Yearly performance reviews have traditionally been a stressful employee experience.  For some, it can symbolise a yearly bonus or next year’s increased pay package.  For others, the chopping block.  But many forward-thinking organisations are now recognising annual reviews are an unnecessary requirement, dissatisfied with the ineffectiveness and impartiality of the time-consuming process.

Performance reviews can involve hundreds of hours of management time in preparation are still likely to be poorly received.  More importantly, they’re failing to capture the needs of modern employees.

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”

Stephen Covey

Views on the traditional approach
The fast-paced nature of modern work, coupled with the high expectations of current workplaces, are leading organisations to move away from traditional performance reviews.  A recent Adobe survey with 1,500 U.S. office workers, found that about two-thirds of employees and managers viewed performance reviews as an outdated practice.

On average, managers spend 17 hours planning for each individual’s performance review.  According to research from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), the average manager’s responsibilities have almost doubled from four to seven direct reports.  Altogether, this leads to managers spending about 200 hours a year on tasks such as filling out evaluations and meeting individually with employees.

For a company with about 10,000 employees, it is predicted that companies spend roughly $35 million a year to conduct performance reviews.  Meanwhile, 90% of managers are dissatisfied with the way their company conducts reviews, and 90% of HR leaders believe they yield inaccurate information.

What’s the alternative?
The biggest restraint on annual reviews is their heavy emphasis on financial rewards and punishments with the end-of-year structure.  Holding people accountable for their past behaviours at the expense of improving current performance can be difficult to navigate yet is extremely important for long-term sustainability.

Adobe’s recent study reported that around 80% of office workers would prefer an alternative method, such as on-the-spot feedback as opposed to annual formal reviews.  Many large organisations are now shifting towards a revised model involving more frequent feedback.
The ‘Check-In’ system adopted at Adobe is a new way of managing performance reviews, transforming the employee experience, and showing real, improved results. Meanwhile, some organisations plan to abolish the system of ranking and rating employees to determine their performance and reward altogether.  

Instead, systems are being replaced with frequent check-ins, involving ongoing one-on-one conversations with managers and employees without formal documentation.  Business researcher Josh Bersin believes that about 70% of multinational companies are moving toward this approach, that prioritises career development and employee experience.

The transformation of many top-tier review systems is providing organisations with a wide variety of options moving forward.

At Accenture their transformation from performance reviews has changed approximately 90% of past processes, says CEO Pierre Nanterne.  They have instead opted for regular and timely feedback following assignments.  This procedure aims to reach goals and address employee development, using more real-time, achievable and applicable feedback.
Similarly, at Deloitte, once-a-year performance reviews have been replaced with a set of four questions asked at the end of every project or every quarter.  Each question is straight forward, with the expectation of regular check-in conversations.  Along with a formal/standardised coaching system, this breeds a culture of mentoring and nurturing development conversations.

At General Electric, the long-time role model for performance appraisals has shifted focus towards well-rounded feedback to inform short-term and long-term goals.  With a focus on performance development, their instantaneous feedback app called PD@GE, is all-inclusive and allows anyone (managers, colleagues) to leave any kind of feedback for an employee.  This encourages workers to organise discussions with managers, prioritise goals and work on their performance on an ongoing basis.

Across the board, large organisations have set the intention to move away from the traditional model of performance reviews.  This includes technology companies such as Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Juniper Systems and other large organisations such as PwC, Gap, OppenheimerFunds, Adidas, SAP, Amazon and Goldman Sachs.

Case study: Adobe
Donna Morris, Adobe’s Executive Vice President of Employee Experience, drove the creation of Check-In, and has noted how this procedure simplifies performance reviews.  HR managers train leaders to have constructive conversations with their employees.  Feedback conversations are expected to occur quarterly, with ongoing feedback becoming the norm.  Adobe’s Employee Resource Centre is available to offer support and guidance where needed.  Managers are shown an internal salary tool that allows them to view their employees’ salary range for each role.  They are then encouraged to operate as a business owner and determine the impact each employee is making, whether they have unique skills in the market and whether they are paid competitively.

Adobe’s guidelines
Within Adobe, their Check-In system revolves around three central elements: expectations, feedback, and growth and development.

1.    Expectations: This includes setting, tracking and reviewing clear objectives.  The roles and responsibilities of each objective also have to be clearly outlined, along with their result or success.

