My Good News and a Pause for HHHR

AdobeStock_75926072It’s been a month since my last post and I indicated on my podcast that week that I had some exciting news to share. I meant to post and podcast about this news much earlier but was simply unable to find the time because of the news.

Things have been a whirlwind since that week!  I accepted a job with Merrill Gardens and their sister company Pillar Properties in Seattle as their HR Director where I will be in charge of the HR function for both companies.  It’s something I’m very excited about as the HR department services both company’s 2000+ employees in seven states.

Since that week in February, I had a lot of work wrapping things up with several of my clients in Denver that I would no longer be able to continue working with due to my leaving the Denver area. In addition, I had to pack a few things and get up to Seattle to find a place for my wife and I to live until we find a place to buy.  I also got stuck in Casper, WY for a few days due to the winter storm that passed through the western states mid month. Not a big deal because I grew up there and we stayed with my in-laws but it delayed my house-hunting plans by a few days!

I eventually made it to Seattle and was able to find a place and as a bonus, am temporarily staying with my daughter and her family and am spending some wonderful quality time with my granddaughter!

So, I’ve had a lot going on the past month and it will be a while before I start posting and podcasting again because I need to devote my full attention on my new job and getting acclimated to the company and all I need to learn and accomplish.

There won’t be a podcast this week since my podcasting equipment is packed up and in storage.

Once I get to a certain place at my new job, I expect to start posting and podcasting again on a monthly schedule.  I love blogging and podcasting but I need to focus 100% on my new job and company!

 

Introducing the Steps on How to Develop an HR Strategic Plan

AdobeStock_103199139The HR function in any organization has a great opportunity to connect to and add measurable value to the bottom line of the business. Developing an HR Strategic Plan is a difficult and complex undertaking but one that will be well worth the effort in establishing HR as an important and valuable function of the organization.

Since the ability of an organization to establish and maintain a competitive edge depends almost entirely on the quality of their workforce and the people management processes, being able to develop an effective HR Strategic Plan is crucial to the financial success of the organization.

There are six steps involved in developing an HR Strategic Plan that I’m listing below and will review much more in-depth in the following several weeks/months.

The six steps are:

  1. Determine and communicate a Vision, Mission Statement, and Value Statement for the HR function. These three things will assist the HR function in identifying and distinguishing itself to the organization’s leadership and employees.
  2. Conduct an external and internal environmental scan of the organization in order to identify opportunities and threats that might affect the organization in the future. Understanding how these opportunities and threats might affect the organization in the future is critical to creating an effective strategic plan.
  3. Establish and align HR strategies and goals in order to provide the direction that will guide the organization towards achieving its long term objectives.
  4. Develop action plans and assign accountabilities designed towards moving the planning process from the long term to the shorter term goals necessary to achieve the strategic goals.
  5. Execute the plan and monitor its progress in order to ensure that the plan stays on track. HR is responsible for developing, communicating and supporting the HR strategy implementation with the responsibility of actually implementing it residing with the line managers. Changes may be necessary with shifts in the business environment.
  6. Evaluate the plan’s results by measuring the success of the HR initiatives and identify things that worked or didn’t work. The evaluation establishes the foundation for additional HR strategic and business plans.

An organization’s HR strategy should never be separate from its overall business strategy. It should always be an integral part of all the organization’s strategies that require people to implement them, obviously. It requires HR’s thorough understanding of the organization’s business. With that understanding, HR programs and practices can be identified that will help the organization successfully execute its strategy.

The HR strategy must be externally aligned with the business plan in addition to being internally aligned for the HR programs and practices to support and complement one another. And in order for any HR strategy to be successful, HR must build relationships with, and gain the support of, the line managers who will ultimately be responsible for carrying out the HR practices and ensuring the success of the HR strategy.

That’s this week’s brief introduction of the steps on how to develop an HR strategic plan. In the coming weeks, I am excited to explore each of these steps much more in depth.

Speaking the Language of Business for Strategic HR Professionals

AdobeStock_101865782This week I’m returning to discussing strategic HR and am going to define some important business terminology Strategic HR Professionals must know in order to be taken seriously by their organization’s leadership.

This is not a comprehensive list but simply some basic business terms that relate to developing an effective HR strategic plan.

The first term is Business Strategy.  Business strategy as defined by Michael Watkins of the Harvard Business Review is the following:

A business strategy is a set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making. A strategy is therefore about how people throughout the organization should make decisions and allocate resources in order accomplish key objectives. A good strategy provides a clear roadmap, consisting of a set of guiding principles or rules, that defines the actions people in the business should take (and not take) and the things they should prioritize (and not prioritize) to achieve desired goals.

The definition implies that a business strategy can be looked at from the perspective of creating shareholder value, competitive market position, and creating a strategic advantage within the constantly changing business environment.  

This constantly changing business environment is influenced by things such as national and local politics, regulatory agencies, the economy, customers, suppliers, competitors, technology, economic trends and current and potential markets.

The second term is Strategic Intent. The business strategy, described above, is built upon the strategic intent and is defined by the website Simply Strategic Planning as the following:

Strategic intent is a statement of the course that the management of an organization plans to take the enterprise in the future. As many people as possible should understand these intentions. Then everyone can work consistently to achieve the corporate purpose.

Statements of intent aim to be more explicit than the usual directional statements. Most mission and vision statements point the way forward only in general terms. Sharp statements of intent can provide more clarity about what to do in the near future to achieve the vision and/or mission. Such statements convey the flavor of the strategic decisions taken through the planning process

In order to determine an organization’s strategic intent, the following questions must be answered: who we are and what we are trying to accomplish, what business are we in, what is our mission, what is our vision, what are our core values, how do we compete, and how do we add value to the marketplace.

