Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 3 months ago

The Secret to Performance Reviews that Inspire People


For many employees, the thought of an upcoming performance review, at least if a company handles it traditionally, is likely to bring up anxiety, cynicism, or some combination thereof. It doesn’t have to be that way, says today’s Technically People guest, Rhiannon Staples, CMO at hibob.  

“This shouldn't create angst,” she says. “This isn't a test. This experience shouldn't be negative for the employee. It's not a way to grade or rate them.” 

A semiannual or annual formal review can and should be an incentivizing, motivating conversation employees are excited to have. It can and should be a conversation that drives engagement and, in turn, retention. And in fact, there’s a formula (of sorts) to make that happen. 

“If you were to stop and ask someone their perception of a performance review,” says Rhiannon, “historically speaking, they'd say that half the conversation is reflecting on the past — what you've achieved, what you could have done better — and 50% of it is focused on the future.”

Rhiannon has a better ratio. Specifically, she advises managers to spend 80% of the conversation on the direction an employee wants to take their career, how they’ll get there, and how the company can support them. That leaves 20% of the conversation for reflecting on the past, including what an employee achieved and what they might have done better.

“That conversation feels a lot more like mentorship,” she says, “and it's a lot more about growth than assigning or ranking people within the business.” 

No part of the conversation about the past, incidentally, should come as a surprise. “Feedback and continuous engagement with employees on performance, on goals, on objectives should be happening throughout the year,” says Rhiannon.

In fact, giving continuous feedback before and outside of the formal review frees it up to be a celebration of employee strengths and a time to chart their path forward. 

“We want employees to come into these conversations not with worry and fear,” adds Rhiannon, “but with optimism. And we want them to be invested and excited to share: Here's what I really did well — and to be transparent and open enough and confident enough to talk about where they feel they could have improved.”

Tune in to the episode to learn more ways to take the angst out of performance evaluations, creating a more human, modern and motivating experience for your employees.


  • Performance reviews should create optimism about the future, not angst about the past
  • Pitfalls HR practitioners should avoid when rolling out an evaluation process (Hint: Don’t get mired in the logistics)  
  • Empowering managers to make their evaluations more effective
  • Ongoing feedback is the preferred mentorship style for Gen Z and Millennials
  • How performance evaluation should happen in a remote/hybrid world

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Welcome to technically people, a community conversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you by the tech recruitment platform built in. The podcast features insights from leaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard building human centered workplaces of the future. Along the way, you'll hear concepts that will stop you in your tracks, the concepts that inspire you to ask yourself, what's the most futureforward way to approach my people leadership? We all know the future of work isn't waiting around, so let's get on with the show. Welcome to technically people. I am Tiffany Myers with built in, your host for the day. We are going to be chatting with rhannon staples. Rhannon is the CMO of hi Bob. Hi Bob is a modern natur platform and it's built for fast growing midsize businesses. Rhan and shares in common a belief with her company, which is that employees are people, they're not numbers, they're not quote unquote capital, and she's going to talk with us today about performance measurement. Specifically, she'll share with us how to make the process more personal, holistic, optimistic and, of course, more human. So welcome, Rhiannon. Thank you so much for joining us today. Can't wait to dive into this likewise technic so glad to be here. So tell me where we were in the past, sort of the you know, what you've described to me as the outloaded way of doing performance evaluation, and give us a sense of how progressive companies are now starting to approach performance management. So the past, the status quo has historically been standardized scoring. One example that I can give that have really disappointed HR practitioners, for example, is that the nine bocks. The nine bocks model was never supposed to be a performance management tool as much as it was intended to be a succession planning tool, but it became utilized for mapping employee...

