We've almost run out of ways to describe how fast the pace of business is moving these days. At the same time, organizations find themselves shifting in many different directions. Not only are we working at "blazing", "intense", or "tremendous" speed, we're also "pivoting", "shifting", and "becoming more agile" - all in an effort to simply keep up. But if you really listen to business leaders, how many of them really want to just keep up?
The truth is it can be difficult to hit the pause button and look ahead. Most successful companies don't simply try to keep up. They look at ways their business can be successful today, tomorrow, one year, and even five years down the road. Successful companies have a forward-focused talent management strategy and look at what they can do as an organization to manage that sweet spot between employee satisfaction and involvement. That's what happened at Kreischer Miller, a leading independent accounting, tax, and advisory firm, and it's paying off in a big way.
Supporting high performance at Kreischer Miller
Kreischer Miller's commitment to its team members is to support a culture of high performance where they can grow and develop personally and professionally. To get the most out of its efforts, the company hit the pause button and streamlined three areas of its performance management processes:
- Redesigning the company's approach to competency management
- Making the impact of coaching and feedback more immediate
- Recognizing the purpose of self-reflection
We spoke with Bobbi Kelly, Kreischer Miller's HR Director, to learn more about how the company redefined certain aspects of its talent strategy.
Talk about the process of redesigning the company's approach to competency management. What was it like for the HR team?
Bobbi: The majority of our team members receive a review after every client engagement they complete. It would take close to an hour for someone to complete an evaluation of 30 competencies, leading to a very low completion rate. After noticing this low rate of completion, we convened a focus group of individuals at every level of the company to discuss how we could improve the process and increase completions.
We discovered how long it would take to complete these project-based reviews, which were due weekly. I remember one of my colleagues saying, "All of these competencies sound the same." And he was right. Many of the competencies seemed to fall under similar categories. So we combined the competencies, going from 30 competencies to five broader groups with very specific expectations behind each one for our team members to follow. This also helped our team members write more thoughtful dialogue in the evaluations because they could directly refer back to the set of expectations outlined in our competencies.
What benefit did the process of redefining competencies bring to Kreischer Miller?
Bobbi: Ultimately, our goal is to provide timely and qualitative feedback. We want evaluations to move our team forward in their careers, so it is best to have this information more accurately reflect the way we have conversations about our team members' performance. Shortening the competencies, while keeping in mind the details of what we expect, has helped tremendously in this effort. Our completion rate went from 58 percent to 95 percent after these changes were implemented.
Anecdotally, many team members have told me that the new competencies are more in line with what they are actually doing. I think this helps team members feel more tied to the company's big picture goals. The new competencies give our team members a clearer road map to how to be successful in their role.
Why did Kreischer Miller decide to eliminate self-reviews?
Bobbi: While we have eliminated the self-review, we haven't eliminated self-reflection all together. In our prior process, team members would complete the same evaluation form as their evaluators would later do for them. But the process created a lot of confusion. I heard from a number of people, "What if I give myself the wrong rating?" or "What if I give myself a lower rating than my evaluator, will that bring my rating down?"
In my career, I have found the exercise of asking people to do a traditional self-review creates more stress, anxiety, and it's difficult for the messages to be delivered in a way that yields positive outcomes. Due to all of these factors we changed our process to one of "self-reflection".
Each team member in every department is asked the same three questions:
- What were your "wins" since your last annual evaluation?
- What did you do differently this year to add value?
- What areas do you feel you still need guidance?
These questions were developed to help team members reflect on what they have accomplished over the year, what they have done differently this year to propel themselves and the firm forward, and in what areas they still need work.
These open ended questions help the career counselors, who are the people delivering the annual evaluations, have a more pointed conversation that derives specific, obtainable goals, action items, and outcomes. This way, team members can focus more on the big picture.
How has Halogen supported you on your journey?
Bobbi: Halogen has helped tremendously in streamlining our talent management processes. We complete more than 1,100 project-based reviews and scheduled evaluations per year combined. Tracking that many evaluations on paper or in Excel would be extremely difficult. With the recent overhaul of our process we are currently fixated on the basics. Once our team has mastered the basics, we look forward to using other Halogen features that will benefit our team tremendously.
Don't be afraid to hit the pause button
I mentioned at the outset that one of the realities facing businesses today is the challenge of hitting the pause button. Here's another truth: The world of work is only going to get faster and more complex. We're starting to see the movement towards more agile organizational structures made up of an increasing number of remote or contingent employees.
This change has shifted (there's another one of those words!) performance management back to its roots where the focus is on alignment and maximum productivity. In The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce, the authors explain that, in order to realize maximum productivity, organizations must achieve maximum engagement. However, an amazing amount of research (like this research, this research, and this research) reveals that the way employee performance is managed is inconsistent and ineffective.
And sometimes, all it can take is a conscious effort to hit the pause button. You don't need to press rewind and you certainly don't need to fast forward. Hitting the pause button, like Kreischer Miller did, enables you to look at your current situation, identify what's working and what isn't, pinpoint areas of improvement, and move ahead with change. It doesn't have to be a massive overhaul either. As Bobbi explains, the process of creating new competencies that are in line with what employees actually do, providing the opportunity to share more meaningful feedback, and giving the opportunity to self-reflect can go a long way.
So, regardless of how fast business is moving or the direction it's heading, people can adjust to not only keep up, but to help make a lasting, positive contribution.