The third term is Strategic Focus. A good description of strategic focus comes from Ann Latham at Forbes where she writes the following:

A good strategic framework provides focus by limiting the number of directions the organization runs. You’d be foolish to try to extend all your products while simultaneously expanding all your markets while also ramping up capacity or shifting your business model to include new types of production, sourcing, sales, delivery, and partnerships. This isn’t just an issue of capacity. It is also an issue of risk, learning, complexity, and credibility.

A great way to identify an organization’s strategic focus is to take a close look to the classic Generic Strategies by Michael Porter where he identified three strategies that address the question of how value is added by an organization.

These three approaches are cost leadership, differentiation, and focus as described in this article by the Institute for Manufacturing:

Cost Leadership

In cost leadership, a firm sets out to become the low cost producer in its industry. The sources of cost advantage are varied and depend on the structure of the industry. They may include the pursuit of economies of scale, proprietary technology, preferential access to raw materials and other factors. A low cost producer must find and exploit all sources of cost advantage. if a firm can achieve and sustain overall cost leadership, then it will be an above average performer in its industry, provided it can command prices at or near the industry average.

Differentiation
In a differentiation strategy a firm seeks to be unique in its industry along some dimensions that are widely valued by buyers. It selects one or more attributes that many buyers in an industry perceive as important, and uniquely positions itself to meet those needs. It is rewarded for its uniqueness with a premium price.

Focus
The generic strategy of focus rests on the choice of a narrow competitive scope within an industry. The focuser selects a segment or group of segments in the industry and tailors its strategy to serving them to the exclusion of others.

The focus strategy has two variants.

(a) In cost focus a firm seeks a cost advantage in its target segment, while in (b) differentiation focus a firm seeks differentiation in its target segment. Both variants of the focus strategy rest on differences between a focuser’s target segment and other segments in the industry. The target segments must either have buyers with unusual needs or else the production and delivery system that best serves the target segment must differ from that of other industry segments. Cost focus exploits differences in cost behaviour in some segments, while differentiation focus exploits the special needs of buyers in certain segments

In order for an organization to be successful and grow, it must have a business strategy that excels in all three of these strategies, not just one or two.  All of the organization’s operating and management systems, which include HR, must support all three of these approaches.

Bottom line, for an HR pro to be seen as an effective business partner, they must fully understand such important basic business elements such as the operations of the organization, its sales/revenue LY and YTD, its profit margin, how those margins compare with competitors and industry, its cash flow, its growth rate, the metrics leadership tracks, and the top initiatives of each of the members of the leadership team.

Jeeps, Tires, and an HR Foundation

I’m taking a break from my series on strategic HR and pushing out a post about a recent purchase I made that ended up inspiring me to write a post that equates to HR.

This morning I had to buy new tires for my Jeep Wrangler – my dream car and one I was finally able to buy (with my wife’s consent, of course!) after pining for one since High School. I’m not an off-roader but have always loved the look of the CJ-5 and CJ-7 and then the Wrangler through all its iterations.

I also had to buy new tires for my wife’s car a couple weeks ago so it’s been an expensive couple of weeks but one I’m OK with it now that winter is here. I’m OK with spending money on important safety and foundational things.

As I was driving from Les Schwab Tires to Starbucks this morning, I noticed how much better the ride was compared to my old tires. I hadn’t noticed my old tires were worn down to the point where I needed new ones until it had snowed a little the other evening and I was slipping around more than usual. This being the rig I’d always wanted, I take very good care of it, religiously washing, getting my oil changed, and rotating my tires every 5,000 miles.  I was hoping I could squeeze out another winter on my old tires

And by just looking at them, they looked fine, the treads were all evenly worn and there were no bald spots (something I used to use as a guide when I was much younger and poorer!) But having slipped around more than usual the night before, I did the “penny test” and discovered that it was time to get new tires.

As I said earlier, I immediately noticed how much better the ride was compared to my old tires. My wife also commented how much nicer her ride was after getting her new tires. Of course, we always notice this whenever we get new tires because it’s a drastic change going from worn out to new tires. We never notice our new tires being slowly worn down because it happens over a long period of time. 

Now that I can afford it, I always buy the highest quality tires I can. I do this because the tires on my vehicles are the foundation of the car. They are the only piece of equipment that has contact with the ground.  Whether the surface is smooth dry pavement, a rough dirt road, a wet surface, or a snowy icy road.

The tires we have on our vehicle are what allows us to safely, or unsafely, navigate the different road conditions to get where we need to go.  If we have poor quality or worn out tires, we can usually survive for a while on the dry smooth roads but they may eventually blow out and leave us stranded. Ultimately, we will have trouble on the other types of road conditions. Its very important to have a solid and safe foundation.

So yes, I’m equating the quality of the tires on my Jeep to building and maintaining a solid HR foundation. Is that a stretch? Maybe, but let me tell you why and explore further as I equate the parts of my Jeep to the functions of an organization. All are equally important.   

So let’s break it down like this:

  1. The financing of the loan for my Jeep is the Finance organization. (Boom. Easy)
  2. The engine and drive train are the Operations organization. This function is what actually propels the Jeep and organization forward and makes everything in the Jeep and organization run. Like the tires, this function has to be regularly  well maintained.
  3. The body of the Jeep is the Marketing organization. This is what things look like to the outside observers and potential employees.  Just as my Jeep looks so darn cool, Marketing is responsible for making the organization look appealing to their customers.    
  4. The driver is the Leadership of the organization. Of course, like the driver of the Jeep, leadership is responsible for steering the organization to where, and at what speed, it needs to go and essentially sets the tone of everything that happens in the organization.
  5. The passengers are the Employees of the organization. The employees are not always just passive passengers but can assist Leadership with the direction they are going and can help drive and offer advice on where to go and how to get there.
  6. The tires are HR.  As are the tires, HR is not the most exciting part of an organization but the function that should always be in constant contact with the culture of the of the organization just as the tires are always in constant contact with the road. Good tires and good HR help the Jeeper and Organization safely navigate through difficult terrain/culture and weather/business environment conditions.  

