Transparency has become a new management buzzword. Ten years ago, an employee might not protest (or even question) a management decision that their executive team made in secrecy. But today, employees expect companies and its leaders to be transparent. It’s no longer enough to give orders and announce decisions–employees want to know why and how.
Of course, companies still have the choice not to disclose that information. But the risk of public blowback is greater. With social media and sites like Glassdoor, unhappy employees can air their grievances publicly, and companies risk external backlash. Arguably, the stakes are higher than they were 10 years ago.
For three tech executives, transparency–particularly when it comes to goal setting–has been a cornerstone of their business practice. Leaders at Box, Front, and Buffer tell Fast Company why they believe practicing transparency is crucial for businesses. It’s not just because it’s good for their workplace culture–it’s vital to their financial success.
Making your goals (and progress) transparent leads to better decisions and less resentment
When a company is in the early stages, transparency comes easily. Aaron Levie, CEO and cofounder of Box, tells Fast Company that in Box’s early days, “The only way [we could] operate [was] by being completely transparent.” But as the company grew to a certain size, Levie recognized that they needed to build in a set of systems and be explicit about practicing transparency.
Box uses a system of OKRs (objectives and key results), a method pioneered by KCBP’s John Doerr that Google popularized. Every single employee can upload their OKRs for the rest of the company to see. Although it’s not compulsory, Levie says that about 80% of employees end up participating because they need that information to set team goals. (Levie himself makes his goals public to the company.) Using this information, Levie organizes weekly calls with Box’s 150 directors to go through areas of the business that are and are not performing well. “This has created an open forum for people to constantly learn how different areas of the business are performing.”
Levie tells Fast Company that being transparent has allowed teams to make better decisions. While it might be uncomfortable for the not-so-great performing groups, they end up getting the help and extra resources they need, and they don’t face resentment from the other teams because they know exactly why the underperforming department is getting more of the leaders’ time and attention.
Transparency allows you to execute with speed
For Mathilde Collin, CEO and cofounder of email collaboration software provider Front, being transparent with her goals have helped her and her team to be more efficient. Front has a similar process to Box–everyone makes their OKRs public, and Collin holds a weekly meeting with the leaders to go over the metrics. “At the beginning of every week, I also send an email to direct reports, I share what my goals of the week are. What I’m working on is also what they’re working on. The way that our goal-setting works is that once the company OKRs are done, then every executive will work on the company’s OKRs and those are shared [with their teams].”
While Collin acknowledges that transparency is good for instilling trust, she was motivated to instill a transparent culture because she believes that it’s more efficient. As she previously told Fast Company, she’d worked in a place that wasn’t transparent, and she found it time consuming to make decisions and execute tasks when she didn’t have all of the information available. You end up having a lot of unnecessary meetings, Collin says. At Front, she noticed that this problem didn’t exist. At 106 employees, “we have far less meetings than a [typical] company our size.”
Carolyn Kopprasch, chief customer officer at social media management platform Buffer, acknowledged that the process of being transparent can be time consuming, particularly for a remote company like Buffer. “We’re very disciplined about taking notes, we’re very organized about sharing things in Slack in a certain way . . . all that takes time for sure.” But she insists that it’s worth the effort. “As a team, we feel like you should be able to say, I wonder what our leads are talking about, I wonder how product is doing on their goals. We’re a small enough company that every team’s successes influences every other team.”
It is an effective way to prevent disengagement
Michael Papay and Alexandre Santille previously wrote for Fast Company, “Employees want to be heard. We want to be owners with a voice contributing to the strategy of the organizations we support. From top to bottom, each of us brings a unique set of experiences and organizational wisdom that is yearning to be tapped. Give us an opportunity to share what we know and debate the important issues. Involve us in planning, decision making, innovation, and strategy.”
When it comes to company culture and attitude, Collin says that she noticed a striking difference with employee engagement between her previous company and Front. Her previous employer would only share the good news and positive progress, and withhold negative information. “Instead of me being engaged with the good news, I was disengaged with the lack of trust,” she says. Employees are most engaged “when they know exactly why they’re working on what they’re working on.”
