assess individual and team strengths, limitations and obstacles;
  • Identify opportunities for achievement, growth and promotion; and
  • Create measurable and achievable goals for the next six to 12 months.

The best way to recount the past year is to use terms that describe behaviours and actions. This method reduces employee defensiveness, and your language can be more concrete and specific. Simply saying, “You did a good job,” or “You need to improve your productivity,” is not effective.

These comments are too general. What does “improve your productivity actually mean?” Does it encourage the employee to come to work on time? To put forth more effort? How much effort? In what areas and circumstances? With whom? When? And most importantly, how?

On the other hand, statements that are measurable and specific can be worked on more effectively. Here’s an example: “In the coming year, I would like to see you increase your daily productivity by 12%.”

“Ensure that you follow up with your team leader every time you complete a task” is a very specific instruction. The outcome is that both you and the employee will then know exactly how, when, where, with whom and under what circumstances the employee will be successful. The words “improve” and “successful” will now be explicit.

Implementing the appraisal process

Begin by notifying employees that you would like to have a meeting with them to evaluate their work during the previous year. This performance appraisal time will be a mutual sharing of perceptions regarding employee accomplishment. Then give them a copy of the appraisal form you will use so that they can read it, reflect on the past year and complete it prior to the interview. Encourage them to emphasise areas in which they did well and in which they need further growth and development, especially the former.

Additionally, have them consider their goals for the next six to 12 months. These should be “stretch” or “growth” goals – just out of reach of the employee’s current performance to encourage working harder in the same or new areas, but not so far as to cause frustration or failure.

Like the performance appraisal itself, these goals need to be action-oriented, specific and measurable. That way, the employee will know exactly what he and you expect and how success will be defined and determined. By reflecting on the goals and putting them in writing, the employee increases the probability of achieving them.

At the same time that the employee is preparing for the meeting, you’ll also need to map out what you want to accomplish. Conceivably, your views and the employee’s views will differ. That’s OK; that’s what perceptions are all about. The appraisal interview is an excellent opportunity to share perceptions around specific behaviours and translate them into realistic and achievable goals.

To accomplish that, recall specific events, interactions, attitudes and productivity from the past year. It can be very helpful to write them down and put them in the employee’s folder when they occur, as a reminder to yourself for the appraisal. Don’t let that stop you from “catching your employees doing something right” and telling them about it at the time it occurs. In planning for the session, make sure you can balance your comments with examples of behaviours that were both effective and ineffective. This isn’t the time to “beat up” on anyone; nor, however, is this the time to gloss over inadequacies or errors. Remember, your goal is to achieve optimal productivity in a positive environment.

If improvements are necessary, be ready to point them out. However, when need-to-improve statements are made, they should be couched with positive statements to improve the likelihood that the negative statements will be heard, accepted and acted upon. For example, you might say, “I liked the way you handled the irate customer yesterday. That same kind of even temperament and politeness, however, are needed in your actions with the customers all the time.”

Finally, conduct your feedback portion of the interview. Remember, if you start the interview with your perceptions, the employee might feel the need to respond defensively to your statements. Therefore, allow the employee to “go first” to share his views. Then you can comment on similarities and differences in perception, keeping in mind that this interview is about improving attitude, employee and employer satisfaction, and performance in achieving goals.

Before the interview is completed, make sure that both the employee and you know specifically and measurably what went well this past year and what did not. Ensure that you agree on concrete plans to maintain and increase positive performance, while minimising or eradicating negative performance. Both of you need to agree on future behavioural goals to achieve success, along with benchmarks during the coming year to measure accomplishment.

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How to Guides

Performance Measurement Is No Game. Or Is It?

Gamification has become a hot topic in recent years, but what does it actually mean for your business, and how you can use it to drive employee performance?

Grant Field

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project-pig

What Project PIG achieved:

Reduced daily inbound communications from 500 at inception to less than 200, and slashed the dropped call rate from 20% to less than 1%, beating both industry norms and our own stricter deadlines and SLAs (Service Level Agreements).

Further to this, reports give insight into what has happened in a business, but not into what is happening at that very moment. Strategy is necessarily quite fixed, but day-to-day actions require constant adjusting. Real-time measurements are more than reports. They help determine bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and administration-heavy processes, and ensure that feasible growth points are no longer dependent on guesswork.

