How to captivate your top performers in 2016

By TEC Member Anne Moore, CEO at PlanDo

Engaging your top performersThe Prime Minister might have just announced plans for more people to come to Australia under entrepreneur visas, as part of his ‘Innovation Statement’ but that isn’t going to help the majority of HR professionals looking to hire and engage their best talent next year.

The reality is that if you thought 2015 was tough keeping the energy and attention of your best talent, it’s going to get tougher in 2016. Many companies talk about the benefits they offer their employees, the perks, the flexibility and the competitive remuneration packages, but providing individuals with a clear career path and enabling them fulfill their career goals, aligned to your own, needs to be high, if not top on the list.

For too long the systems and processes that HR professionals use reflect the organisation’s goals, not the individual’s. They present HR professionals with a huge administrative burden and don’t reflect the changing nature of the work environment. How many businesses do you know make decisions on an annual basis anymore? Indeed, HR professionals may be hiring for a role today, but that role could be completely different in a few months’ time.

Together with the changing work environment, the casualisation of labour, the increase in contractors rather than employees and the millennial mindset of wanting to work in a number of different organisations rather than sticking with one over the long-term, HR professionals need new tools to retain talent in 2016.

I’m not talking ‘retention’ here, we’re going far further upstream.  We think the magic happens with how we enable autonomy and the impact of great performance and engagement.

If you want to engage your top performers next year, you need to consider the following:

1.    How often do you or your leaders ‘check-in’ with your team members?
Instead of having to make team members wait for 12 months for their review, smart organisations will provide more feedback more often. This feedback shouldn’t just come from ‘managers’ or ‘leaders’ as they should be known, it should be from more than one person – peers, mentors whomever the individual chooses. That way, a more complete picture can be built of the individual’s progress and a different perspective can be provided.  Recent research shows that peer feedback is particularly effective in motivating team members to consistently perform at their best.

2.    Are the individuals that work for your organisation self-directed?
Has your organisation given your team members an opportunity to talk about their career goals and what they want to do? It’s important for your leaders to set goals and objectives together with individuals. Ask them how they can contribute to achieve the goals your organisation has set. Again, it comes down to ownership and accountability, and if the individual has suggested a goal or objective, they’re much more likely to achieve it, than if they’re given one.  The new world of work demands a responsiveness and agile that’s internally derived.

3.    Does your performance review process need an overhaul?
Is it too long? Too cumbersome? A box ticking exercise? Some organisations such as Accenture and Deloitte are scrapping them altogether. There are cloud based career management systems available, such as PlanDo that are more intuitive, less expensive and really help HR professionals retain their key talent. It’s about HR professionals and leaders across the business having access to the right tools for the changing work environment.

4.    Are you having quality career conversations?
Ask yourself if the tools you’re using today encourage quality conversations between ‘leaders’ and ‘individuals’ in your organisation. Standard performance systems encourage managers to only talk to their people about growth once or twice a year. Most organisations in Australia have invested in expensive outdated ‘talent management’ systems that reflect what the organisation wants from its employees, to ‘manage’ them. Today, this approach simply doesn’t work. ‘Talent’ can’t be managed. With a younger generation of workers coming through, they want to take control of their own career and not have an organisation dictate to them the path they need to take to progress.  Managers are rapidly evolving into leader coaches and as such, they’ll also be wanting easy access to simple and effective tools that facilitate great conversations.

Finally, helping your team members with their career progression is not all down to you. Competition is fierce in many industries in Australia to attract the best talent and then once you have those individuals, it’s a common misconception that it’s down to HR professionals to nurture individuals and outline a path for progression. Wrong. Today, this is a shared responsibility. It’s about co-careering which means aligned values, purpose and goals.  Building strengths, skills and ensuring there’s a great ‘fit’ is was matters more and more.  At the end of the day, the individual is responsible for their own career, ensuring their experience and skills are documented and taken with them to their next employer.

Stop. Think. Before you scrap your managers

By TEC Member Anne Moore, CEO at PlanDo

A radical change to business structures is leaking out of Silicon Valley and spreading through Australia and beyond. It even has a name: holacracy. Atlassian has scrapped its managers and so have Canva.

The tenets of holacracy are simple: authority and decision-making rests with the team that is actually doing the work, not with the boss. Employees, the theory goes, spend their work hours getting work done instead of seeking management approval for every small change in direction.

But before you scrap your managers, consider the following instead:

1. Find a career management platform that works for both the individual and the business
The traditional performance review process is broken. Most organisations in Australia have invested in expensive outdated ‘talent management’ systems that reflect what the organisation wants from its employees, to ‘manage’ them. Today, this approach simply doesn’t work. ‘Talent’ can’t be managed. The role an individual was hired to do six months ago, isn’t necessarily the role that person is doing today. With a younger generation of workers coming through, they want to take control of their own career and not have an organisation dictate to them the path they need to take to progress. Cloud based platforms such as PlanDo enable both the individual and organisation to have an ‘adult to adult’ conversation about career development, giving more control to the individual while still providing the ‘manager’ or ‘leader’ with greater visibility of the individual’s career goals and how they’re progressing.

2. Drop the ‘manager’ tag and replace with ‘leader’
Rather than scrapping managers altogether, replace them with ‘leaders’. Today, we don’t want or need to be ‘managed’. Research has proved that giving people accountability for their actions, increases engagement and loyalty towards organisations. By giving authority to individuals to be able to make decisions, not only empowers them but increases efficiency for the organisation, reducing the chance of bottlenecks.