Levie echoes this sentiment. By giving employees context on what’s happening and what the company is working toward, employees don’t feel like there is a sense of mystery in the company. When they’re clear about where the company is at, and where they still need to go, they’re less likely to be disillusioned and disengaged. Say you decide to consolidate two teams into one team, Levie says. If everyone knows exactly why this happened, you don’t have employee speculation.
When not to be transparent
All three tech leaders recognize there are instances where too much transparency can slow down a business. Buffer, for example, doesn’t make individual goals public to the extent that it doesn’t relate to team goals–such as goals that relate to personal/career development. Collin doesn’t share information and goals that are personal, sensitive, and/or “would raise more questions,” rather than arm employees with information.
But ultimately, Levie, Kopprasch, and Collin believe that it’s crucial for businesses to make their goals (and progress) transparent to employees for a company to be innovative and nimble. Businesses today need to “diffuse innovation from across the company,” according to Levie. To be able to deliver, you need everyone in your business to understand (and align to) the company goal. It really comes down to how quickly the markets are changing, and as a result, employees need to be able to make better and faster decisions, Levie says.
Collin tells Fast Company, “The way I think about transparency is: Good transparency will help solve problems, and bad transparency will create more questions and problems.”
This article was written by Anisa Purbasari Horton from Fast Company and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How many devices have you used to access the internet today? Chances are, it’s more than one. In today’s fast-moving digital world, the average American has more than three internet-connected devices and switches back and forth several times each day to get information and complete purchases. In response to this behavior, marketers are leveraging multi-channel campaigns, which draw on a variety of mechanisms ranging from e-mail to social media and even text messages. Marketers know that multi-channel campaigns are the most effective way to keep up with and engage consumers as they move from channel to channel in their daily lives.
Ample evidence supports the marketing tactic. For example, a recent study showed that multi-channel campaigns achieve a 37% higher response rate than single-channel campaigns. The most effective combination, email and SMS, achieves double the response rate of either channel when used on its own. Multi-channel campaigns also drive stronger business results: higher spending and increased customer retention.
Increasingly, business communicators are also leveraging multi-channel campaigns to better engage their employees around important messages. But engaging customers is totally different from engaging employees, right?
Well, not so much anymore. The customer experience and the employee experience are looking more and more similar these days. Evolving consumer experiences are shaping employees’ expectations for work experiences. Employees increasingly see themselves as customers of their employer, and the paternalistic relationship between employer and employee is a thing of the past. To keep workers engaged and productive, today’s businesses have to treat them—and court them—like customers.
Creating a consumer-like employee experience is the most effective tool for driving employee satisfaction and retention moving forward. And that includes employee communications. Just like marketers have found that multi-channel campaigns lead to more responsive, satisfied, and long-standing customers, business leaders are finding that multi-channel employee communication campaigns drive significantly more engagement than single-channel campaigns. Optics powerhouse Essilor, recognized by Forbes as one of the world’s most innovative companies every year since 2010, significantly increased employee engagement with benefits information after adopting a multi-channel approach.
To get the biggest bang for your buck, consider an additional lesson from the marketing playbook: consistency matters. Consumers—and by extension, employees—expect consistent messaging and narratives across channels. Leading marketers and business communicators are integrating and coordinating messages in their multi-channel campaigns to ensure the experience is as effective as possible. Are you?
New technologies and digital experiences have heightened consumer expectations in recent decades. And the impact is now carrying over into the workplace. Employees increasingly see themselves as internal customers of their employer, and expect the company to provide experiences that parallel what they have as consumers. In a recent interview with Forbes, IBM CHRO Diane Gherson noted this shift in employee expectations and the demand for consumer-grade digital experiences in the workplace. In fact, she cited it as one of the biggest trends “upending” HR. Research by Deloitte has also shed light on changing employee expectations, with a recent publication noting that employees, like consumers, are demanding more innovation, flexibility, and opportunity.