Someone once told to me that the job of a CEO is like flying a jumbo jet. You have to be able to see the big picture — the mountains, the sky, cloud cover and the terrain below. But you also need to be able to hone in on the finer details — altitude, wind speed, changes in barometric air pressure to avoid colliding with the jagged peaks ahead.

Being the son of a businessman, I was fortunate enough to learn the importance of measuring these finer details at a young age. As early as grade one my father encouraged me to be entrepreneurial, and I started my first business at the ripe old age of six. It was a sticker business whose main customers were my fellow grade ones.

With a father trained as an accountant I wasn’t going to get away with simply stashing my profits into my piggy bank. From day one he had me draw up a ledger to record my sales, cost of sales, profits, losses and inventory. Each night before bedtime I would record the day’s proceeds, comparing them to the previous day’s sales. At the end of the week I could see how I had done relative to previous weeks.

More importantly I could see which stickers sold well and which didn’t, enabling me to adjust my inventory accordingly. Although my bookkeeping and data analysis skills were rudimentary back then, the exercise showed me the importance of measuring performance and maintaining records for future analysis. (I didn’t know it at the time but years later I would read Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler espousing this very philosophy.)

Related: Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Rooted in IT

Fast forward, and I was once again running my own business, this time a software sales and distribution company that I’d launched even before completing my studies in engineering. I also held down a full-time computer science teaching post for the duration of my degree. Shortly after graduation I was asked by my father to assess the IT system of the family business, Fedgroup — an independently owned and run financial services company. Having just completed a number of years studying engineering and teaching computer science, where I’d been steeped in tech culture, it wasn’t long before I realised the company’s systems were woefully behind the times. I quickly set about overhauling the entire IT infrastructure and what started out as a short-term consulting gig quickly morphed into something more substantial, culminating in me being appointed head of operations in 2005.

The main task I set myself was replacing the antiquated, and largely outsourced, IT system with our own custom-built solution. Working 16-hour days with people from virtually every department, ranging from IT and operations to HR, gave me a fantastic insight into which areas of the business were performing and which areas weren’t. Years later we had achieved the Holy Grail — a bespoke, in-house IT platform that ran and monitored every aspect of the business from logging calls to managing pay-outs to members.

I was pleased by what we’d achieved but it wasn’t long before the old measurement bug started biting again. In 2015 I was appointed CEO and despite having built a comprehensive IT platform on which to run the business, I suddenly felt blind.

Fedgroup operates within a landscape that is changing at an ever-increasing rate, one where today’s assumptions may not hold tomorrow. As such, while our system had excellent functionality, it wasn’t all that good at generating management reports and giving insight into what was really happening in the business. Having gone from being effectively embedded in individual teams, where I had an on-the-ground perspective of everyday happenings, I was suddenly catapulted into a top-down oversight role where I had only a bird’s eye view of the entire organisation. In this role, I was expected to guide and formulate strategy, and yet found myself blind to the reality of what was happening on the ground.

Further to this, reports give insight into what has happened in a business, but not into what is happening at that very moment. Strategy is necessarily quite fixed, but day-to-day actions require constant adjusting. Real-time measurements are more than reports. They help determine bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and administration-heavy processes, and ensure that feasible growth points are no longer dependent on guesswork. For the business to survive and grow, I needed to get a better idea of what our individual teams were doing in the trenches each day.

Related: Keep Employee Performance Reviews Short and Frequent

A PIG to the rescue

Enter Project PIG, or more formally: Predictability, Involvement and Growth. This project culminated in us introducing real-time diagnostics and measurement tools into our IT system, to give us a better idea of whether staff members were meeting internal targets or not.

Being a company that is somewhat averse to traditional corporate culture, we wanted to avoid a cut-and-paste KPI (key performance indicator) approach. With a bit of lateral thinking we used a bespoke IT solution to integrate our measurement tools to a specially-branded vending machine, which was painted pink and ‘dressed up’ as a pig. The whole idea behind the pig is that when internal targets are met, the pig glows a healthy pink and dispenses free snacks to staff. However, when targets aren’t met the pink turns to blue and the pig shuts down.

Highly visible screens throughout the office show teams how close they are to meeting goals, thereby incentivising staff to work towards a common purpose. In addition, management has near-real-time access to deep-dive reports. Project PIG also introduced an element of internal competition between departmental teams, which resulted has in them informally challenging each other to see who can get the pig glowing pink first.