...strengths and weaknesses, and practitioners, despite the fact that they were using it, really found it flawed because it lacks transparency and can be overly subjective. And all in all, the models like nine box and others that have relied on standardized scoring have an inspired people. They weren't human and that's how we see the market shifting today. If you were to stop and ask someone what their perception is of a performance review, historically speaking, they'd say that half the conversation is reflecting on the past, what you've achieved, what you could have done better, and fifty percent of its focused on the future. But in the markets that we serve, and we primarily work with modern, midsized multinational businesses, we see a shift towards more than eighty twenty ratio. Conversations are being spent for twenty percent. Scent is reflecting on the past and what you've achieved, but moreover, the bulk of the conversation focuses on the future and strong companies and leaders are really starting to spend that eighty percent talking about where does the employee want to go? How does that intersective for the company is going? How can we as a company, in me as a manager, help you grow and one of the personal strengths that you want to invest in? The conversation feels a lot more like mentorship and it's a lot more about growth than assigning or ranking people within the business and seeing them for the individuals that they are. It is just so very different from what I think a lot of employees are used to and I think you know that is partly why there's a lot of angst surrounding the review process and if employees are not feeling anks, there's a lot of cynicism around it. What do you think about that? Yeah, this shouldn't create anks. This isn't a test. This experience shouldn't be negative for the employee. It's not a way to grade or rate them. By focusing the conversation on the potential for the future, it actually becomes an incentivising and motivating conversation and, moreover, drives employee engagement. This is a hundred percent tied to employee engagement and that was always the intention and the purpose of performance reviews, but the way we have executed them... the past it in a line to that. And as the models shift, we want employees to come into conversations not with worry and fear but with optimism, and want them to be invested and excited to share here's what I really did well, and to be transparent and open enough and confident enough to talk about where they feel they could have improved. I'll also say that, you know, good leaders are giving feedback day today, week to week, in the formal review session, whether it be conducted annually or semi annually, should never catch an employee off guard. If the leaders are committed to continuous feedback, pus an opportunity to memorialize and document those strengths and that career path and direction that the employee wants to go and a chance to have an open, dedicated conversation around them. Yeah, so, as you said, kind of memorializing and documenting what a manager and employee would have been talking about throughout the entire year. So again, really important that nothing is catching anyone by surprise. Now I think that another reason that employees feel this stress is that compensation is tied to the performance review process. So if you're doing an okay job, you'll get your five percent, if you're doing great, if you rank high on that numerical system, you're going to get your ten percent or whatever it is. So that is nerve racking and I think contributes to the angst that we talked about. Tell me your thoughts. Yeah, one of the trends were starting to see amongst the companies that we work with is a separation of the compensation review cycle from the performance conversations, and the reason we see that happening is because, if the ultimate intention Chin for these performance conversations, we taking place is about being honest and authentic and open and a bit vulnerable. Employees might not be as open and honest with their managers as you would want to inspire them to be if they feel they could be financially penalized. If someone's thinking, if I admit to this area where I'm weak and I want to develop, is it going to affect me? Am I going... be financially penalized for not having strength in this area? It's obvious that managers have to take performance into consideration when you're working through a compensation review cycle, but separating the cycles really benefits the employees and employers as well. Allows space in time for a more objective perspective about how to take that decision and what decisions to take, and it allows the employee the freedom and the confidence to not feel that there's a direct connection between what's discussed in that Oneonone, very personal conversation and that financial decision. Yeah, I can imagine it would certainly lift the burden that people feel going in. So there's something else that I think about, which is timing. We touched on this a little bit, but to dive in it just seems so arbitrary because it has nothing really to do with what the individual is up to at that moment in time that the evaluation, the formal review, is happening. So it's sort of like, all right, January is here, it's time to do our reviews, and we do that. But imagine two weeks after the review and in play launches some initiative that, you know, changes the world, up ends the status quo, disrupts the industry and well, it's too late. You know, we already did your review. So maybe we'll just wait for your next stroke of genius and hope it aligns with our next arbitrary timeframe for the review process. So I don't know, I've thought about that quite a bit and wonder what you think. Yeah, I think that's a hundred percent true. One of the challenges that were working against is this notion that performance evaluation should happen on a set timeline, like once a year or once every quarter. We see a lot of organizations thinking about how the timing factors into things, but the truth of the matter is you've got that recency issue where you're only as good as what you've done in the past two weeks. When your manager has been sitting down and really thinking about your accomplishments. You know, the new world of work really requires place for constant feedback and again we see this in the the fast growth companies we work with. Employees look for ongoing conversation and they've got it right. You Know Gen Z and millennials. They need...

...constant and repeated feedback and this is important. This is the right way to give feedback. Being able to give intelligent insights at the right point in time really helps get the message across much more effectively. The one on one conversation that you might have once a quarter with your employees might be one of many things that you're doing, but those week to week feedback points, whether it be shoutouts or bottoms up reviews or emails that you're sending to your employ ease to recognize accomplishments. This notion of always on recognition and feedback should be part of the culture of any business. Yeah, and I like what you said their recency issue. So it's almost like in a traditional review process, that you're only as good as your last two weeks. So it makes all the sense in the world. That would be a broken approach and that the kind of new way forward eliminates that issue. So very interesting point. All right, so here we are. We are still in the midst of all sorts of uncertainty. Companies are in remote, in hybrid, thinking about going hybrid, undecided, decided, you know, across the spectrum and employers have a lot of Adjata about the fact that if they are remote, if they are hybrid, they can't see their employees if their work from home. And if I can't see my people, how in the world can I evaluate their performance? So I know you've done some work around this. Tell me where you land. Yeah, this notion of if I can't see them, they're not working, that notion is so rampant and we really need to change. We need to change the way we lead and the way we manage and we have to change the way that we evaluate people. We have to go back to the drawing board and focus on setting measurable goals and Objectives for people and using that as a barometer for success. If your employees understand what's expected of them and you've communicated that effectively as a leader and you're tracking with your employees their progress against those goals and objectives, it shouldn't matter whether they're doing it and...

