An engineering firm with 800 consultants wanted to renew their performance appraisal process. The fixed schedule of three interviews a year no longer sufficed. Moreover, they wanted to shift to a talent or strengths focus and give employees themselves a greater role in preparing and carrying out the appraisals. A strategy group was commissioned by the Management Team to work on this and we helped them to draw up a manual. The core of which is conducting a dialogue based on four guiding principles and a basic interview format.
The crucial question then was: how do we help managers and their teams to embrace and apply this new approach without resorting to detailed standardized procedures?
The kick off took place on a management off-site where all team leaders, departmental heads and directors were present. The strategy group members took on an important role. Together with the HR consultants, they formed a pool of 12 process facilitators. With them, we prepared the programme, which aimed to inform and inspire managers for the new way of working.
We asked managers to share examples of "good performance and development conversations" and to reflect on the success factors for such meetings. In doing so, we discovered that many managers already experimented with their own ways of working. And they appreciated sharing those practices and learning from each other. We also offered some theoretical background: what is 'a strength'? And how can people use strengths to improve their performance? This perspective proved to be very appealing to management. By the end of the day, there was a lot of enthusiasm to get to work!
The compact manual gave managers and employees direction as well as a lot of freedom. A second step was to support the managers and teams in practice to use this manual to renew their appraisals. The facilitators again played a crucial role in this. They supported the teams and checked whether more was needed: tools to discover talent, for example? Conversation models? In turn, we as consultants supported the facilitators, behind the scenes.
All teams have adopted the new-style conversations. They each get tailor-made support to link the organization/team results to the strengths of their team members. Enthusiastic managers and employees, an interview format with five topics, four guiding principles and a dozen facilitators: that's all you need to change the appraisal practice throughout the organization.