In this competitive talent landscape, it’s risky to ignore the changing tide of employee expectations. Consumer-grade digital experiences for employees are no longer a nice-to-have. They’re prerequisites to attract and retain top talent. As Deloitte notes, “just like a consumer who has a bad experience and moves onto another brand, your employees may also seek new experiences if their expectations are not being met.” While a number of companies are driving towards consumer-grade employee experiences, many do not realize that employee communications are fundamental to this transformation
Strong communication experiences and engaging content bring your culture and brand to life and ensure employees adopt key programs and initiatives. Without compelling and meaningful communication, employees often tune out. This makes it nearly impossible to attain ROI on programs and initiatives and ultimately achieve the employee satisfaction and retention that your business needs.
What do consumer-grade employee communication experiences look like? In today’s digital world, they are:
Consumer experiences have become more personalized in recent years, with customized online shopping experiences, targeted ads, and individualized interactions on social media (powered by software and AI). Employees are expecting a similar level of personalization in their work experiences. For example, they want development plans and support that are targeted and relevant to their specific role and situation. The same expectations hold true for communication. Consumer-grade employee communication experiences segment employees into groups and deliver relevant information—and only relevant information—to each segment at the time of need.
Providing personalized and relevant information isn’t enough—you need engaging content experiences, too. Employees expect information to be presented in ways that capture and hold their attention. Leading organizations are bringing together collections of short-form content in multiple formats within an experience that allows the employee to easily guide their own journey. Another effective tactic is to incorporate interactive elements that solicit employee feedback. Asking employees for feedback involves them in the experience and makes their opinions matter. And organizations that respond to that feedback in real-time, for example by providing personalized recommendations, make the experience more engaging and more personalized.
Topical campaigns are the third element of consumer-grade employee communications. Marketers use campaigns to build a sustained relationship with customers. And they’re equally effective for connecting with employees. Campaigns drip out messages over time and integrate them with company and employee activities. The result: employee-centric journeys through critical HR programs and services. But a campaign involves more than simply sending out the same information over and over. Effective campaigns engage employees through a process of inspiring, informing, and reinforcing. They’re also iterative, like marketing campaigns, which leverage data and analytics to continually improve results.
Treat your employees like customers. And as you consumerize your overall employee experience, be sure to audit your employee communications. If it’s not an employee-first experience that’s personalized, engaging, and flexible, you may be missing the mark.
How to Reimagine the Workforce Experience — analyst Jason Averbrook considers how “digital thinking” and technology can help organizations create a “frictionless” experience for employees. This is the first in a series of monthly articles on the topic by Averbrook for Human Resources Executive.
Do you have interesting reads that you think other HR leaders should know about? Send them our way at email@example.com!
Years after Adobe made headlines by announcing it was killing the annual review, performance management continues to evolve. And the evolution is widespread: 79% of executives say that redesigning their process is a “high priority.” So, what’s driving the continued interest? The belief that continuous feedback and coaching enables employees to sharpen their skills in real-time and obtain new ones, opening doors to advancement and other career opportunities. Businesses that take this approach are more agile, since continuous employee development positions them to fill new skills gaps as they emerge. And they’re also more likely to find themselves with engaged employees that stick around.
HR leaders at most organizations find themselves somewhere in the process of redefining performance management at their company. Some are still doing annual reviews, but have added quarterly check-in meetings. Others have expanded their evaluation framework to consider not just outcomes but behaviors, often referred to as the “what and how.” Regardless of the changes, many find themselves asking: “How do I know if it’s working? Are the changes having the right impact? And if not, what do I need to do?”
Even as performance management evolves into a less formal process, it’s still possible to measure the effectiveness of these new interactions. To get started, you can break it down into three parts:
New performance management initiatives usually require new behaviors from employees and managers, whether it’s engaging in more frequent feedback and coaching conversations or developing new types of goals. As a first step, assess whether people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing under the new process.
Let’s take the example of a company that has introduced more frequent feedback conversations. There are a number of ways to assess whether such conversations are happening and if they’re focusing on the right topics. Many companies choose to survey or poll employees. Others leverage reporting inside of their performance management software to see if feedback is being documented and to measure the quality of that feedback.
If you find that employees and managers are not having many conversations, or the conversations are not focusing on the right topics, you may want to recalibrate your communications to employees about the nuts and bolts of the new process. If conversations aren’t happening as often as you want, more nudges may be in order. Or if conversations are happening, but they’re only focusing on feedback and not future development, sending out more information to managers about coaching may help balance the conversation.