The next two items are things that a Jeeper and organization have much less control over.  

  1. The climate and weather is the business environment the organization is in.  Jeepers have no control over the weather and Leadership has no control over the business environment. On any given day the weather/business environment can be clear and sunny, overcast, windy, gloomy, stormy – you get the picture.
  2. The road is the organization’s culture. Similar to an organization’s culture, the roads we drive can be smooth and dry, rough and rocky, slick and icy, and even flooded and impassable. Sometimes we even go off-road to experience something new and unusual.

And when we are talking about these last two items, where we have little to no control, it depends mostly on the skill of the driver/Leadership, the health of the engine/Operations, and quality of the tires/HR foundation that you have on your Jeep/organization that determines how well an organization navigates through challenging conditions as they reach their ultimate destination.

Since this is an HR blog and podcast I’ll close with this.  When the organization invests in a high quality HR organization and takes good care of it, just like me investing in and taking care of the high quality tires on my Jeep, the organization will be able to effectively and safely travel to it’s desired destination, weather all the storms, and navigate the different and often dangerous road conditions along the way.

Effectively Dealing with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – Do the Blocking and Tackling

Since sexual harassment is currently such a big issue these days, I’m going to talk about the tools I’ve effectively developed and used over the years.  I’m writing this in November of 2017 and you can’t watch TV, listen to the radio, or read anything online without learning about some high profile politician, media personality, or famous celebrity being accused of some form of sexual harassment.

What frustrates me is how it has become such a “popular” thing to expose all of a sudden.  If we are being honest with ourselves, we all already knew this kind of behavior has been going on for years but nobody ever did anything about it.  At the highest level possible, we had a two term President in the 90’s who we all knew engaged in it.  And we now have a current President who was recorded bragging about it before winning the election. We also all knew about the infamous “casting couch” in Hollywood which has been around since the 1920s and probably even earlier. 

I’m frustrated that our society tolerated it for so long.

It’s about time that women are finally feeling comfortable about coming forward with their stories of harassment. There is no place for sexual harassment in our workplace and private lives. Never has been and never will be.

While all of the stories, so far, have been from women, and I fully recognize that most of the victims are going to be women,  I’m waiting to hear some men start coming forward telling their stories of how they were harassed – it happens to all genders, in every industry, in every socioeconomic status, etc.

In fact, two of my three biggest sexual harassment investigations were with women as the instigators.  So I know it’s only a matter of time before we hear about a woman politician, media personality, or celebrity harassing a subordinate. Let’s not forget how many female teachers, a female dominated profession, are being caught having sex with their male underage students. So it cuts both ways. Both men and women can be deviant creeps.

So how do we stop sexual harassment?  I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how the old traditional ways of dealing with it – an up-to-date policy, training, and investigate quickly and fairly to all complaints – no longer work.  That we must do something different to put an end to it, things like promoting more women and  implementing predictive analytics!

There is no easy solution and, sadly, no matter what we do, sexual harassment will never end.  It is, unfortunately, part of human nature.  Harassment, sexual and other types, have been around since the beginning of time and will be around until the end of time.

The only way to deal with it from an HR standpoint, in my opinion and experience, is to effectively and consistently do the basic blocking and tackling of having a strong and updated policy, conduct training annually and during onboarding, and conducting quick and fair investigations.  

I’ve had a lot of experience handling sexual harassment complaints and investigations.  And I can say that by effectively executing the basics I listed above is the best way of slowing it down and keeping it under control.  It creates a culture that clearly demonstrates that sexual harassment is not tolerated in the workplace and will be quickly addressed.

I have three steps of a Harassment Policy process that I find work best.

First, during onboarding,while reviewing the employee handbook, I stress that there is no tolerance of sexual or any other type of harassment  in our workplace.

When setting up the employee handbook, I make sure the policy is the first one listed so as to emphasize it’s importance. I also make sure I review it, along with our legal council and/or an employment lawyer, at least once every two years (I would do it right now regardless of when it was done earlier because of the current high profile cases in the media) to ensure it’s up to date. It’s also good to make sure the policy is written in plain english, not in legal handbookese that nobody understands.

Make sure each employee’s signee Acknowledgement of Receipt is in their file so there’s evidence that you reviewed the important policies with them.

Second, later in the onboarding schedule, I have a Harassment Training  session.  I will conduct either a live presentation or show them a video depending on the size of the onboarding class. I have two compliance trainings during onboarding, Harassment Prevention and Drug and Alcohol Prevention, and this again emphasizes the importance of our policy by putting such a primary focus on it during their onboarding.

I also have two mandatory annual all-hands Harassment Prevention training sessions, one for the general employee population and one for the supervisors and managers. I require managers and supervisors to attend the general employee population session so they are seen by all employees to be part of and fully supportive of the process. This also emphasizes to the managers the importance of the policy.

Each of these training sessions has a quiz that I require each employee to take and turn in after we review the answers. This gives you a document for their file that they’ve attended the training session and interacted by taking the quiz. Also make sure the employees sign an attendance sheet and file those sheets with your training materials.

Third and finally, when a complaint is received, I immediately jump into action and start an investigation. I once drove five hours from my office in Denver, CO to a remote location in central Wyoming the same day I received a complaint and immediately started the investigation. I stayed there for two days to interview people, have discussions with management, decide on proper corrective action, communicate our conclusion to affected employees, and conclude the investigation.