Although there’s an element of fun in this approach, it does have real, measurable outcomes. For example, we reduced daily inbound communications from 500 at inception to less than 200, and slashed the dropped call rate from 20% to less than 1%, beating both industry norms and our own stricter deadlines and SLAs (Service Level Agreements).

The advantages of these improvements cannot be underestimated. Reduced communication reduces staffing requirements and is a result of better client servicing. Happy clients result in a saving to the bottom line.

The two most important lessons from Project PIG are that precise measurements are critical to success, and that setting a common goal and enthusing staff to aim at it collectively, enables critical metrics to move in the desired direction.

Gamification has resulted in a reduction in time for completing Group Risk Benefit quotes from seven days to under four hours — something I would not have believed possible before we’d embarked on these initiatives.


Project pig

(Predictability, Involvement, and Growth)

When internal targets are met, the pig glows a healthy pink and dispenses free snacks to staff. However, when targets aren’t met the pink turns to blue and the pig shuts down.


Building up

The success of Project PIG got me thinking about how else we could utilise technology to incentivise performance. Given the success of our irreverent approach to performance management I wanted to introduce even more fun, and an enjoyable way to both track and encourage performance.

I decided to invite a group of game developers to our office for a brainstorming session. The result was our very own Fedgroup game, Fedtropolis, complete with its own storyline and avatars for each company employee. Even my father has a role in the game as the Fedgroup Wizard!

The goal of the game is for teams to work together towards a common purpose, earning Fedgroup coins as they achieve milestones. These coins then contribute towards departmental or team bonus pools, which are shared at the end of the year.

Not only does this encourage teamwork but it also allows teams to self-correct without managers having to intervene. If one team member slacks off, other team members are able to encourage them to keep working towards the team’s goal. And, although all goals are work-related, achieving them is great fun, so while every job is bound to have aspects that could be viewed as ‘The Grudge’, by linking numerous elements to the game, we’ve reduced that dramatically.

This serves two important purposes — it creates a powerful dynamic within teams, promoting not only teamwork, but personal responsibility and deep pride in a job well done; and allows managers to move from ‘policing’, to innovation, being proactive, and earning deeper job satisfaction. Needless to say, not only are business results greatly improved, but our staff members are happier and feel more valued.

In time, the game complexity and rewards will grow, and we roll-out new functionality every Thursday.

We worked hand in hand with our game development team to build a game that, when finished, would allow us full management of the metrics. We gave developers an overview of what was required, then drew strongly on their expertise for suggestions on how to proceed. Although the game introduces a sense of fun, all tasks are work-related and aimed at supporting the business, such as the appearance of a phone monster if the dropped call rate increases. It is also flexible enough to allow for new elements to be introduced as new KPIs are identified.

Related: How to Use Performance Metrics to Measure Company Results

The results of both Project PIG and Fedtropolis can already be seen in the marked improvement in several key areas of our business. Probably the biggest success has been the reduction in time for completing Group Risk Benefit quotes from seven days to under four hours — something I would not have believed possible before we’d embarked on these initiatives.

Other hard and fast results include a 51% improvement in call waiting periods, an email query resolution improvement of 26% and a reduction in quarterly staff turnover from 18,9% to 7,6%.

These results have been a contributor to our two Diamond Arrow awards at this year’s PMR.africa Awards. Since these awards cannot be entered into, but are based on feedback from industry specialists, it proves that our commitment to constantly improve the quality of our service is bearing fruit. Even if you are fully committed to constant improvement, blind spots can occur, and one should always keep an ear open to critical, objective voices to prevent losing touch with the market.

A key part of both the PIG and Fedtropolis is that they are not based on fixed KPIs or performance indicators that are decided on at the start of the year and then set in stone until an employee’s annual review. Employees are encouraged to provide feedback monthly so that we can assess what is working and what isn’t. Goals are then tweaked accordingly.

As mentioned, the financial services landscape is in constant flux. As a business, once your ethos and reason for being are cemented, you need to use this basis to move quickly when required — from board-level decisions right down to how individual staff members are being managed. Our new system allows for this — we can quickly analyse if a product, system, or process is not performing as predicted, and get it back on course. Similarly, with frequent feedback from staff, we can improve how we engage with them, manage them and incentivise them. This is a win-win for all involved.

