It’s not often that you leave a working day full of energy, inspiration, and hope. Well, that’s what happened at our recent One Day Programme in London. We arrived in a room full of dynamic people who want to make change happen in HR. We are so thrilled to be on the journey with them. Every time that we deliver one of our One Day Programmes to such wonderful people, we leave feeling rejuvenated and thankful that we get to work with such incredible people in our industry. So what did we do during our One Day Programme? Read on to find out more! 

Our One Day Programme encompasses various topics from the world of HR. From performance management to retaining talent to leadership development to diversity and inclusion to recruiting the right person and onboarding, we covered so much during our day together. Our aim with the One Day Programme is to train our delegates on how to deliver HR differently – always putting people first and being disruptive in our thinking. We want to help HR professionals build a people strategy with impact, influence and credibility. We want to be insight-led, whilst also people-first in our mindset. We want to treat our people as adults, consumers and human beings. In our programme, we guided our attendees through the latest thinking in HR and how to put these ideas into practice. 

It is with this truly disruptive thinking that our delegates leave our sessions determined to be a force for change in their companies and in the industry. With clear action points such as changing prescriptive policies for principles, using employee persona to help customise what we do, to overhauling our key people processes – it’s clear that there was much food for thought during the session. We find that the HR industry is constantly evolving, and with these sessions, there is always so much for us to listen, learn, and take on board into our job roles. One of our most reflective takeaways from the day was to always start with a curious mindset – whether that be in your professional or personal life.

We are heart-warmed by the popularity of these sessions as well as the feedback that we receive afterwards! It’s great to hear how eye-opening these sessions can be, as well as how motivational and inspirational for delegates. We always strive to make the sessions as personable as possible.

Our favourite feedback from the session –

“I absolutely recommend this programme for HR professionals (of all levels) who value curiosity and agility, and are looking to move the needle on HR’s overall business impact.”

What lovely words – thank you to all our delegates! 

For us, the best part of our One Day Programmes is actually not the day itself. It’s what comes afterwards. All delegates receive a free Disruptive Club membership worth £300. Alongside the training and toolkits, the Club hosts a vibrant chatroom, a forum for the energy, networking and conversations of the One Day Programme to continue.

Join us for our next One Day Programme in London on 6th June 2024. Find out more and book here.

June 6th Delivering HR Differently:  How to make change happen
This workshop is all about how to change HR. How to build a people strategy with impact, how to build influence and credibility and how to make the changes you want to see happen

We hope to see you there!

It’s costly and takes a huge amount of time and over 80% of us don’t believe it helps with our performance or find it motivating. And yet we still do it. Every single year. The annual performance review. In HR we have been told for years that if you want managers to take care of performance, then they have to:

Yet despite us telling managers that this will lead to higher performance and despite us trying numerous wheezes to get them to do it well; like automating it, putting it all on one page or providing a guided distribution of ratings that they have to comply with – we are still left with the awful truth that traditional performance reviews don’t work. They simply don’t drive better performance or higher motivation.

So why doesn’t traditional performance management work? Here, in our view, are the top four reasons:

Annual objectives can’t keep pace with the disrupted world we live in

The idea that a target we set in January will be still relevant by December is risky at best. In addition, the idea that every person’s objectives can be neatly aligned with the senior team’s is just not rational. Objectives that do work tend to be team based and refreshed by the team on a regular basis.

Feedback that is only given in a huge lump once a year is pretty pointless

We wouldn’t do this with our kids would we? Imagine if our child was doing something that deserved our approval or censure … would we make a note of it and raise it with them three months later? Of course not! Feedback that works is given at the time when the behaviour is fresh in the person’s mind. The way we give feedback too is not conducive to changing someone’s performance. We sit people down and give them feedback in an incredibly parental way – which of course immediately puts someone on the defensive. Think about an appraisal that you have had in your life. Think about all of the appraisals you’ve had ….. and the amount of discomfort you felt. This is because your brain is sensing threats – lots of them. You can’t help it. It’s a totally natural response. The Neuro-leadership Institute has shown that the words “I’m going to give you some feedback” has the exact same effect on the brain as a reaction to walking down a dark alley at midnight and hearing someone running up behind you – or the threat of physical pain. This means that all of our brain resources are rushing to avoid or resist the threat. Conversely, the part of our brain that encourages engagement, openness, curiosity and problem solving – all the reactions you want from an employee in an appraisal –  shuts down. The best forms of feedback are through frequent check-ins and ideally owned and driven by the employee themselves.

Performance ratings are ‘bad data

Our ability to rate another human being consistently and objectively is fundamentally flawed – not because we are bad managers – but because we are human. It’s worth checking out the work of Marcus Buckingham on this – he’s got a great 12-minute video on why performance ratings are not reliable data. For example, our ratings tend to be based on what we can remember from the last few weeks – so called ‘recency syndrome’ – rather than a whole year.