2.    Feedback: Once the expectations have been established, feedback is required on how to achieve goals and improve performance at a faster rate.  Reciprocal coaching on a regular basis is necessary.

3.    Growth and Development: With this intention, ongoing conversations are necessary for the future development of employees.  This allows for an easier view of employee progression.

Results to date
Since the implementations of Check-In, time spent on performance reviews has been redistributed to more impactful Check-In conversations and more important priorities.  In the two years that it has been rolled out, Adobe estimates that over 100,000 manager hours have been saved each year.  They have also reported a drop in voluntary attrition, as well as more involuntary departures from workers who are not meeting expectations.

Based on employee surveys between 2012 and 2015, the number of employees that recommended Adobe as a great place to work increased by 10%, along with a 10% increase in those reporting that ongoing feedback helped their performance.

Adobe’s system of health checks and feedback loops alleviates pressure from such a formal process and saves hours of manager and productive working time.  It contributes towards learning and development goals as well as improving outcomes for individuals and the organisation.  Performance conversations serve to be a better experience for everyone involved, by shifting the emphasis onto development goals rather than punishments and rewards.  It also addresses some of the age-old issues of annual performance reviews, such as the difficulty recalling performance earlier in the year.

Modernise the performance review and see the benefits of an improved employee experience
The benefits of changing the performance review process are demonstrative and worthwhile, especially for smaller scale organisations.  Beyond these reasons, regular feedback loops and goal setting can instil and develop a learning-oriented and supportive culture in the digital age.

Annual cycles are no longer clear cut. In the gig economy of short-term projects and changing dynamics, employee goals and tasks cannot be accurately mapped out a year in advance.  New methods of performance review can support and promote the agile practices that so many tech companies and those in disruptive industries can employ.

In this rapidly shifting environment with reliance on real-time data, feedback can be one of these points that is collected and addressed on an on-going basis.  As businesses set strategic and development goals, changing the performance review process to be more iterative can also be a solid investment in the employee experience. A lot of work needs to go into the performance overhaul, but the results have proven the worth of this process both short and long term.

Support leaders by foster a feedback conducive culture 
The success of any change to systems of feedback needs to be supported culturally. At Psych Press, we recognise the importance of identifying employee readiness early. The Menu-Driven Business Personality Reflections® is a bespoke 73 scale personality questionnaire that measures business-related capabilities to assist in selection and personal development decisions. 

Through scales like Personal Development, organisations can quickly assess how effectively their personnel would adapt to a feedback conducive culture.
 Personal Development

Personal development is a measure of an individual’s preference for obtaining and developing new skills, as well as their level of receptivity to feedback.  The Personal Development scale in the Business Personality Reflections® questionnaire indicates the degree to which an individual is likely to desire understanding and developing new skills, and whether they believe advice and comments from others to be beneficial.  Personal development tendencies place individuals at a sizeable competitive advantage as they are catalysts for their own professional development and will continually seek to increase their own intellectual capital.  Without it, an employee may show reluctance in broadening their knowledge and skill set and may be less receptive to constructive feedback.

Individuals who score highly on the Business Personality Reflections® Personal Development scale are more likely to want to master new situations, and are likely to regard feedback as useful and fundamental to self-progression.  Employees who have personal development characteristics are also likely to be self-driven, goal-oriented, and innovative.

The results of several studies show that the Big Five personality dimensions of ‘openness to experience and conscientiousness’ are positively related to personal development, specifically proactive learning and feedback-seeking behaviour (Maurer, Lippstreu & Judge, 2008; Orvis & Leffler, 2011).  In a longitudinal study, Seibert, Kraimer & Crant (2001) found proactive and open dispositions to be associated with heightened job performance and role satisfaction. This study also found personal development tendencies elicited long-term benefits for employees, including higher salaries and career success (Seibert et al., 2001).  Cultivating employee satisfaction and growing intellectual capital increases productivity and innovation, which will ultimately increase an organisation’s competitive advantage (Roffe, 1999).

A sample item for the Personal Development scale that you may see on our questionnaire could be:

“To be of the most benefit to their company, workers should continually learn new things”.

You might consider using a personal development scale in your selection and development processes if your employees require:

·         A feedback conducive environment
·         Team-oriented tasks where employees offer feedback and advice to challenge and support one another.
·         A flexible and dynamic working environment.
·         Constant career progression and development.

