Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Customer Experience Pt 9 - Appraisal

Post series written by Andrew McMillan (Principal Consultant at Charteris specialising in customer experience). Before joining Charteris, Andrew had a 28 year career with John Lewis and spent the last eight years of that career being responsible for the quality of service and selling across the UK department stores.

Nine months on and we have the final part in this series which, in a similar way to the last part on reward and recognition, is all about long term sustainability. I have found opinions amongst several of my clients to be extremely divided when it comes to individual annual appraisal. Those in favour see it as an invaluable management tool while those against feel appraisals can be divisive or simply a waste of time. The latter view is commonly held within those organisations that don’t have a ‘pay for performance’ policy, but even in these organisations I still believe appraisals can play an important part in developing performance. Team appraisals are another approach, but that is where I feel they can be a waste of time as a team approach negates the key benefits. Let me explain why.

Appraisals should be all about making individuals responsible and accountable for their contribution to the organisation’s aims. In that way they should be just as much an opportunity for thanks and reward as they are for constructive criticism and personal development. However, their effectiveness is determined by two key factors: what they report on and the way they are positioned within the organisation. I can only imagine those who are against annual appraisal have been subjected to a poorly executed process in the past either because the appraisal framework was flawed of the manager delivering the appraisal was flawed in their approach. Sadly both occurrences are far too common, but that shouldn’t be a reason to abandon the concept.

Content is Key

Firstly the content should be a combination of measurable performance, sometimes expressed as targets depending on the organisation and, to support the desired culture and customer experience, a set of commonly understood behaviours derived from the statement created earlier in this series. The most important aspect however is that the existence of the appraisal process and the aspects of performance it reports on should be totally transparent to the employee from the day they join. Keeping the form simple, clear and short is also a must otherwise the appraisal process becomes onerous for those delivering it and lacks real meaning for those being appraised. Some organisations use a performance matrix for their appraisals in an attempt to reduce or eliminate subjectivity. While this may be a worthy aim (or a defence mechanism from a Personnel Director who lacks confidence in their line mangers’ ability to be fair and balanced), I have yet to see a matrix that doesn’t de-personalise the reporting to the point that its benefits are lost.


That takes me to my second point which is about the delivery. The appraisal should simply be a formal record of the year’s performance. If the leadership in the organisation is competent there should be nothing in the appraisal discussion that comes as a surprise to the appraiser or appraisee. Sadly that’s where the process most commonly breaks down, when the manager hasn’t developed a leadership relationship with their team with the consequence that the appraisal is the first time good or bad performance is discussed, and that’s the best case scenario. What commonly happens is the manager who hasn’t developed a relationship with their team over the year then feels unable to comment on areas for development at the appraisal, so chooses the safe option and writes a report that is neither encouraging nor developmental. What I am really saying here is that the annual appraisal should be a formal record of the year’s leadership relationship and anything less should serve to demonstrate how that relationship should develop on both sides. And it must be a genuine two way discussion. This is not something handed down from on high, but an honest two way conversation about the highs and sometimes the lows of the last year with objectives set for improvement where necessary - and these should NEVER be a surprise.

When handled well, appraisals formally record the conversations that should have been going on every day for the last year. They also serve to strengthen the leadership approach described in the earlier article as a manger who hasn’t adopted that approach will find themselves very exposed at appraisal time. Of course they also provide the opportunity to record unacceptable performance and can document the beginning of a disciplinary and grievance procedure which is so important if you are to comply with employment legislation. However, I would stress again that even this should not come as a surprise to the individual being appraised. For those making a sound contribution appraisals document the opportunity for reward, further development and succession planning for senior roles which is so important, especially in larger organisations.

In Conclusion

So there we have it, seven easy steps to sustaining a great customer experience and an engaged and motivated workforce. I hope you have found these articles useful and for those of you without the time or inclination to read them all, to conclude with, here is your simple executive summary:

Define – what sort of organisation you want to be both for your customers and employees

Communicate – communicate frequently and loudly the aims of the organisation and the culture you want to foster. Evidence the communication with sharing of best practice within the organisation

Recruit – ensure the recruitment process identifies those with the right attitude and personality to support the aims of the organisation

Measure – you can’t measure the behaviours easily, so consider the desired outcomes of the behaviours and measure those

Lead, don’t manage – provide inspirational, highly visible leadership that demonstrates the desired culture and behaviour on a daily basis

Reward and recognise – take every opportunity to highlight the sort of behaviour and subsequent outcomes the organisation aspires to consistently deliver

Appraise – use annual appraisals to identify future leaders, reward those who support the organisation and start the process of removing those who don’t

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Customer Experience Pt 8 - Reward and Recognition

Post series written by Andrew McMillan (Principal Consultant at Charteris specialising in customer experience). Before joining Charteris, Andrew had a 28 year career with John Lewis and spent the last eight years of that career being responsible for the quality of service and selling across the UK department stores.

