Human Performance Deserves More Than a Review

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post. I will or have received compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services, and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from.  I am not formally employed by Trakstar. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Of the many dynamics or tasks that have to be executed between employee and employer, performance reviews are probably the most hated. Over the past few years, there have been extreme calls to get rid of the performance evaluation. For this argument, there are two camps. The first camp is comprised of those who never saw a purpose for a once-a-year process that is labor-intensive as well as challenging. The second camp is made up of people who see it as a necessary evil that perhaps needs some reinvention. There are viable arguments on both ends and yet they all miss one important factor, we are dealing with humans.

It amazes me how often we forget the human factor whether we are talking about a new HR Technology or the discipline of HR on the whole. We serve humans and they serve us. When we design and develop policies, procedures, processes or technology based on the day-to-day needs and realities of our employees we garner compliance, trust, and a willingness to be a part of the solution. People are not merely a cog in the wheel or a means to an end for your company. They have shared their talents with you in an effort to:

  • Progress a specific career trajectory.
  • Sustain them financially, so they can live and provide for themselves and their families.
  • Test out the kind of work they are good at and also like to do.

Just for a moment, let us assume that everyone who you employ shows up with the intention to do their best daily. You expect productivity, engagement, and a genuine interest in the work being done at your company, but what is the emotional and physical ROI for those expressions? If I am diligently churning out quality work daily, I want to be able to connect the dots between my contributions and the effect they have on the employer’s mission and/or goals. Conversely, if I’m not performing to standards or am executing a task in a way that isn’t helpful or wanted, I would appreciate open dialogue about that concern rather than to find out a year later that I am being put on a performance improvement plan for an issue that could have been solved with direct communication.

Communication is a core challenge when we speak about everything from performance evaluations to succession planning. If I understand what is expected of me and there will be multiple checkpoints throughout the year for me to revise goals or have a discussion with my boss to discuss progress, there is absolutely nothing that could blind-side me during the performance process. Continuous communication makes it so that everyone is on the same page about goals, execution, and outcomes alleviating serendipitous and uneasy performance conversations later in the year. If I am made aware that I am being slated as a top performer for future leadership opportunities, I may reconsider looking elsewhere for the opportunities I seek. People can’t plan their lives let alone their careers when leaders neglect to communicate on a regular basis. Increasingly, your employees want their power back. By power I mean the ability to have a say about what they accomplished through their efforts, to be heard and acknowledged as someone who has contributed either individually or as part of the team to the success of your company.

How can you start to empower your employees from a performance perspective?

Here are a few tips:

  • Be upfront about how success will be measured. As mentioned before, no one deserves to be blindsided because you failed to communicate what is expected.
  • Where possible, give your employees the ability to craft their own goals in collaboration with you. If I am setting my goals, I will be a lot more inclined to rise to the challenge than if goals are forced upon me.
  • Start to review performance as a continuous cycle of learning and development for both you and your employee. No one is perfect. In fact, leaders aren’t perfect. We need to start assuming that people want to do the right thing as opposed to the wrong thing. Use continuous feedback and performance discussions to help people improve rather than to penalize them.

Pardon my next statement, but it needs to be said. There is no excuse to struggle through performance evaluations when various approaches to managing it are available such as technology. I recently had the opportunity to give a new performance management solution called Trakstar a try. What I loved about the solution was the ability to set clear and individual goals whether to assess the overall performance of an employee or to have a basis for evaluating project-based contributions that too often fly under-the-radar from a recognition standpoint. The entire solution encourages companies to get out of the mode of the once per year review and instead set up several touchpoints throughout the cycle so that no employee is ever left behind or lost in the abyss of the workforce. The most tedious aspect of performance is keeping up with the documentation of it. Trakstar makes this a completely online process and provides for user-friendly scheduling of performance discussions, check-ins, and authentic dialogue around productivity and performance.

Your employees have a purpose in mind and a voice they wish they could express more at work. Implementing technology in lieu of genuine face-to-face dialogue is a step in the right direction of ensuring that you are in regular dialogue with your people even as you get caught up in the day-to-day.

To get some insight on how you can improve your own performance and feedback process, sign up for Trakstar’s live demo to see it in action and assess whether it is right for your organization.

Heads Down, Mouths Shut: The Distracted Generation

Heads Down, Mouths Shut-The Distracted Generation

To say there is a lot going on in the world right now is probably an understatement. The current events of the moment are so cumbersome and so complex that for many it has become emotionally and physically taxing.

The interesting thing about the emotion piece is that most of us are walking around unable to muster up emotion for anyone or anything that doesn’t directly affect our own lives. That is to say that we would rather lose ourselves in the joy of Beyonce’s pregnancy or the latest You Tube video of someone making a fool of themselves in an effort to ignore and/or not fully participate in the more pressing issues of the moment. As an avid watcher of the hit show: The Walking Dead, I am more and more convinced that our story – like the show will never be about the zombies or the villains who destroyed humanity; but rather the human beings that were so out of touch with reality that they allowed it to happen.