To succeed over the long-term, “informal” performance management elements (like ongoing conversations) depend on employee buy-in and support. So, while it’s important to focus on program mechanics as you make changes, it’s also important to keep an eye on employee sentiment towards your process. If employees don’t think it’s working, they’re likely to disengage with the process—and eventually stop participating.
Recent research from IDG suggests that many employees have concerns about the process. For example, more than half (52%) say their manager isn’t a strong communicator or coach and nearly half (43%) say they don’t think informal performance management is fair. Do you know how your employees feel about your approach?
The simplest way to monitor how employees are feeling is to ask them. Often, it’s as simple as a quick poll. If you’re worried about adding additional clutter to employee inboxes, try incorporating polls into existing touchpoints in your communication plan.
There are additional ways to measure how engaged employees are with your process. You can analyze how much they are interacting with your communications, and which topics are most popular. You can also look at how they’re adopting new principles. If your process emphasizes career development, tracking usage of resources and programs can help you understand how many of your employees are focusing on development and growth.
Monitoring sentiment towards your evolving performance management process can help you alleviate the specific concerns of your employees. For instance, if you find that your employees, like those surveyed by IDG, feel managers aren’t great at delivering feedback, you can bake in more manager-specific training and communication to your efforts.
Finally, there’s the business impact of your program. Performance management evolves due to a variety of reasons, but some of the most popular include:
Decreasing voluntary turnover or attrition based on a perceived lack of opportunity
Improving operational efficiency and productivity by helping people improve in real-time
Enabling the organization to fill key skills gaps as they emerge
Consider the outcomes you are seeking at your organization, and which metrics indicate your progress. For example, your organization may want to reduce voluntary turnover due to perceived lack of opportunity. In this case, analyzing exit interview data will help you understand whether that specific type of turnover is decreasing.
At the end of the day, even if your metrics show that the mechanics of your program are running smoothly and employees like it, it’s worthwhile to track indicators of whether your program is having the desired impact. It may take some time to see measurable progress on some outcomes, like retention, so consider checking in once a quarter or at least twice a year.
Even as performance management evolves into something more informal and qualitative, you can still track and measure success in concrete ways. Monitoring these three dimensions of your program—the mechanics, the sentiment, and the business impact—can help you keep tabs on the health of your program, make necessary adjustments to improve your results, and ultimately achieve the ultimate goal of the program—a happy, productive, and adaptable workforce.
At the highest level, employee experience or EX illustrates everything that people encounter, observe, or feel over the course of their time with a company. EX is defined by the sum of its parts–from the daily vibe in the workplace to the employee’s purpose and place on their team and how they deliver value for their organization.
As leaders, we are stewards of culture and the environment our team works in. We create opportunities. We position individuals and teams to thrive. We tend culture.
None of this happens without dedication and attention. EX, how our employees feel about the culture in which they work, is a true test of our leadership.
With that in mind, here are seven ways to foster and build a great employee experience:
1. Intentionally construct meaning
Shaping EX starts with thinking strategically about what individual employees need, what the team needs, and how those collective experiences define our culture. When it comes to leadership’s role in culture building, employees are our customers; they are the recipients of our efforts. With the staggering costs of turnover, the stakes for getting things right for our internal customers are just as high as our aim for our external customers.
It behooves us, then, to approach EX work with the same diligence and dedication with which we approach our customer experience (CX) work. Our efforts can’t be token gestures; internal customers need more than birthday cake, inspirational quotes, and foosball tables.
Creating a stellar employee experience starts at the top–with leadership providing employees a sense of purpose around the company’s mission, vision, and values. What are we collectively striving for, what motivates us to get up every morning, and how does our broader strategy connect to everyday work?
In order to improve EX, you need the commitment of every leader across your organization, along with a shared vision around the key areas you want to make progress on, how you will measure it, and how you will make it meaningful for employees.
2. Evolve and foster employee engagement
Consistent engagement is vital to EX. Engagement by leaders across the company helps to foster individual and team growth by opening up new opportunities for collaboration that shape the broader experience.