3. Give more feedback more often
Instead of having to make team members wait for 12 months for their review, over a 3 hour meeting, organisations need to provide more feedback more often. This feedback shouldn’t just come from ‘managers’ or ‘leaders’ as they should be known, it should be from more than one person –  peers, mentors whomever the individual chooses. That way, a more complete picture can be built of the individual’s progress and a different perspective can be provided.

4. Set goals and objectives between individuals and leaders
It’s important for you to set goals and objectives together with your team members. Ask them how they can contribute to achieve the goals your organisation has set. Again, it comes down to ownership and if the individual has suggested a goal or objective, they’re much more likely to achieve it, than if they’re given one.

5. Let the individual take responsibility for his/her career development
Finally, helping your team members with their career progression is not all down to you, the employer. Competition is fierce in many industries in Australia to attract the best talent and then once you have those individuals, it’s a common misconception that it’s down to you to nurture them and outline a path for progression. Wrong. Today, this is a shared responsibility. The individual is responsible for their own career, ensuring their experience and skills are documented and taken with them to their next employer.

So before you scrap your managers altogether, adopt ‘leaders’ instead and give individuals more responsibility to self-direct their own careers. Equipping your people with tools and technology that facilitate regular conversation works well from both sides.  For leaders, it’s timely information about where your people are going and how they’re tracking.  For individuals, they’ll value the opportunity to gain regular feedback and take more control over their career. Do that well, and engagement and work satisfaction will soar.

Benefits of transparent leadership

Transparency is a goal that a number of businesses claim to have achieved – yet many leaders still have a tendency to keep certain information under wraps.

Honesty and openness are key elements in gaining the trust and respect of employees, so why do senior executives still feel the need to operate in a state of secrecy?

In some cases, leaders are afraid of the consequences of releasing sensitive information early, such as the possibility of job cuts or other downsizing measures. Executives can feel that withholding this knowledge gives them greater control over the situation and is in the best interests of staff members. They may also worry about panicking employees.

However, in a social media-driven world, organisations are expected to be more transparent than ever before. Enterprises now face significant brand damage if disgruntled workers or customers flock to sites such as Twitter and Facebook to air grievances.

There is also a significant risk of poor morale and higher turnover, with employees unsure over their future role within the company.

The benefits of transparency

Research shows that a lack of leadership transparency not only makes executives appear dishonest, it also impacts how their performance is judged among colleagues and partners.

In 2010, a study in Elsevier’s The Leadership Quarterly Journal outlined the benefits of keeping employees informed on company changes, processes and strategies.The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Colorado State University-Pueblo researchers suggested that transparency had a positive effect on job satisfaction, staff retention, commitment and performance.

“Our results support that both the level of transparency exhibited by the leader and the leader’s level of positive psychological capacity each positively impacted both participants’ rated trust and perceived effectiveness of their leaders,” the authors noted.

“All study hypotheses were supported with leaders that were represented as being higher in both positive psychological capacity and transparency being rated as more effective than leaders in any other condition.”

In other words, employees hold leaders they consider to be transparent in a higher regard than other executives. This can lead to an increase in staff loyalty and productivity in the workplace, raising morale and mitigating uncertainty.

The challenges of transparency

The research clearly shows there is an advantage for businesses that prioritise transparent leadership, but that is not to say this methodology is devoid of pitfalls.

Companies must strike a delicate balance between effective information sharing and giving away proprietary knowledge that market rivals can use to improve their own products and services. Salary transparency can also present problems, particularly if there are any disparities between wages for employees who are doing the same job.

Making decision-making more transparent can be extremely beneficial, as it allows stakeholders to understand the reasoning behind important changes. On the downside, the entire process can be slowed down, and more transparency does not necessarily translate into better decisions.

Understanding the importance of transparency

Ultimately, even the disadvantages of improving transparency can be seen as benefits, as they often highlight areas of the business that currently aren’t performing well enough.

Writing for Fast Company, the co-founder of social media management company Buffer, Leo Widrich, described his organisation’s decision to increase transparency as “incredibly nerve-racking”.

“Both the great strength and cause of pervasive fear of transparency in corporate America is that, with transparency, you show your employees the company for what it is and you expose how it works. That’s disastrous at terrible companies,” he said. “The power of transparency then is that it drives us to be better – to create a company that’s both great and good.”

According to Mr Widrich, his company takes its cues from Google, which is often considered a market leader for corporate transparency among large multinationals. He cited the firm’s use of the Google Snippets internal system. The platform allows all employees to see what their colleagues are working on, enabling people to make decisions autonomously.

“That limits the power of bad bosses to control the flow of information and makes everyone’s accomplishments recognisable by everyone.”

Are you ready for transparency?

While there are both advantages and disadvantages to boosting leadership transparency at your organisation, in many cases the pros outweigh the cons.

Withholding key information from stakeholders leads to distrust, poor performance, higher staff turnover and a bad reputation both internally and externally. Conversely, leaders who are open and honest about decision-making are perceived to be better at their jobs and inspire employees to raise productivity and offer constructive feedback.

However, for transparency to be truly successful, organisations need to ensure the way they do business is fair, efficient and ethical. Otherwise, they could face significant problems when opening up sensitive company information to a wider audience.