So, now we have a business that knows what it wants to be both for its customers and employees, has communicated those aims to its existing staff and embraced those aims in its recruitment procedures, is frequently measuring its performance against those aims internally and externally and has a leadership structure aligned to delivering improvement – we’re almost there! We’re now on to consistency and sustainability and a key element of that is reward and recognition. It’s an area that is commonly overlooked and possibly seen as unnecessary or frivolous. Nevertheless a clear reward and recognition strategy, frequently used and consistently applied can have a disproportionate positive effect on the culture of an organisation.


What’s appropriate depends, of course, on the culture of the organisation and what might be seen as childish and possibly condescending in one organisation could be seen as motivating and fun in another. If an organisation has followed all the stages in previous articles, by now they should have a very strong sense of what is appropriate for their business and what will be engaging and motivating for their employees. This doesn’t mean having a complex structure or spending huge amounts of money either, but it does have to have an explicit and direct link to the sort of behaviour the organisation is trying to engender. Many years ago Ken Blanchard wrote ‘The One Minute Manager’ and for those of you who have read this now legendary book you may remember ‘catching people doing something right’ as a prerequisite of leadership. The challenge for many managers today is that they are just too busy to find the time to ‘catch people doings things right’. Well, if you have implemented the leadership changes from the last article you will have found some time to spend in each day with the people you lead, and if you are doing that you have the foundation for a reward and recognition process in place already! In other words, frequent verbal recognition for something done well can have an incredible effect within an organisation that hasn’t been used to it in the past. Often in these organisations managers have usually spoken to their teams when something has gone wrong or at their annual appraisals so recognition for very small routine things done well can come as something of a surprise. However, stick with it through the potential incredulity and the team will start to respond and change their collective culture in ways you would have never imagined possible!
Supplementary approaches might include written notes of thanks for a job well done. This might be for something that warrants a little more than verbal recognition and a handwritten note is often the best medium. In a world of instant communication and e-mail a handwritten note shows you have made a little extra effort and really care. If you want to start spending a little money at this stage you might even include a scratch card with the note for a bit of fun. Initial reactions might be “I was just doing my job”, but that’s just the point. What we are trying to engender here is a culture of excellence, self esteem and pride in a job well done.

Going Further

The next step is to implement a formal reward and recognition scheme which will require a budget. This doesn’t have to be significant and a budget based on headcount – perhaps £10 per head, per annum - can make a really big difference and is a small cost compared to training or marketing budgets which won’t necessarily produce such tangible results. That’s not to say you should mechanically spend £10 on each employee each year, but it does give a scale and set a budget requirement for the scheme. Rewards here should be made through a formal process and that process should allow for peer to peer recognition as well as those awards nominated by managers. Even on such a small budget, this would allow for occasional rewards such as a bottle of champagne, theatre tickets, flowers or even a weekend break.

The Pinnacle

The pinnacle of any recognition and reward scheme should be an annual awards ceremony. This can be a culmination of all the smaller awards given over the year or it could be a collection of categories voted for by the employees. Either way, it is important that the categories reflect the behavioural aims of the organisation such as ‘leader of the year’, ‘most support to their colleagues’, ‘most customer focussed’ etc. In a large organisation this can be funded from the residue of the £10 per head budget as it is unlikely every employee will have justified a smaller award throughout the year. I have seen prizes at these awards vary from weekends away in New York to an engraved glass trophy, but both approaches have an equally beneficial effect on the organisation. If the ceremonies are well executed the benefits go way beyond just the recipients of the awards as other employees will be quick to celebrate the recipient’s success and will have a sense of pride that someone in their team has been a winner.
If you remain doubtful, then just start by trying the first two steps which will involve some effort, but very little cost. Providing it is positioned with care within the culture of the organisation you will be amazed at the power of a simple ‘thank you’.