While the social aspects of any workplace are important, employees are looking for meaningful engagement around their work that helps to motivate, inspire, and inform their day-to-day contributions and connection to the organization’s bigger mission and goals.
Employees relish meaningful work and want to contribute impactful ideas. When someone is intellectually engaged, their personality is activated, not only as an employee, but as a human being using their skills and creativity to solve problems and stretch further.
To define what works for your team, focus on each layer of employee engagement–from your organization’s structure, workflow, and processes to best practices for leaders in how they engage with their team.
Processes and programs to improve employee engagement should be hyper-flexible, and constantly evolving to adapt to the changing needs. Another key element to engagement is leveraging technology and collaboration tools to keep employees connected and doing their best work.
3. Create a culture of belonging
Leaders champion meaningful work by creating a culture of belonging that yields a positive employee experience. In addition to engagement, this includes designing your office space in a way that invites and encourages creativity, flexibility, and collaboration.
Think through how you want employees to use meeting spaces to work and collaborate. Employees matter. The company would not succeed without them.
Double down on this message by providing for employees’ wellness. Allow them flexibility and balance in their physical space and their routines. Cultivate diversity on every level. Show your team how much they matter, individually and collectively, every chance you get. These aspects of EX make employees comfortable in their jobs, enabling their best work and positioning them to stay.
4. Build trust and authenticity
Trust and authenticity are fundamental to this work. Be genuine. Make room for your leadership role. It’s a full-time responsibility, not an add-on. Build trust purposefully, mindfully, and daily.
Another key is transparency–being open, available, and honest. Consistently prioritize an employee-centric and one team culture. Model humility and respect. This is more than just treating people fairly, it’s about giving clear goals, trust, and being accountable for results.
5. Seek out feedback to measure EX
What do we think, team? How are we doing? How are we feeling? First and foremost, it is important to create a culture of honest dialogue. Cultivate an environment where employees know that their feedback is valued, where they feel heard and respected.
Metrics matter, but fundamental to that is to create a culture of listening. Invite input. Create check-in questions for leadership to pose. Recognize great work and to build on its success. This should be an ongoing leadership initiative.
Listen to information, insights about the culture you’re building. Make yours a culture of listening, learning, building. Activate effective channels of communication for employees to provide feedback. Listen, encourage ideas and suggestions, and follow up.
6. Champion co-creators
Culture building can be a heartening and mindful collaboration. The smart, innovative people we hire can help us shape our culture. They don’t have to stand by and watch us build. This enables us to develop our future managers and to earn their buy-in. Give employees the opportunity to do what they do best everyday. Focus on a continuous learning culture to drive and reinforce the connection and commitment to work. They sense co-workers’ commitment to quality and have a direct connection between their work and the company’s mission.
7. Streamline culture
Provide a culture where employees shape processes. Relinquish dependencies on bureaucracies, obscure tribal knowledge or one-off solutions. Pursue streamlined solutions that your team identifies.
If an employee has the insight to suggest a revision to current practices, it’s important to hear that suggestion and to be open to revising. While it can be tempting to “table” a new idea in favor of “how we’ve always done it,” that approach runs contrary to evolutionary thinking.
Listen to the ambassadors of your brand who work in the trenches of your processes; they are well-positioned to refine these systems. Let them. Doing so benefits processes, culture, morale, and retention.
Your role as culture creator is essential to your success as a leader. While these efforts are encompassing and ongoing, so are the rewards. When you do this right, it brings out the best in you and in your team.
This article originally published on Glassdoor and is reprinted with permission.
This article was written by Tammy Perkins—Glassdoor from Fast Company and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
No one likes a micro-manager, but radio silence isn’t a good look for managers, either.
According to a new survey from LinkedIn Learning, the online education arm of the professional social network, not setting clear expectations is the number one, single most frustrating trait they’ve experienced in a manager.
Lack of communication skills seems to be the common thread in the subsequent most frequently cited flaws. Being a micromanager came in second, followed by the polar opposite of being too aloof, rounded out by not fostering professional development.