I then write up a final report documenting the process of my investigation, who I spoke to and what was said, my conversations with management, and the results of the final decision and corrective action taken.  This document goes into the accused’s file and I like to have a copy in a separate investigation file with other investigations I conducted.  

As you can see, I will always drop what I’m doing and immediately start an investigation when I get a harassment complaint because harassment is the most toxic workplace situation. It creates all sorts of serious legal, morale, productivity, ethical, safety, and many other similar problems. Problems that I can head off if I address the complaint immediately.

While it’s important to keep the investigation as confidential as possible while on site, we all know that the grapevine will communicate why you’re there and what you are doing.  Employees will see the corrective action and understand why.

This final step of a quick and fair investigation followed by the appropriate corrective action, if warranted, sends the strongest message possible to employees that harassment is not tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly. And it only really takes one or two instances to send a clear message and make a positive impact on the culture.

Now, remember, these steps will not completely eliminate harassment but they will go a long way in significantly reducing it to the point there will only be a few cases.  

But you have to do the day in and day out blocking and tackling consistently in order to minimize harassment and keep your company culture one that makes it clear it’s not tolerated.

An Interesting Alternative to the Traditional Annual Performance Appraisal

Adobe's Check-in Performance Approach

It’s a new year and now that the holidays are over, it’s time to start thinking about everybody’s favorite topic – THE PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL!

Yay.

I’ve written extensively about the traditional annual performance appraisal and believe there is a place for it in certain organizations but I also think it’s time to explore something new and innovative that will be more effective in today’s modern workplace.

There’s a lot of talk about scrapping the performance appraisal altogether. I’m starting to believe that the traditional annual PA is becoming obsolete in today’s modern workplace. There still needs to be some sort of tool, however, to set employee objectives and expectations and then to measure how the employee did against those expectations.

Today, I’m going to explore an alternative to the annual performance appraisal that, in my opinion, is one of the better systems. I did some research and landed on one that seems to be the best, Adobe’s Check-in Performance Approach.

There are three components that make up the Check-in Framework. It’s important to note that the Framework emphasizes that it is the employee’s responsibility to take ownership of their career. I love this approach because it aligns very closely to a similar feedback system I’ve been using and refining in the field for years called Responsibility Based Performance, something I will write about in the future.

1. Expectations, which is driven by the manager. This is where the manager works closely with the employee to establish the employee’s expectations and goals. The manager also helps the employee clarify their role, responsibilities, and success criteria throughout the year.

The first step in any sort of performance appraisal discussion is the need to establish clear expectations and objectives. The Check-in Framework is no different. Employees want to know exactly what’s expected of them and how their performance aligns with the organization’s objectives.

Employees and managers need to meet annually to establish and outline the employee’s objectives in writing. The objectives should be clear to both the manager and employee on what needs to be accomplished and how it should be accomplished. Once the objectives have been agreed upon, they will need to be reviewed and refined throughout the year. The frequency of this periodic review will depend on the department or business unit.

In order to hold everybody accountable to this Framework, employees will need to be surveyed several times throughout the year to make sure they have set expectations with their managers and are having regular follow-up meetings to review and refine their objectives. It is also critical that senior leaders show their support for the program and are following up to make sure this is happening.

2. Feedback, which is driven by both the manager and the employee. Feedback is the key to the entire Framework and will require the most amount of training. This is where both the manager and the employee give and receive ongoing feedback. The manager also provides ongoing and timely feedback that recognizes good performance and works to improve and address performance issues.

Again, feedback is the key to the entire Framework and is the most difficult component to get right. It will require quite a bit of training of the organization’s managers and follow-up by HR in order to get it right. The goal with the feedback component is to have employees at all levels of the organization give and receive feedback.

Feedback needs to be timely and relevant to the needs of the business and the employee. It needs to be given with the honest intention of helping the employee understand that they are doing a good job or that they need to improve. Remember also that feedback should be both positive and constructive.

If employees are not meeting their objectives or performing up to their expectations, they will need to enter into the organization’s corrective action process.

Adobe uses the Specifics, Ask, Impact, Do (SAID) model of giving feedback.

Specifics – State what the person has or has not done by using concrete examples.
Ask – Ask open ended questions to understand their perspective. (How do you see the situation? Did I contribute to the problem in some way?)
Impact – Express the impact on the business, team, or you. When framed as a means to reach a specific business goal, it becomes an opportunity to solve a problem or understand how their actions impacted the business directly.
Do – State what needs to continue or change.

I also strongly recommend taking a look at the Manager Tools Feedback Model for advice on how to give effective feedback. It’s similar to SAID but leaves out the Ask element.

Its also worth taking a look at my friend Morag Barret’s recent article on delivering tough feedback.

Again, to hold everybody accountable, employees will need to be surveyed throughout the year to make sure they are receiving regular feedback from their manager. Senior leadership will also need to support and follow up to make sure this is happening.

3. Growth & Development, which is driven by the employee, supported by the manager, and enabled by the organization. Here, the organization and manager must provide opportunities to the employee to develop and increase their skills, knowledge, and experience in their current role. These opportunities, of course, must be aligned with the business needs of the organization and the employee’s individual ambitions.

The organization must provide a work environment that encourages and helps employees grow and develop their skills and knowledge as it relates to the organization’s business. Giving them different job experiences, providing training and opportunities are ways to help employees expand their skills in their current roles and to develop them for future roles within the organization.

The skills and knowledge that are being developed must, of course, align with the needs and objectives of the organization in order for the employee’s growth and development to be relevant and actionable.

The organization should create a form that will help employees communicate their interests, career goals, and professional aspirations. The employee and manager should discuss these so that the appropriate opportunities can be provided by the organization and supported by the manager.

Once again, to hold everybody accountable, employee surveys will need to be taken to measure the effectiveness of the Growth & Development component as it relates to employee engagement.