Traditional performance management doesn’t improve performance!

But more than anything, the problem with ratings is that they don’t drive better performance! If the conversation is going to result in a grade, we want to show ourselves at our best, to cover up any failings that might downgrade us. But if we want performance improvement, then we need the employee to be open and curious and driving a conversation about how they can improve and what they’ve learned from things that haven’t quite worked. Ratings and grades just get in the way of better performance.

Annual objectives, once a year feedback and a rating. These traditional performance management tools belong to another era. They are based around the fact that we don’t trust managers to manage.  And it’s time for something different; employee-owned discussions, frequent check-ins and absolutely no ratings!

If you’d like to find out how to change your approach to performance management – check out our FREE Complete Guide to Changing Performance Management.

We are seeing a wave of new trends in performance management that take less time, cost less and actually drive up performance – which was kind of why we started this whole thing, right? Oh, and they can be done as easily over Zoom as face to face. This short video talks you through them.

If you want to help your leaders and managers have better conversations to improve performance, then you might want to check out Leader Box – the new app from Disruptive HR that offers leaders and managers really simple tips and conversation starters.

The “no more ratings” argument seems to be winning. Which is fantastic. Those organisations who have moved to ratings-free conversations show no signs of wanting to go back and the numbers following these pioneers are swelling.

But there’s a thorny dilemma that many of us are wrestling with. How do I get rid of ratings and yet still pay out an annual bonus? The argument goes …. “Our annual performance management system is completely useless, but at least it gives us a fair and transparent way of handing out the cash” (I’m paraphrasing). And this causes us grief. We believe we must have a number to demonstrate objectivity and so we hang onto our gradings (and all the other trappings of an annual performance cycle) to enable to us to make these payments.

Let’s just pause to reflect on the absurdity of this angst.

Crazy huh?

So, let’s assume that you’re going for it, you’re going to remove ratings, but you also want to (or have to) hang onto your bonus scheme or performance related pay – what can you do?

You’ve basically got 3 options – and they’re not mutually exclusive.

1. Continuous Assessment

You can opt for a continuous assessment process, akin to the way schools have moved from a one-off test or exam at the end of the year to periodic grading throughout the year. This seems to work well for those organisations that have frequent and regular performance periods and consistent performance data – sales organisations, for example, or that are project based – such as consultancy firms. By assessing regularly, they avoid the need for a grading at the end of the year and can distribute the bonus based on the average performance across the year or at the end of each of the sales/performance periods. For many companies however, this can be seen as even more onerous than the once a year performance assessment, so not for everyone.

2. Contribution Calibration

You can opt for end of year “Contribution Calibration” where line managers come together to agree who deserves what in terms of their bonus. Instead of a traditional calibration bun-fight where managers wrangle over who gets what grade, they discuss how much each individual has contributed and how much bonus they should receive, relative to each other. There are some real upsides to this approach. You get some good quality conversations about your people and provide challenge to those managers who use the bonus as a means of abdicating their development responsibilities. It’s also a useful way of building in conversations about individuals’ relative worth in terms of the market (helpful for fast growing tech companies where pay levels fluctuate rapidly). The sessions can also factor in discussion around alternative ways in which the individual might want to be rewarded such as promotion or stretch opportunities. It can, however, be seen as unfair and lacking transparency by those in receipt of the outcome if quality conversations haven’t taken place throughout the year. (But, to be fair, that’s the same as what we’ve got now!)

3. Line Manager Discretion

You can simply go for line manager discretion and allow managers total freedom as to what they give to their people, within a capped budget or framework. This is the option that most companies who get rid of ratings seem to favour. If you have had regular feedback between the manager and his/her people throughout the year, and the bonus is simply an extension of those discussions and is therefore expected, this approach can work. If you don’t have those conversations, the bonus can seem to be unfair and arbitrary – and can lead to accusations of favouritism and potentially, discrimination. But again, this is pretty much what you risk today and whilst we retain a system that focuses on one major feedback conversation, it’s really tough to get frequent check-ins going to any great effect.

In truth, there is no fool-proof way of getting rid of ratings and keeping individual performance bonuses. But the worst thing we can do is allow our need to administer the distribution of money to dictate our approach to getting the best from our people. The positive impact of removing ratings has got to be a goal worthy of some experimentation on how to distribute your bonus through different means? The companies who are doing it already are not lamenting the days of “Meets Expectations” so why not give it a try?

A final point – the progressive companies are asking a different question. They’ve already moved on from the 1980’s concept of putting people into performance boxes and are questioning whether their bonus schemes are really working for them. Or whether a combination of paying their people well and recognising effort and excellence through timely rewards that are personalised and thoughtful might not be a more compelling alternative. Maybe that feels like too big a leap right now – but worth keeping in mind?