And if these problems go untreated, they’ll fester within the workforce—to the point where managers might have a staffing problem on their hands. Researchers found that 36% of employees ended up quitting because their managers suffered from one of the aforementioned traits, while another 15% have at least considered quitting.
“Leaders often think they’re clear, but the data tells us a different story,” explains Lisa Earle McLeod, a strategy consultant who has written extensively about management and leadership. “Employees need to know why this matters (the purpose) and what good looks like (performance expectations). Show me a leader who says, ‘I shouldn’t have to tell them, it should be obvious,’ and we’ll show you a team that isn’t clear.”
That said, as another saying goes, communication is a two-way street, so employees need to step up and be vocal about their concerns. Employees need to take ownership of their careers and express expectations of their managers as well, which can help both employees and managers grow in their respective roles.
“Managers know it’s important to foster the development of their employees,” says Dr. Todd Dewett, an inspirational speaker and president of consulting firm TVA Inc. “They also acknowledge the need to engage this type of behavior.”
This article was written by Rachel King from FORTUNE and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
According to a recent survey conducted by Adobe, 58% of people feel that performance reviews “are a needless HR requirement.” Adobe, in fact, no longer has an annual performance review process and instead has adopted an approach involving ongoing discussions between managers and employees that emphasize talent development and future productivity instead of formal ratings and rankings based on past performance.
Still, the vast majority of companies continue to persist with a backward-looking evaluation process that is time-consuming for managers, demotivating for employees and of negligible benefit to the business as a whole. They do this because, as Adobe’s survey respondents suspected, performance reviews are more about “compliance than customer service.”
Focusing on past performance is an industrial-era hangover from when employees were mainly required to hit targets in easily measurable, repetitive tasks. Although most people’s jobs have evolved to be more complex and creative since then, the process and the tools used to manage their efficacy and performance in those roles have not.
In many respects, HR is still a defensive function whose role is to protect the business from its own employees. This is reflected by HR technology that is built for compliance, rather than helping managers and employees become more productive.
HR’s on-premise or enterprise resource planning systems can track performance reviews to prove a dismissal was not unfair, rank employees to justify compensation distribution and demonstrate effective people management to the board or shareholders. What they can’t do is react positively to the ever-changing demands of the modern business world and help employees and managers meaningfully improve their skills to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Performance management is changing — but HR tech is not
These days, a company’s and individual employee’s goals can change dramatically in the time between end-of-year reviews. Individual roles are more specialized and require frequent skill updates, while cross-functional teams have long since replaced the siloed departments that were standard just 10 years ago. In this environment, HR’s focus on past compliance is detrimental to future development.
Forward-thinking companies are changing the performance process to focus on development and continuous feedback that makes managers and employees more productive and engaged. The success of these trailblazers will encourage other businesses from a wide range of industries to follow suit.
This new model of performance management needs help from technology, but existing HR tech vendors are not keeping up. Their services are so embedded in the world of compliance, they cannot change to support the development needs of managers and employees. Fortunately, the solution already exists.
Creating a connected system of productivity
One of the key issues with performance reviews is that so much of the process involves looking back to gather the data. For managers, it is a huge time-investment. For employees, end-of-year feedback about an issue that occurred months beforehand is too late to be useful.
The process seems doubly inefficient when you realize that real-time, instantly-actionable performance data is already available in productivity systems like JIRA and Salesforce that are used by different teams. The problem is HR’s defensive mindset has made it difficult to integrate existing internal or ERP systems with these tools.
Dedicated performance management services that connect to both HR systems and the departmental productivity tools can take HR technology out of its silo. This will create a connected system of productivity that uses real-time data alongside transparent and flexible goal-tracking to drive ongoing development conversations between managers and employees.
It’s time for HR to evolve from a defensive function to make a positive contribution to key business goals and become what HR analyst Josh Bersin calls the “chief of productivity.” This demands a shift from a performance review process based on compliance to a human-centered, development-focused experience.
Adopting new performance technology that integrates with widely-used productivity tools is a key step to ensuring everyone from employees to managers to HR can work on what matters most in order to meet today’s goals and tomorrow’s challenges.