I really like this Framework and would love to help an organization implement a version of it. It’s an innovative system that would be very effective measuring employee performance and developing employees in today’s modern workplace.

As a reminder, last week I started a new feature called the HHHR Weekly Survey (using SurveyGizmo) where I survey my readers and listeners on the current blog post and podcast. Remember to take the survey I’ve included for this post which is located on the top of the sidebar or can be found by clicking here.

Week Six of the PA Cycle: Delivery Week

ID-10040852We’re getting near the end, Crew! This week is when the managers actually deliver the Performance Appraisals to their direct reports and finalize the upcoming year’s Objectives. This is the reason we did all the work the past five weeks! This is where it all comes together.

Let’s start off by explaining what employees expect from their PA. Every employee who works for a manager and organization wants the answer to three basic questions and during the Delivery Week, all three of these questions are answered as described below.

  1. The first is what do you expect of me? This is answered by establishing and finalizing the upcoming year’s objectives.
  2. The second is how am I doing at meeting your expectations? This is answered by delivering the PA based on the previous year’s performance.
  3. Finally, what do I need to do to meet expectations? This is answered when giving feedback during the objective setting and delivery of the PA on what the manager expects from the employee to meet the expectations of the manager and the organization.

In the HHHR PA Cycle, these three questions are answered at the beginning of each year, when managers sit down with their direct reports and discuss their objectives, expected behaviors, and key job responsibilities. This is done through establishing the employee’s Objectives during the PA cycle. During Week Two, Writing Week of the cycle, managers meet with their direct reports and start the discussion of setting objectives for the upcoming year. I will discuss the specifics of how to establish objectives in a later post.

An effective performance appraisal system is an important tool that gives the senior leaders of an organization the information they need to allow them to make some very important human capital decisions such as:

  • Which employees deserve a raise based on their performance over the previous year? Which employees shouldn’t?
  • Which employees should the organization promote? Can the organization promote them? Is there a position in the organization now or will there be one in the near future? If not, how can the organization retain these employees until there is a position?
  • What’s the depth of the organization’s internal talent? Are there people with the skills, experience, and/or potential the organization needs for the future? If not, what are the organization’s plans to hire or develop these people?
  • Who are the organization’s best performers and what are the plans to retain them? If no plans, it needs to be seriously discussed.
  • Who are the organization’s weakest performers and why are they still employed? Are any of them salvageable? Has their poor performance and conduct been documented? If not, why not?
  • And most importantly, in my opinion, an effective performance appraisal system requires managers to inform their employees of exactly what is expected of them and how they are doing at meeting those expectations.

It’s a moral obligation.

Employees who don’t know what’s expected of them and how they are doing at meeting those expectations are not engaged and not nearly as effective as they could be. Unfortunately, this may be the one time in an entire year when an employee gets feedback on their performance from their manager.

In small organizations, there typically is not much of a training budget for “silly” things such as management training so this leaves a lot of your managers without the tools to provide effective feedback throughout the year. HHHR will provide some of those tools in the future but for now, the best tool we have is the annual Performance Appraisal where providing feedback at least once a year is better than nothing.

Since we are talking about the week where your managers are delivering the PA to their direct reports, here are some important steps to remind your managers to take in order to make the process worthwhile and effective for them, their direct report, and the organization.

  • Schedule and clearly communicate the time and place of the meeting with the employee. Do not call them into your office without warning and deliver the PA. Give them time to think about and prepare themselves. This should be an interactive two-way discussion. It’s not fair to ambush them with their PA. You’re doing all this work so that the employees perceive the process is fair, so don’t ruin it by not giving them a heads up.
  • Schedule at least a half hour for each PA. This should give you plenty of time to review the PA with your direct report without being rushed. You owe them that time so give it to them. Some of your PAs might take an hour and you probably will know which so schedule appropriately.
  • Sit on the same side of the desk or table as the employee, if possible. Don’t play the power game during this meeting where you are behind your desk in an elevated chair looking down at them while you deliver the PA. Get out from behind your desk and sit next to them. It shows respect which they will remember.
  • Do it in an office with the door closed, if possible. I understand that this may be difficult in some office environments but do everything you can to deliver the PA in a private room with the door closed. Nobody wants to have other employees overhear their PA being delivered to them.
  • Hibernate your computer, mute your phones, and dedicate 100% of your attention to the employee. Eliminate all distractions for this period of time and focus on your employee. The PA is very personal, show them the respect.
  • At the meeting, have two copies of the PA, one for you and one for employee. They need to be able to read the PA while you are going through it with them.
  • Establish some ground rules and before starting the meeting and review them with your direct report. Below are a few examples:
    • Promise to start and end the meeting on time but your willing to extend the meeting if needed.
    • There will be no comparisons to other employees.
    • Both of you promise to remain professional throughout the meeting.
    • Either of you can end the meeting or take a break at any time
    • Both of you promise to listen actively to each other when speaking.
    • Encourage your employee to ask questions if they don’t understand anything.
  • Review the message you want the employee to take from the meeting and make sure they clearly understand it by the end of the meeting. (More on this in a future post)
  • Show your employee the respect they deserve during the meeting.

Well, we have now completed Delivery Week and we have one more week to go in the PA cycle – Deadline Week for Final PAs and Objectives.

Week Five of the PA Cycle: Talent Review Meeting Week

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Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here we are. Finally, its time to dive into the most important aspect of the PA cycle, the Talent Review Meeting!

So, with that, let’s go for it.

The TRM accomplishes the following things:

  • Ensures the fairness of the process by calibrating the scores of every employee in the organization.
  • Removes the pressure managers feel to inflate or deflate the ratings of direct reports.
  • Ensures the end results reflect a shared expectation of performance since managers often have different expectations for their people and interpret standards differently.
  • Reduces evaluation biases by forcing managers to justify and defend their decisions to their peers.
  • Increases employee perception that the process is fair.
  • Allows the organization to develop a succession plan with more complete performance information and data on each employee.
  • Assists managers by providing suggestions and guidance to the reviewing manager on how to present the PA to the employee or how to deal with any other issues or concerns.