Organisations need employees who are high in personal development tendencies to succeed.  Let us help you find and develop the right people for your organisation so that you can maintain your competitive advantage.

If you are interested in learning more about the Personal Development scale, or the Menu-Driven Business Personality Reflections® please simply enquire now for a free trial.

The world we live in is constantly evolving – globalisation, automation and artificial intelligence are rapidly transforming industries and demanding organisations operate more efficiently than ever before.  To meet these demands, savvy organisations are shifting towards an Agile methodology; focusing on adaptive planning, early delivery, continuous improvement, and an ability to respond to change quickly and easily.  Given the present impact of digital disruption on all industries, it is no surprise organisations are transitioning themselves towards this approach.

Research conducted in 2006 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggests that agile organisations grow revenue 37 per cent faster and generate up to 30 per cent higher profits than non-agile organisations. Although the need to undertake an agile approach is increasingly evident, becoming an agile organisation remains elusive to all but a handful of companies. The Project Management Institute’s 2017 annual survey, ‘The Pulse of the Profession’, indicated that only 12 per cent of organisations distinguished themselves as highly agile.

If your organisation might benefit from adopting an Agile culture, here are 5 actions you can take to create an organisation that is faster, more resilient – and more Agile.

1. Assess the Current State of Your Organisation

Before embarking on the journey to Agile, conduct a review to recognise the current appetite of your organisation.  This will provide you with an understanding of your organisation’s core practices, processes and cultural fit for Agile.  This can also be utilised as a benchmark to measure the impact of future changes, as well as pinpoint any concerns or resistance your transformation will need to address and overcome for the future.  Assessing managerial readiness is particularly vital early on.  Many managers can struggle to adapt the Agile mindset and may have an undue impact on the change if not catered for.

2. Hire the Right People to Create a Flexible, Dynamic Team

To assist in the creation an agile organisation, you’re going to need agile people.  Traditional recruitment methods are optimised for hiring individuals with narrow skill sets that fulfil a specific discipline: e.g. Marketing, HR, IT.

Candidates recruited through this approach may find themselves struggling to adapt to the multi-disciplinary style associated with an Agile culture.  A more appropriate alternative approach that helps increase agility within an organisation disregards the skills checklist, and instead seeks candidates who fulfil the 3 Cs – creative, collaborate and curious.  Depending on the role, technical skills are still required, but the capacity to transition across disciplines and demonstrate these soft skills should be a priority in all new hires.

“These are the generalists with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Harvard Business Review (2014) states, “… the multi-faceted tinkerers who have specialized in a discipline like design but turn out to be pretty good coders.”

By having the right individuals, you will have a dynamic and flexible team that can accommodate and adapt when swift changes occur.

3. Create Focus and Communicate a Clear Vision

If you want to get your people to go where you and the organisation need them to go, you must present them with a clear and captivating vision of the future.  The better understanding your people have of yours and the organisation’s goals and aspirations, the faster everyone will work towards them.

Creating short term goals can help your team and the organisation avoid being distracted by a long list of priorities.  Create focus by narrowing down your priorities to just three or four that must be done as soon as possible.  As you complete each task, add more to the list to maintain focus without feeling overwhelmed.

Creating an Agile environment doesn’t happen overnight.  Keeping a clear vision front of mind in employees about the reasons for change will go a long way in getting them onside.  Change champions can also assist in communicating to those who aren’t yet sold on the benefits of Agile.  

4. Start Small

Although it may be tempting to immediately implement an organisation-wide Agile transformation, starting off with a single team/department will help you reduce risk.  It will also enable you to resolve any unexpected challenges while practising Agile ‘in the wild’ while optimising your approach in a small, controlled environment first.

When identifying your trial group, look for teams that will be the most open to adopting Agile.  Push decision-making authority and autonomy down the chain of command for the trial group, and give your people control and freedom over how they do their work.  Make sure you are regularly reviewing progress with the team to keep things aligned with the short-term goals. If goals are not being met, communicate with the trial group to see where improvements can be made.

5. Plan Your Roll-Out

Once you feel that you’re satisfied with your trial initiative and believe it’s working effectively, it’s time to begin rolling out the Agile approach across the whole organisation.  Keep your trial group involved in this process; not only will they give other teams an established example to follow, but they’ll also be able to act as Agile champions, advocating the approach while allaying any doubts or concerns.