Of course there will be the bunch who say: “I can enjoy pop culture and be just as socially vigilant as the next soldier”. Sure you can. I will not deny you your joy. Lose yourself. However, I will wager you that the people dying in Aleppo have no distractions; nothing to divert their attention from the daily horror of their own lives. The biggest diversion those poor people have is the pain of losing loved ones, the periodic pleas over social media to save them, and the hunger pangs plaguing them for weeks at a time.

Do you think the people of Flint, Michigan have the luxury of caring about pop culture or the latest viral video when they are going on their third year of having lead-ridden water to drink, cook, and bathe with?

What freedom to divert attention do the people of Pinellas County, Florida have as 95% of their students continue to fail reading and writing with a white-run board of education who prides themselves on incarcerating young black children for minor offenses?

Enjoy your diversions, your bubbles, and all of the things that make you comfortable and happy daily. I simply hope that the freedom to enjoy those things is never taken away from you. I hope you never have to become invisible to a whole society of people who value their diversions more than your well-being.

I hope that you never encounter an injustice so horrible that people leave you to cope in deafening silence, because they are afraid to lose what little has been afforded them.

By all means, keep your head down at that job where you can’t seem to make strides, but affords you a regular check. Keep your mouth shut so as to not stir your friends, family and professional network – I’m sure they will all come to your rescue should misfortune befall you.

Personally, I cannot keep my head down. I will not keep quiet. I have watched enough atrocities to know that I am quite fortunate and at any moment it can all be taken away from me. Nothing that is granted is indefinite. I know enough to know that I cannot cure all of society’s ills, but I know that to not step up and lend a hand is a moral sin.

As we all continue to watch many of the constructs of society and government crumble before us, we need to ask ourselves whether we are going to be proactive and do our part; or wait until misfortune hits closer to home to snap out of it and into action.

Please know the goal has always been for each of us to be so wrapped up in self-preservation, survival and distractions that we remain oblivious to all of the underhanded things going on right under our noses.

If you want to know what’s going on you merely have to stop and pay attention to what is going on and the connectivity of each event. Enjoy the glimmers of beauty still present for our enjoyment regularly; but please also recognize that your ability to enjoy those moments is a privilege many do not have.

Ultimately it is your choice to stay abreast or to live in ignorance. Choose wisely.

 

Is the “Grown Up” World Where Talent Goes To Die?

Image courtesy of Flickr

Image courtesy of Flickr

I am deep into a book called: No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need To Do To Have a Great Career by Larry Smith. In this book, he asserts that: “the grown-up world is where talent goes to die.” Reading this statement jolted me gratefully inside – as this is something I have come to realize in my own career journey and in the scope of coaching my clients in business.

You may be thinking that this statement is: “harsh” or “an unfair generalization”. Perhaps, you’re right, but I will wager that you are not necessarily wrong, but rather predictable. I say you are predictable rather than wrong, because you belong to a subset of thousands – if not millions of people who believe in a precept of work that is fast becoming a dinosaur. This precept of work includes: Choosing a degree field (preferably something that will allow you to support yourself upon graduation), studying hard even if you hate your field of study, finding an internship where you give your gifts away for free,  only to search for whatever job the economy will loan to you. This my friends is the age old definition of success and job security. The unfortunate outcome of all of this is: The lot of unhappy people and wasted talent living and participating in a society that appears to being conversely impacted by a perceived lack of skilled workers.

While what I just outlined is not indicative of everyone’s career; it is the reality of the majority. Very rarely do I meet someone who says: I love my job and it is allowing me to utilize my full range of talents. In my head, I know of a handful of people in both my personal and professional circles who truly love the work they do. I know that “love” makes people uncomfortable, so let me define what “love” means in this context:

The handful that “love” their work are:

1) Doing work that aligns with their natural talents, interests and passions.

2) Fulfilled by the work, interactions and daily dynamics of the job.

3) Reinforced by having their basic needs for compensation, benefits, flexibility, long-term growth, challenge and continued learning met in return for their efforts.

Most people are not “in love” let alone fulfilled in the way I just described above. Every week, I observe the sentiments about work as we inch towards Friday. Most people, appear to be happiest from Thursday through Saturday. Sunday is a reminder that work starts in 24 hours on Monday – which brings on the inevitable social shares and/or griping about the drudgery that is returning to work. Put plainly, people are miserable and feel stuck.

Coming back to the title of this article which is: Is the “grown-up” world where talent goes to die? Is it true? I think it is. We start children off conditioning them to conform to the world rather than disrupt it. This conditioning often forces them to ignore their interests, innate skills and passions in favor of the road most traveled, lucrative and accepted. In doing this, we ship them off to university to study what seems like the best option for them. Sometimes it works out and other times a pivot emerges to the dissatisfaction of the parents, because of course we are supposed to have our entire life figured out at 22 – how reasonable!