Talent Review Meetings (TRMs) are where a Talent Review Board (TRB)consisting of a group of managers meet to review each direct report’s Performance Appraisal in order ensure fairness. Each manager must review and defend, to their peers, the scores they gave their direct reports. Particularly the 1s and 5s.

Now that the purpose of the TRM is understood, it’s time discuss the actual mechanics of it all.

Everything for the meeting was prepared last week – the ranking sheet has been filled out, the schedule has been communicated to the managers, and the notebooks have been built. So the focus this week is 100% on the TRMs.

Obviously, a private conference room will be needed because it’s important that the managers are comfortable having a free flowing and frank discussion about their and their peer’s employee’s performance and conduct. It’s also kinda important that employees can’t hear what is being said behind those doors!

At the start of each TRM, the following materials need to be handed out to each manager and discussed:

  1. The Purpose of the TRM listing the seven reasons why the TRM is an important part of the cycle (see the points above) along with a list of evaluation biases to look out for. Click here for the Purpose of the TRM document: Talent Review Meeting Purpose
  2. The PA Ranking Sheet for their specific TRM session which helps the TRB with their review and calibration. I provided the Ranking Sheet last week bit will do so again here: 20XX HHHR PA Ranking Sheet (Example Organization)
  3. The Talent Review Notebook containing all the PAs for the TRB’s particular session.

HR is in charge of the meeting and is there to keep the proceedings professional, focused on the task, and on schedule.

Once the managers are seated and have been given the documents and notebook, they need to take a few minutes to study the PA Ranking Sheet and highlight the scores that, in their opinion and experience, seem out of place.

The process starts by HR and the members of the TRB opening up the TRM notebook and going to the PA of the first employee on the schedule. It’s best to schedule the strongest and/or most ‘HR supportive manager’ first. Meet with that manager beforehand to review what’s expected so they can be a model to the other managers.

HR should then say “Manager #1, Let’s start off by hearing about Employee #1 and why you scored them the way you did”. The manager will then go through, point by point, the Core Competencies and Objectives defending and giving the reasons behind each of the scores.

During their defense, HR and the managers making up the TRB should be asking questions and challenging the scores and comments that seem unusual, out of place, or those they don’t agree with.

At first, there probably won’t be much interaction as the managers will be afraid of stepping on each other’s toes. So it will be up to HR to model how the members of the TRB should behave. HR should question and probe for reasons why a manager scored their direct report taking special note of the 1s and 5s. Ask for specific reasons and examples from throughout the evaluation year of why they scored them the way they did.

Eventually, a couple managers will start getting it and will take over for you and start the heavy questioning and probing. And soon they will all start participating.

Also, refer to the Ranking Sheet and question the managers who score their direct reports lower than the average and those who score higher. The tough manager might have some of the organization’s best employees but will give them low scores compared to the others and visa versa, the generous manager might have some of the organization’s worst employees but give the very good scores compared to the others. This is where the manager and TRB make the appropriate adjustments to the scores in the PA as they work through it. This situation is very common at first but will correct itself as you continue with the TRMs in the future.

There will be times the manager won’t have a good reason why they scored the way they did. As they discuss, answer questions, and hear comments from other managers about their direct report’s performance and conduct, they will usually agree that the score should be changed. It can go both ways, up and down.

There will also be times when the manager feels strongly about the score despite what HR and the TRB thinks. This doesn’t happen often but when it does, it can get awkward and difficult. This is where HR needs to use their crucial conversational skills and help the TRB and manager make a final decision together. HR may have to accept the score or they may insist on changing it, it will depend on the situation and HR’s knowledge of the people involved. Remember, HR is in charge of this whole thing so don’t be afraid to flex your muscles if needed.

Once the TRB gets going, there will be comparisons between employees and how they’re scored.  Similar performing employees with similar results should have similar scores. This is good and should be discussed and explored. And the scores should be adjusted if appropriate.

It’s important to understand that this isn’t an exact science. This is about people evaluating other people so there will be a lot of intangibles and biases. But the TRB will do their best to even out the scores by exploring the intangibles and reducing the biases.

As a great solo HR leader, you should have a great professional relationship with most of the employees in your organization. You should have a good idea of how everybody is doing since you are constantly talking to and building relationships with them. And, since you have a good idea about the employees in your organization, does the manager’s score jive with your perception of the employee? Have there been forgotten discipline issues or performance/conduct awards the the manager has forgotten and isn’t taking into consideration? Dig, probe,and question. It’s up to you to drive the success, fairness, and accuracy of the TRM.

After each section of the PA – Core Competencies and each Objective – HR should ask if there are any further questions or comments and if everybody is OK with the scores and or revised scores, if any. If there is, continue the discussion, keeping the schedule in mind, and if there isn’t, move on to the next PA.

Keep good notes during the TRM. Record the revised scores and make notes of when you ask managers to expand on or clarify their comments in the PA. Once the TRMs are finished, HR will go back and make the changes to the scores and send the updated PA to the managers for them to deliver, reminding them to update the comments, if needed.

At the end of each meeting sincerely thank the participating managers by telling them the following:

Thank you very much for your participating in today’s TRM. It’s a lot of hard work but important work spending the time discussing the performance and conduct of our organizations most important asset, our people.

We were able to sit down as a team and learn more about our own people and the people of our peers today, and from what I saw, gained a lot of appreciation and value from it. I have a couple more days with other TRBs this week and once I’m done, I’ll get the final PAs sent to you next week so you can deliver them to your people.