The review process implemented during the trial period should continue throughout the roll-out to ensure that the approach is personalised to each team’s specific requirements and needs.  Keep in mind it is also a good idea to conduct a wider retrospective analysis to assess how effectively Agile is serving your organisation.

Understanding and planning for these initial 5 steps in implementing an Agile culture will set your organisation up far better than many competitors in the market.  With only 12% of organisations able to describe themselves as highly Agile, now is the time to transition your workforce towards a communicative, collaborative, and innovative Agile culture. 

To assist you in finding the best people to champion Agile, Psych Press’ menu driven Business Personality Reflections® (BPR®) questionnaire can quickly identify what competencies employees and candidates possess. This online menu-driven system contains over 70 selectable psychometric scales bespoke to organisational needs, and assesses many of the behavioural traits typically associated with effective Agile teams, including:  

  • Openness to Change
  • Teamwork
  • Autonomy
  • Ingenuity
  • Tolerance for Ambiguity
  • Innovativeness
  • Self-Management

To learn more about how Psych Press’s tailored approach, please simply enquire now for a trial of the BPR®, or one of our other services.

In completing any university degree, the main outcome for most graduates is employment. The current statistics in Australia bode well for achieving these graduate outcomes, with just under 72% of new bachelor’s degree graduates who were seeking full-time employment finding a position within four months after completing their course. While this is a fairly high number, it still means that around 1 in 4 graduates are unable to secure a position after graduating. As well as this, full time employment in graduate roles has dropped by almost 20% in ten years, creating an oversaturated employment pool.

So, how do employers decide which three graduates they will hire and which one they won’t?

Employability Capabilities

Employability refers to the set of skills, understandings and personal attributes which can improve the likelihood that graduates will gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupation. Also referred to as ‘soft’ or ‘transferable’ skills, employability describes skills that develop outside the academic knowledge learned through completing a degree yet are still considered extremely important by employers.

As digital practices push employees towards a gig economy, graduates have to ensure they possess the necessary skills to thrive in this competitive marketplace. Current graduates are expected to have at least 5 different jobs over their lifetime, two of which don’t even exist yet. In the past, the technical skills taught at university could set graduates up for their career. Presently, the half-life of any learned skill is 5 years, meaning that the majority of content taught at universities is obsolete 10 years after graduating. In fact, it is predicted that 40% of university degrees will soon be outdated.

As employees are only likely to spend an average of 5 years at one job, it is important for employers to assess their soft skills quickly, to determine whether they will create a positive change in the environment in a much shorter timeframe.

These 9 core behavioural competencies have become a staple of many capability frameworks, with organisations placing a greater emphasis on their presence in biodata, interviewing processes and psychometrics, than grades or even prior experience.

 Graduate Employability Capability Framework

·         Communication – this is the ability to listen to and understand written and verbal information, as well as being assertive and able to establish networks. A good display of these skills is being able to adapt one’s writing to the varying needs of different audiences.

·         Teamwork – this involves successfully working with a variety of different people and developing productive working relationships and outcomes. Graduates with these skills can define their role and strengths within a team and are not afraid to give feedback to other team members.

·         Problem-Solving – this is the ability to apply one’s skills and develop innovative, practical solutions to a range of problems. It involves the initiative to independently identify problems, as well as solving them.

·         Openness to change – this denotes a candidates ability to adapt to new work environments with ease and confidence. This factor is becoming more important as the workforce develops technologically.

·         Self-Management – this is a graduate’s ability to evaluate and monitor their own performances, and to develop personal visions and long-term goals for their future. It is taking responsibility for their career trajectory and having confidence in their ideas and vision.

·         Planning and Organising – this involves both short-term and long-term planning of one’s workplace or project goals. It is the ability of a graduate to manage their time and priorities and coordinate tasks for themselves and others, as well as adapting resources to cope with any possibility.

·         Technical Acumen– this refers to both a graduate’s range of basic IT skills, and a willingness to learn new IT skills where needed. It involves being aware of how technology impacts their field of work and ensuring their skills with key technologies stay up-to-date.

·         Learning Orientation – this skill refers to an enthusiasm to continue learning new knowledge beyond the completion of a degree. It involves acknowledging that there is always a need to learn more, being open to new ideas and techniques, and being prepared to invest time and effort into learning new skills.

