The Key to Effective Performance Measurement Is in Your Brand Culture

July 25, 2017

Advances in technology and the need to keep pace with a constantly changing business landscape are driving a workplace that needs to “move faster, adapt more quickly, learn more rapidly, and embrace dynamic career demands.” Deloitte 2017.

These changes, coupled with a dramatic increase in employees working from non-traditional workplaces, including contract, freelance and “gig economy” workers, have together taxed traditional systems of employee measurement and evaluation.

Change inspires change

A changing workplace requires a shift in the way the workforce is managed, evaluated, and hired. Many of the tools human resource departments used in the past are now inadequate to keep pace with current purposes. The changing workplace is calling for an overhaul of many of the traditional systems and processes organizations use to manage workforce performance. One of the major shake-ups in recent years is the need for a new approach to annual appraisals.

“Over the past few years, a fast-growing number of high-profile companies have been blowing up this annual rite of corporate life, replacing the traditional yearly review with something more frequent, less formal and, they hope — less reviled.” Washington Post 2016

More companies are abandoning annual appraisals, seeing them as onerous and subjective due to a lack of frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees throughout the year to inform an end of year review. Couple that with the desire for on-the-spot-feedback which is more effective and preferred by many employees today, particularly Millennials.

However, these changes have not removed the need for performance measurement. Companies still need to understand the performance and progress of individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole.

The opportunity for brand to play a bigger role in measuring performance

Changes in HR and performance management have created opportunities for a closer examination of how HR and branding can connect.

Traditionally, HR worked alone to create systems that measure the performance of individuals sometimes based on arbitrary team goals set by leadership and managers during annual appraisals. In positive circumstances, these goals might be aligned to the organization’s internal corporate values and defined brand behaviors. However, we’ve found that these internal values often don’t correspond or relate to the external messages being sent to customers by branding and external marketing teams.

A recent survey conducted by Tenet Partners found fewer than 1 in 10 employees strongly agree about the relationship of personal recognition aligned to their company’s brand. 1

This intersection of HR and branding is where a partnership between your HR and branding teams could help to create an internal approach to managing performance that correlates to the external messages being sent to your customers. According to Deloitte’s study,

“A critical goal in PM experimentation is to devise ways to align it more closely with business outcomes. As organizations become more team-centric, PM is also beginning to shift from focusing just on an employee’s individual achievements to evaluating her contribution to a team and the team’s impact on driving overall business goals.” Deloitte 2017.

Individuals and teams need to be centered on a common culture that’s reflected inside and outside of the organization. This way your brand becomes your guiding beacon.

Brand lays the foundation for frequent feedback

In traditional performance appraisals, the manager would give the employee feedback once a year. However, in the new working environment, managers aren’t always around to see the employee perform. Employees need multiple, more frequent feedback for managers to give a fair assessment of their performance against the company goals.

Using your brand to guide performance management is a strong foundation that can be tied to desired business outcomes, but it’s just the beginning. The approach to performance management needs to be based on continuous feedback from employees, their peers, managers, possibly customers, and where appropriate, employees themselves. Receiving regular, brand aligned feedback helps employees fluidly reset personal and professional goals and be rewarded for their contribution to the organization, not merely for doing their job.

Build a multi-layered approach to performance management with your brand at the core

We don’t believe annual appraisals need to be removed altogether. They only need to be grounded in the organization’s brand aligned goals, and be an ongoing process throughout the year. When this occurs, the end-of-year wrap-up conversations can be fairer, more informative, and better aligned to the overarching goals of the individual, department, and the whole company.

Annual appraisals can still feature in a dynamic feedback approach

To work effectively, annual appraisals need to be designed in a way that ensures they have good data to work with. Start by defining specific goals – we believe SMART goals are an effective tool that can align your performance management process with your overarching business goals.

The appraisal needs to measure the “what” as in how well an employee meets personal goals while also measuring “how” those goals are achieved. The “how” are behaviors expected from employees that align with your company’s brand.

Brand behaviors are those that are defined by the needs of your customers, but aligned to the internal culture of your organization. This is the foundation of a company’s Brand Culture. To understand how important Brand Culture can be to an organization, we developed a webinar that delves into how Brand Culture is shaped by a company’s brand values and its impact on an organization.

These brand values can look very similar to traditional organizational values you might see from HR; the distinct difference with “Brand Culture” values is the link between the internal needs of the organization and the external needs of your customers.

Managing the “what” and the “how” with brand aligned data

  • Make regular coaching sessions a priority. Encouragemanagers and employees to have open, candid conversations about how the employee is performing against their set goals and give them the opportunity to adjust goals should the needs of the business, brand or employee change.

  • Give constructive feedback and celebrate organizational behaviors that are aligned with the brand. Positive recognition throughout the year of brand aligned behaviors reinforces what is expected of employees. However, for this to work, all employees need to be educated about your brand and what it means for them in their daily work. Branding can seem abstract to some, so making a brand real for people is vital for inspiring them to live the brand every day.

  • Embrace feedback from all angles. Peer-led feedback during and after projects is particularly important for a holistic perspective of a person’s performance especially if the manager is not present on all of an employee’s projects. Put into practice these mechanisms and processes throughout the year to track how people are performing against their goals. Keep employees up to date with how their overarching business goals are being achieved, along with how their individual efforts impact the larger company goals.

Keep in mind:

  • Not everyone works on site. People may work off-site, such as in factories, on rigs or at home. Make sure your approach makes giving feedback and recognition accessible to everyone – wherever they work. Mobile apps can help manage this task but it is key to give managers and employees easy access to these tools.

  • Technology is not a substitute for face to face! Technology supports face to face conversations and should never be used in place of them. Technology helps us to keep records of conversations, which are vital for tracking development, but talking in person adds nuances to conversations that technology cannot replace.If a person works mostly alone or remotely, find ways to bring them into the mix. Have them get a buddy or a few buddies that can help them to see how their work impacts the wider business and their colleagues. Show them how and why their contribution matters.

  • It’s not one size fits all. Any performance management approach is not a one size fits all solution. Every company has distinct needs.Do what works for your business. New unorthodox approaches may be too big a leap for your company if you’re transitioning from basic annual appraisals. Start with something that will be easy to implement.

Investing in the human element in brand building

As the workforce and workplace change, new tools are being created to meet the needs of HR and performance management. But, are these tools taking your company’s business and brand direction into consideration? Effective performance management needs to align employees to your business goals through your brand.

Reinforce that your people are a vital asset to your business by reiterating the “what” and the “how” and the way in which those aspects differentiate your company. Make sure they fully understand their role in the journey of building your business and keep them fully informed of their progress. That way, each person will be responsible for taking the company in the best direction.

Brand Culture Survey administered to Tenet Partner contacts

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