...between nine and twelve in the afternoon or between nine and twelve at night, obviously boring meetings at all of those other activities that you expect employs to be involved in. The notion of measuring two objectives is really important and it ties directly back to the evaluation. It makes it so much more pointed and clear to employees on how they will be evaluated and it also gives leaders a better vehicle to understand whether or not an employees performing at below or above expectations. Yeah, you know, and you mentioned working with modern small to medium companies and I think you know, I do see a lot of modern companies really letting go of the need to see unemployee and looking instead at output. So cares that they set ahead of time. So I do have the gut sets that is happening in some measure shifting gears a little bit. Tell me, what are some pitfalls that HR leaders need to avoid when it comes to leading implementing the Performance Review Process? Yeah, one common mistake that we find as oftentimes h our leaders are so focused on implementing the program and the process, the plan and the documentation and setting the deadlines and communicating internally. They missed the very important step of impassing touring managers and helping their managers fully understand and take advantage of this resource that's available to them. It's not just about rolling out this program from an execution standpoint, but recognizing that managers are the key to success. They have tremendous influence over how successful these programs are. One of the pitfalls that we often find HR leaders falling victim to is focusing more on the process and the execution than on the people aspect of the performance evaluation programs. Whilst it's very important to train your managers on how to use the system and to communicate effectively across the business the deadlines, the plan, what...

...the expectation is, one of the most critical steps is engaging and training your managers on the people aspects of this process and how to think about driving conversations that inspire and motivate and making sure that there's equal investment on that type of training, on Leadership Training, on the soft skills, on empathy, as much as the process and system training. That pitfall is something that, if not tended to, could really derail a really effective internal performance evaluation program and I can understand why the logistics of implementing the program deadlines would be the focus, just because there's there's so much involved in this. It's a very much a hurting cats kind of a situation. But your point is definitely critically important. You know, if we are moving toward a more human approach, the work of helping managers be more human and providing that training to be more empathic and the review process is just the importance can't be underestimated. I definitely think that is a key takeaway. And with regard to take aways, I feel like now would be a great time to move into our next segment. It, which is called the two minute takeaway. Doesn't have to be two minutes. It rarely is. But Rhann and tell me if you could share a few key points that you want to underscore reiterate about a more modern approach to performance reviews. What would those be? Yeah, so I'll start with my last your managers are the key ingredient to success. Helping them understand the process is half the battle or half the equation. The other half is helping them understand. The second is that feedback should be ongoing and ingrained in your day to day interactions. The notion of semi annual cycles are relevant and there a great moment to stop and assess that feedback and continuous engagement with employees on performance, on goals and objectives should be happening throughout the year. The final point... that in the modern world of work it's really imperative to focus on outcomes, not outputs. So back to the point of the conversation we had with how do I manage effective productivity and performance with the remote workforce? If you help them understand what's expected of them in terms of what they will deliver to the business? That level of expectation avoids the need to be able to see your people and outcomes or what drives the business forward, not outputs. That concept can give some real rest assurance to people who are feeling nervous about not being able to see their employees physically come to the office or log in. I also just want to add my takeaway something that stood out to me, which is, you know, eight and twenty being that magic ratio where eighty percent of this modern way of doing evaluations is about the future and twenty percent is about the past. I think that's such a powerful thing to keep in mind and it is an antidote to the fear and cynicism surrounding the performance of valuation. So I really want to thank you for bringing that to light and I like to that it's a good measurable. We've got some numbers that hurt to follow with that eighty twenty ratio. So, Rannon, if our listeners wanted to reach out to you, how should they do so? Linkedin is probably the most effective way to track me down. Happy to respond there. And, of course, for a website at high Bob hibobcom. Fantastic. And because of your extremely cool name, that can give us a spelling, as so people know. This is why did offer email. The name is spelled our H I a n o n and staples STAP Elias Cool. Tell us the origin of your name, because I thought it was so cool when I heard about it. I was named after very famous song by fleetwood Mac. Isn't that cool? I think that's so cool. So, Rhannon, can't thank you enough. I think this has been so illuminating. I've certainly learned a lot about this and about a new way forward. So really appreciate your expertise that you've lent today. Thank you so much. Definitely, it's been a great conversation, and so to our listeners, thank you as well...

...for joining us today. I always love to have you so reminder to subscribe a were available on all your podcast players of choice. Just visit technically peoplecom and join us as well on the ongoing conversation that we're having on linked in. So thank you again and we will talk to you next week. Whether you're looking to fill opportunities or find them, built in hows you've covered. If you're seeking to meet aggressive hiring goals, will help you attract sought after tech talent you might not otherwise reach. And if you're on the market for a career change, visit our site to explore exciting jobs with our customers and even with built in find talent, find opportunities built incom.

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