Thanks again!

Whew, this was a long post but like I said, the TRMs are the most important aspect of the entire cycle. I could go into more detail but I think this is appropriate for a blog post and I’ll save the greater detail for a book in the future.

This post, hopefully will give you a good sense of the mechanics of how to run a TRM. Please don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any questions. I’d appreciate knowing what I need to clarify and expand on.

Next week, I’ll discuss week six, Delivery Week.

Week Four of the PA Cycle: Prep week for Talent Review Meetings

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This week is the preparation week for the most important aspect of the entire cycle, the Talent Review Meetings (TRMs). I’m not going to discuss the details of the the TRMs this week, that will be for next week. Instead, I’m just going to go over the preparation for the TRMs.

The preparation of the TRMs consists of the following four steps – making a ranking sheet, making the TRM schedule, printing PAs and building the TRM notebooks, and communicating the TRM’s to the managers.

But before we go any further, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the TRM in order to understand why it takes an entire week preparing for them. Talent Review Meetings are where a Talent Review Board (TRB) of managers meet to review each direct report’s Performance Appraisal in order to insure fairness. Each manager must review and defend, to their peers, the scores they gave their direct reports. Again, I will go into more detail in next week’s post.

I’ve put together a set of example documents for this stage of the cycle. In it I created an organization with 43 non-exempt employees, nine Managers, seven exempt non-managers, three Directors, and five Sr. Managers. All of the example documents will be based on this organizational structure.

So now that you have a basic understanding of the TRM and understand the example organization I established, let’s go over the four steps of preparation.

Create a ranking sheet of all the Performance Appraisal scores:

The first thing that should be done this week is take all the scores from the preliminary PAs and enter them into the Preliminary Score column on the ranking sheet. The ranking sheet is a very important tool for the TRMs as the rankings clearly show how each manager scored their direct reports. It gives the TRB a quick snapshot of the score distribution in the organization and shows which managers are tough scorers and which are generous scorers. It makes it much easier to calibrate the scores.

The ranking sheet consists of four columns:
1. Manager Name
2. Employee Name
3. Preliminary Score
4. Final Score

At the bottom of the sheet is a box that calculates the mean, median, and mode for both the Preliminary Score and the Final Score.

I’m including the Excel template of the ranking sheet I use. There are tabs on the bottom of the worksheet consisting of a ranking sheet for each TRB in my example organization. In the example ranking sheet, I have just filled in the Prelim Scores. The Final Scores will need to be filled in during or after Week Seven, Deadline Week for Final PAs and Objectives.

Click here for the example HHHR PA Ranking Sheet: 20XX HHHR PA Ranking Sheet (Example Organization)

Scheduling the TRM:

Depending on the size of the organization, the TRB can be very simple for organizations ~35 or less employees or complicated for organizations ~36 or more employees.

The TRBs for smaller organizations are easy to schedule because they are typically just senior management and HR. Only one version of the TRM notebook needs to be built for each member of the senior management team containing the PA of every employee in the organization separated by manager. It should take approx 20 minutes to discuss each PA so the schedule is only a day or two depending on how many employees are being reviewed. Multiply the number of employees by 20 minutes then divide that result by 60 which results in the total number of hours that are needed to schedule the TRM.

The TRBs for larger organizations are more complicated to schedule. The senior management team will typically not want to or have the time to do four to five days of TRMs. The schedule needs to be broke down by hierarchy because larger organizations have more layers of management. For example, non-exempt level employees will be reviewed by a TRB consisting of the Managers, the Managers will then be reviewed by a TRB consisting of the Directors and Senior Managers, and the Directors will be reviewed by a TRB consisting of the Senior Managers. Of course, senior management should be invited to sit in on the non-exempt TRBs. Again, it should take approx 20 minutes to discuss each PA so use the same calculations as above for making the schedule.

In my example organization, the non-exempt population schedule takes two full days while the exempt level population is scheduled for two half(ish) days. Also in the example you will note that I don’t have specific times scheduled for the non-exempt employees as this allows for more flexibility since some will be quicker than 20 minutes and some will be longer. With the exempt employees, however, I schedule times because this allows the busy Directors and Senior Mangers two things: to know when they are defending their scores to their peers and to make sure they are present when they want input on a particular employee. The management team in any organization is busy and it can’t be expected that every manager will be present throughout the discussion of every PA. It’s OK to allow them to come and go throughout the meetings just as long as you have some continuity in the TRMs. By scheduling the times at the exempt level, you are helping them with their time management, which is always a good thing!

Click here for the example HHHR PA TRM Schedule: 20XX HHHR PA Talent Review Meeting Schedule (Example Organization)

Printing PAs and building the TRM Notebook:

Once the schedule is complete, the notebooks can be built by referring to the names listed for each TRB. A notebook is made for each person who will be serving on a TRB. The notebook will contain tabs for each Manager/Director/Senior Manager who has direct reports and behind each tab will be the PAs for that manager.

So for the example organization I created, using the TRM schedule, for the Non-exempt Day 1 and 2, nine notebooks need to be built (one for each Manager) with nine tabs containing each Manager’s direct reports which is nine copies of 42 employees! That’s a lotta time standing at the copy machine.

When each employee’s PA is printed for for each notebook, enter that date on the checklist so it reflects the completed date.

Keep the notebooks in a secured and locked location until they are given to the managers in the TRB. Its best to hand out the notebooks just before each TRM but sometimes the Senior Management group likes getting them early in order to review them beforehand. Remember that the notebooks contain a tremendous amount of confidential performance information so remind all the managers to keep them secure once they have them.

This is one of the busiest weeks for HR in the cycle and it’s important to remember to stay organized in the ways I’ve suggested in the last two posts. Things can rapidly fall apart if you don’t stay organized!