·         Strategic Thinking – this final skill involves the ability to develop a strategic, creative, long-term vision for a project. This can include generating multiple options and innovative solutions, translating new ideas into action, and adapting to new situations where needed.

Why these skills are important

In today’s market, simply having a degree is not enough to guarantee graduates a job. Instead, it is a box on application that is ticked off, and thus is no longer differentiating the good graduates from the subpar. Given how education (and its consequent debt) is becoming more expensive (exacerbated by the recent changes to FEE-HELP repayment thresholds), it is more important for graduates to obtain a rewarding job and make their university debt money well spent. Fostering employability skills has become the most important priority for students and is one that they do not feel is achieved enough in the classroom.

As universities struggle to keep up with the needs of employers, candidates are tasked with developing these skills themselves, which makes accurately analysing them in the employment process all too important for long term gain for the organisation.

Which universities do it best?

Most of the top ten universities in Australia have higher employability than they have employment rates – that is to say, universities are perceived to be able to produce a far greater number employable people than they do in reality. The best universities are taking charge of this by encouraging students to learn more soft skills while at the institutions. Research universities have access to highly regarded alumni networks to establish connections with old students, while technical universities have strong ties with industry leaders and mentorship programs.

Overall, Australian universities are some of the best in the world for employment, regardless of whether the institution is technical or research. Employment and employability are growing, as students and institutions realise the value of promoting and endorsing these skills. There is still a way to go, but the results are positive, and the future is bright.

The need to grow and adapt in the modern workforce is placing an increased emphasis on the transferable soft skills that graduates possess. If universities wish to ensure their graduates employability, matching their learning outcomes to modern competency frameworks is a must. 

Psych Press’s Business Personality Reflections® (BPR) questionnaire is a key way to deduce which skills a potential employee has, and how they will suit the work environment. While employee longevity becomes shorter, it is important to find a candidate who can make a positive change, in a shorter time.

The BPR measures a multitude of relevant, modern competencies for the growing workplace, and allows employers to predict their effect from square one.

Employability skills make a huge difference to both individuals and organisations and discovering whether this person has the drive to change is the key to finding the right fit.

One of the most relevant and demanded skills that the BPR measures is Openness to Change. You can read more about this scale below:

Openness to change measures an individual’s ability to adapt to varying situations, and their capacity to adopt new and different ways to manage tasks or solve problems. That is, individuals’ willingness to accept new ideas or procedures as opposed to those which are familiar. The openness to change scale identifies individuals’ ability to be flexible in their thinking and solve problems effectively.

Due to the ever-changing and increasingly innovative workplace, an employees’ ability to adapt and change where necessary is vital to an organisations prosperity.

A sample item for the Openness to Change scale that may be seen on our questionnaire could be: “I enjoy pushing traditional boundaries”.

Openness to change improves various workplace outcomes. Studies examining employee openness to organisational change found that job satisfaction was found to be positively associated with openness to change. Additionally, meta-analyses in other studies showed various tests (106 effect sizes, N= 28,402) that found job characteristics such as complexity, autonomy and task significance were predictive of change-orientated behaviour in the workplace, which in turn produced better workplace engagement. Interestingly, it has been found that staff retention is positively associated with openness to change. That is, those high in openness to change were individuals who held longer-term job positions than those low in openness to change. Indeed, lower job turnover has endless benefits for organisations, such as cost cutting on recruitment. Employees high in openness to change had higher levels of organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB). OCB denotes the extent to which employees commit to their organisation beyond that of their contractual tasks. Simply put, it is the ‘above and beyond’ workplace attitude that is predicted by openness to change, which thus improves individuals long term contributions to the organisation.

Individuals who score highly on the Openness to Change scale are likely to think critically, drive innovation, and perhaps question, challenge, or offer improvements to established procedures. Also, highly scoring individuals will likely experiment and develop new and different methods of problem-solving. 

You may consider using the Openness to Change scale in your recruiting and development process if you want to identify candidates that:

·         Are flexible, open, and critical in their thinking
·         Effectively problem-solve
·         Strive for innovation
·         Challenge convention and improve the status-quo

Organisations can greatly benefit from employees that are open to change. Such workers will likely think critically, remain at their job long-term, and contribute to their organisation in ways beyond the average employee.