While implementations such as these are not free, the results have more than justified the expense, with early ROI indicators exceeding our optimistic expectations — not to mention the less tangible results, such as comradery and job satisfaction. Our management team considered the following:

  • The business’s longevity was not up for debate, and this would require investment
  • Our staff is a remarkable group of individuals and is the bedrock of the business. We wanted to support and grow staff members as individuals
  • How could our investment ensure longevity, whilst building an engaged, inspired and fulfilled staff?

While both these initiatives have reaffirmed just how important performance measurement is to business outcomes, they’ve also shown that the exercise doesn’t have to be a grim-faced, bureaucratic ordeal. It can also be a team-driven, collaborative, and fun process.

It creates a powerful dynamic within teams, promoting not only teamwork, but personal responsibility and deep pride in a job well done; and allows managers to move from ‘policing’, to innovation, being proactive, and earning deeper job satisfaction.

Ask yourself these questions within your own business

  • Do you have a strong handle on which areas of the business are performing and which areas aren’t?
  • Do you have real-time access to this information, rather than waiting for monthly or quarterly reports?
  • Do you have the ability to measure how changes in process or methodology are impacting results?
  • At scale, can your business get the most out of your staff’s strengths, and work with their weaknesses?
  • At a granular level, are you aware of how your business’s direction is being influenced, and can all factors be recalibrated to move you in the right direction?

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3 Companies That Do Culture Right and What You Can Learn From Them (Infographic)

Looking to improve your company culture? Google, Pixar and Patagonia have found formulas that work.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

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In-office meditation rooms, rock walls and nap pods are all cool, but there’s so much more to creating a winning company culture than providing gravy perks like these.

To us, company culture is more of a positive collective state of mind, a shared organisational outlook that brings out the best in your employees, reinforces your mission and rocks your common goals. It’s also the attitude, personality and heart and soul of a business. It values people over product.

Related: 5 Inexpensive Ways to Create a Company Culture Like Google’s

If your company culture is a soul-sucking drag – or, worse, outright toxic – chances are it’s not too late to turn it around, especially if you’re in a position to catalyse change. Even if only in your corner of cubicle land.

One of the first steps you can take is to examine the top notch cultures of some of today’s most successful companies. And, when you’re feeling brave, gently nudge the powers that be at your business to explore and hopefully emulate them, too.

Take Pixar, for example. The phenomenally successful digital animation studio is built upon a culture of exceptional creativity, innovation and imagination, but its secret sauce really lies in truly, deeply caring for employees and their well being, something it didn’t always do.

In his book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Random House, 2014), Pixar president Ed Catmull describes a terrifying crisis that forever altered the company’s once notoriously workaholic corporate culture.

When the company was hustling to complete Toy Story 2 on time, an overtired employee forgot his child inside of a sweltering car instead of bringing him to daycare (the infant fell unconscious but later recovered). It was a wake-up call. From that point on, Catmull dedicated himself to encouraging a company culture that puts employee health and happiness first, movie deadlines second.

For more on how Pixar  – and Google and Patagonia – foster company cultures that embrace balance, fun and freedom, all while still pushing productivity, check out the infographic from HumanResourcesMBA.net below. We won’t tell if you print it and put it up in the staff nap room.

Creating a corporate culture

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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(Infographic)This Is How Millennials View Work

It’s no secret that “millennial” is a somewhat loaded term that comes with a fair amount of contradictory baggage.

Nina Zipkin

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Millenials

For every think piece that characterises that cohort (those born starting in 1981) as progressive, optimistic and innovative, there is one that describes them as sheltered, entitled and underemployed.

With millennials on track to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, a recent study by Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., explores the millennial approach to work. The study polled more than 1,000 U.S. individuals aged 18 to 34.

Related: Hello to You: The Millennial Women in the Workforce

While millennials are known to always be glued to their phones and devices, 51 percent surveyed prefer to talk with their co-workers face to face. (Only 19 percent said they like e-mail best and 14 percent prefer texting.) And they’re even willing to put restrictions on their social media time: 66 percent believe that employers should limit time spent on social media sites in order to get more done during the day.

They’re also more loyal than they’re given credit for. Eighty percent believe they will stay with four or fewer companies over the course of their career. Sixteen percent expect to stay with their current job for the rest of their working life.

For more about millennials’ opinions of employee loyalty and long-term goals, as well as the importance of health care and working for an ethical company, check out the infographic below and Bentley University’s study.

millennialsinfographic

 Related: How do I encourage my employees to adopt lifelong learning?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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