Should we be lucky enough to get a job after graduation, more advice comes our way. The advice is: “Work hard, keep your head down, follow the rules and you will be promoted and successful in no time.” In “no time” is the operative word, because in this current economy promotions seem to be rather elusive and hard or good work is no longer a silver bullet for success on the job. By the time, people look up – they have a home, 2 cars, some kids, a dog, bills and a job that is a terrible fit for their skills and lifestyle; but the bills have to be paid, so onward with more drudgery.

For every person that works a job there is a dream and creativity deferred in the journey towards personal and professional success. We have all been conditioned to believe that holding a job whether it is a passion or not is a badge of honor – your right of passage into adulthood. More money, more bills, and more material effects are just a few of the things that define your adulthood in our current society. The problem with this rat race of superficial success is that it is superficial. Success is subjective and therefore much more to having longevity in your career than the degrees, certifications and clocked years of service.

Agreeing or disagreeing with this statement of talent dying in the grown-up or corporate world doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take a moment to realize what you want your life and contributions to stand for and taking stock of where you are so you can ensure that the two align. Here’s a hint: In the coming decades, success will not be defined by your retirement package, the money in your bank account or the amount of hours you worked – it will be about how you made an impact (however small) in your part of the world.

I spoke about success and what is means to be an adult in the modern world on my Periscope show: Ask Czarina Live. You can watch it below.

 

Technology and HR Revisited: The Workplace Communication Conundrum

Image courtesy of Canva.com

Image courtesy of Canva.com

A common concern in the workplace is communication and how we utilize technology to facilitate it in a way that is useful to everyone. When I started in HR 10 years ago, it was fairly common to see drafted memorandums being sent within organizations to inform department and even specific people about important matters. We moved from memos to email for important and immediate messages and that has now taken precedence. Fast forward to 2015 and we have not only email, but we have instant messaging, social media, texts, communication apps and workforce platforms like, Podio, Yammer and even Evernote.

So much technology… very little commonsense.

With all of the various modes of communication that we have available, I find there is still confusion around when we should be using technology to enable efficient communication and when we simply need face-to-face contact. For instance, something like sending your team’s schedules would probably be best sent via email or communicated in person. Of late, I have heard multiple complaints by employees in a variety of industries that state they are texted their schedules and sometimes miss it depending on their WIFI signal. I get most of my texts, but I have also missed plenty of texts as well due to kinks in service and the airwaves. It isn’t a perfect technology yet, so I remain perplexed as to why something as important as someone’s schedule would be sent this way.

Another scenario that keeps cropping up is the text to let your manager know you will be absent. A phone call or even an email would suffice in a case like this. Texting that you will be absent is hardly a reliable or reasonable way of communicating that message.

Let’s talk about email…

Email is both a business necessity and bane of evil. We all receive way too many emails. Worse yet, we barely read the contents of the emails we receive because of competing demands and time constraints. If your email is longer than 2-3 small paragraphs, you may want to get up and have a conversation. Additionally, if  your question or commentary contains confidential or sensitive material, you may also want to think about having a face-to-face conversation. Some of this is commonsense, yet the endless availability of technology for the purpose of communication colors our ability to make sensible judgments in how we use these resources.

The Social Smackdown

Social Media is a groundbreaking technology in the context of communication. Nevertheless, there isn’t a week that goes by where someone hasn’t abused the immediacy and permanence of Twitter’s 140 characters or Facebook’s never-ending text box with everything from random thoughts to bigoted rants. There have been several articles written and many PSA’s on how you use these platforms to communicate. Many people listen, but still others opt to communicate the wrong messages without regard for it’s immediate impact.

Thank you for applying…

In this discussion of ways that communication and technology are at odds, we can not forget the automated templates delivered to candidates during the recruitment and selection process. I will be transparent in saying I appreciate the templates that live in the average ATS. Before you throw tomatoes- here is why:

1) It allows a recruiter dealing with high volumes of candidates to get a tailored message out in a timely fashion.

2) It is great for record-keeping since each is time-stamped and attached to candidate’s profiles.

3) It gives the recruiter back their time and eliminates a ton of phone time traditionally allotted for corresponding with candidates.

That said, you actually have to take the time to ensure the message is tailored. Some of you out there are just rolling this feature out with no effort and it is destroying your brand each time a candidate receives a template that hasn’t been configured- but I digress. This automation doesn’t absolve recruiters from having any interaction with candidates- it just automates a portion of your process. To that point, there are many other instances in the hiring process and beyond where an automated message will not suffice and may even be seen as discourteous.

When we talk about technology and how it helps us to communicate; we have to remember that in all things that help us there is a limit. I firmly believe that teams need to establish communication guidance, so that everyone is aware of how they will be expected to communicate in a variety of situations. This is not a policy, but rather a standard operating procedure or living agreement for communication. In establishing this sort of guidance, I believe we can eliminate unnecessary email, texting for inappropriate reasons and overall misuse of technology when communicating.

Want more? Click here to watch the latest “Ask Czarina” episode on this post on  “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel.

 

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