Communicate the TRM schedule to the managers:

You’ve done all that work so don’t forget to let all the managers know when the meetings are!  Here is a sample email to send out to the managers in the TRBs.

Managers,

Attached is the Talent Review Meeting schedule with Talent Review Board assignments.

I broke the meetings down into the following four sessions:

  1. Nonexempt Day 1: Wednesday, February 3, 8:00AM – 5:00PM
  2. Nonexempt Day 2: Thursday, February 4, 8:00AM – 5:00PM
  3. Exempt Level Day 1: Monday, February 8, 12:00PM-3:30PM
  4. Exempt Level Day 2: Tuesday, February 9, 1:00PM – 4:30PM

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thanks,
Rich

Occasionally changes will have to be made to the schedule as things come up particularly with the Senior Management team.  Stay flexible to the needs of the company and make the revisions as needed.  It’s not going to be the end of the world if you don’t get the TRMs done on schedule!

Well that’s it for Prep Week for the Talent Review Meetings. Next week I’ll finally get to discuss the actual details of the best and most important aspect of the entire cycle, the Talent Review Meetings!

Week Three of the PA Cycle: Deadline Week for Preliminary PAs

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Last week, I introduced the Objective Setting and PA forms and explained how they work together and how to fill them out. This week, the managers are finishing up with writing their preliminary PAs and turning them in. When turning them in, I have each manager email me the Excel copy of their PAs. Believe it or not, before I specified that I want the Excel copy emailed to me, I had managers scan or convert them to pdf and even scan their handwritten PAs to me. The lesson here – be specific about how you want them back. Tell your managers exactly how they are to return their preliminary PAs back to you.

The reason I ask for the preliminary PAs is because the next week I will start building the Talent Review Meeting notebooks in preparation for the Talent Review Meetings – the most effective part of the cycle. The reason I want them back in Excel is because I review each one before printing them out for the notebooks to ensure they are done correctly and to fix any issues that I see.

And believe me there are issues. Each manager has a different level of proficiency with Excel which will become very obvious while your reviewing their PAs. This is just the way it is and I can’t change their proficiency so I just correct what needs to be corrected. I want to point out that I don’t change any scores or comments, I just correct any misspellings and fix things that were done incorrectly.

Now before I review each PA, I need to set up a system that keeps everything organized. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be organized during this part of the process.

The first thing I do is create a checklist, of which I’ve attached a template to this blog post. Keep this checklist updated every single day because if you don’t, you’ll find yourself making embarrassing mistakes — trust me, I know!

The checklist is fairly simple and contains six columns:
1. Manager: Manager’s name
2. Employee: Employee’s name
3. Prelim PA: The date I receive the Preliminary PA via email from the manager
4. Sent to Print: The date I print the Preliminary PA to make the TRM notebooks
5. Final PA: The date I receive the final signed PA from the manager
6. Objectives: The date I receive the final signed Objectives from the manager

I pull the Manager’s Direct Report list from our HRIS and add columns 3 through 6. I also color code each manager and employee to their physical location in the company which I’ll explain next week when I discuss prepping for the Talent Review Meetings. So for the purpose of today’s post, I’m only concerned with the Prelim PA column and will discuss the other columns in future posts when they are relevant.

After creating the checklist, I create a folder in my Outlook titled 20XX Objective and PA Cycle containing sub-folders of each manager (click here to see how to create sub-folders in Outlook). So as their emails come in, I have a place to file them when I process my email during the day. I use this method as a placeholder for their PAs until I can get to my scheduled block of time to start the real processing and organizing. If I don’t do this the email may get lost or deleted and I have to ask the manager to resend which is kinda embarrassing.

Next, I block out time each day this week to process and organize the PAs that have come in. I do this by opening each email and copying the PA to a file on my hard drive.

Similar to what I did in Outlook, I create a file on my hard drive for each manager with three sub-folders:
1. Preliminary folder: Where the PAs sent to me this week are filed
2. Final folder: Where the final delivered and signed pdf PAs are filed
3. Objectives: Where the final signed pdf Objectives are filed

Again, for the purposes of today’s post, I am only concerned with the Preliminary folder and will discuss the other two folders when they become relevant in future blog posts.

Next let’s talk about the deadline date. I always make Wednesday the deadline. Why? Because if I make it Friday, I will get a flood of PAs sent to me late on Friday afternoon as I’m trying to wrap up my week and prepare for the next week. By making the deadline Wednesday, you’ll get approx 70% of your PAs turned in by that day. The remaining will trickle in and you’ll have approx 95% of them in by Friday. The remaining 5% will be the chronic procrastinators and no matter what you do, they will always be late and last minute.

I like getting the bulk of the PAs in by mid-week. That way, I have the time I need to process and organize them.

So now that we have our checklist, have set up sub-folders in Outlook, and folders in our hard drive, we can start the processing or organizing.

As the PAs come in and when I move them to their appropriate Outlook sub-folder, I check them off on my checklist by entering the date they were sent to me. I like to have the data of which managers are able to meet the deadline and which are not.

On Thursday morning, I schedule a block of time to review and correct each PA. I also send out an email to each manager who hasn’t sent in their PAs gently reminding them that the deadline was yesterday. I repeat the email on Friday and then again on Monday and Tuesday the following week. This generally brings in most of them, except for the chronic procrastinators, of course, who will typically get them to you the morning of the TRM!

Well that covers off on the Deadline Week for Preliminary PAs. Next week I will discuss how to prepare for the all important Talent Review Meetings!

Below is the link to the HHHR Objective and PA Checklist template.  You are free to use and modify is as you see fit for your needs.

HHHR Checklist Template for Objectives and PAs:  20XX HHHR Checklist Template for Objectives and PAs (Example Organization)