Improve the credibility of your Performance Management process

Here are three areas that can make a significant difference to the way in which your performance management system is perceived within your organisation.

1. People don’t truly get the vision (and it’s not their fault)

Buy-in from competent people in the business is critical to the successful implementation of any organisational strategy yet John Kotter’s Harvard research suggests that organisations under-communicate the vision by a factor of at least 10 and sometimes up to 1000. In practice this means that many people are unable to make the connection between the objectives that they work to and the goals of the organisation. There will often be plenty of activity and productivity but organisational success will be more luck than judgement as people do what they think should be done rather than what they are certain must be done.

For many, there is no golden thread between the organisations vision, their own functional strategies and the objectives that they are working on. If people don’t truly get the vision then it’s not their fault. There are a lot of places for the vision to become lost and muddled as it cascades down the organisation, but leaders and managers need to do more in order to demonstrate a visible golden thread. The introduction of functional critical success factors can go a long way towards this. Great organisations are good at defining and focusing on what is critical for success. They articulate the links between the vision and the functional strategy by developing critical success factors that determine an individuals objectives.

By detailing critical success factors we produce a barometer against which every single objective and action throughout the business can be clarified. If I am doing anything that does not fit directly into a predetermined critical success factor, then I must question why I am doing it at all.

Critical success factors highlight the golden thread at a functional, or departmental level.

From big picture to small picture, every person must see their part in achieving the vision. The next step is to develop extremely clear descriptions of what has to happen in the organisation to make the vision a reality. These are in every sense ‘critical success factors’.

Here are the key elements in the effective communication of an organisations vision as suggested by John Kotter:

  1. Simplicity: All jargon and technobabble must be eliminated
  2. Metaphor, analogy, and example: A verbal picture is worth a thousand words
  3. Multiple forums: Big meetings and small, emails and newsletters, formal and informal interaction – all are effective for spreading the word
  4. Repetition: Ideas sink in deeply only after they have been heard many times
  5. Leadership by example: Behaviour from important people that is inconsistent with the vision overwhelms other forms of communication
  6. Explanation of seeming inconsistencies: Unaddressed inconsistencies undermine the credibility of all communication
  7. Give and take: Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication

2. People don’t feel appreciated (because it’s pretence that gets all the attention)

In an article “The Ten Ironies of Motivation,” reward and recognition guru, Bob Nelson, says, “More than anything else, employees want to be valued for a job well done by those they hold in high esteem.” He adds that people want to be treated as if they are adult human beings and that the number one reason people leave there jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. Without doubt financial reward plays a part in motivation. Fair benefits and pay are the cornerstone of a successful company that recruits and retains committed workers. If you provide a living wage for your employees, you can then work on additional motivation issues. Without the fair living wage however, you risk losing your best people to a better-paying employer. We may have read or heard about the surveys and studies dating back to the early 1980s that demonstrate people want more from work than money. While managers predict the most important motivational aspect of work for people would be money, personal time and attention from the supervisor is cited by workers as most rewarding and motivational for them at work.

3. Peoples objectives aren’t worth the paper they are written on (because so much is out of their control)

I have been genuinely surprised over my career just how often I bump into staff that claim their objectives are outside of their control. Why don’t managers switch onto the absurdity of this? Why would anyone perceive this to be motivating? Yet it happens, year after year after year in many organisations around the globe. It is possibly (in my opinion) the single biggest factor in discrediting otherwise useful performance management processes. I am unsure whether it born out of incompetence or laziness, but no one should ever be set an objective which they cannot directly influence. Yes NEVER! There are no extenuating circumstances for such management behaviour. It’s as if people think that SMART really means Specific, Measurable, Awesome, Ridiculous, Terrifying!

Seek success over challenge: Stretch in objective target setting is vital. It is motivating and it facilitates the ability to keep up with ever increasing expectations of our world. However from a motivation perspective the target has to be within the perceived grasp of the owner, if not the balance shifts and most (after an initial flurry of enthusiasm) will not be bothered to attempt it. It is very close in frustration levels to being set an objective that is out our your control and does plenty to discredit otherwise good performance management processes. Managers should not be afraid to ask their staff whether they feel their objectives are within their span of control and influence; then they should listen carefully to the answer. It is beyond me why anyone would ever want their staff performance to be judged on something they cannot humanly achieve. After all, who amongst us would not struggle to find motivation in an objective they cannot attain without the aid of significant divine intervention?

The credibility of your performance management process will in part be dependant upon whether or not these three ideas are managed well within your business. Clarifying the link between operations and vision, secondly engendering an environment within which staff feel valued, and thirdly ensuring that objectives are written at a ‘successful’ level can be transformational when developed as a culture around your existing performance management processes.

The route that facilitates such a culture may require some bold training, the type that doesn’t shy away from the frustrations that exist within the organisation concerning performance management. instead, it squares up to them and shows that when done correctly, Performance Management processes are still a highly valuable tool.

3 Key Reasons to enable your workforce for remote working

Enabling your workforce for remote learning - Presentation ImageOn the 16th October our own Bob Bannister will be taking the podium to address an audience at the 2018 World of Learning Exhibition at the UK’s NEC on the topic of ‘Enabling your workforce for remote learning’. He writes…

Research indicates that trust is one of the most easily damaged elements for a team who have switched from traditional working space, to remote / virtual ways of working. This means that those managing remote teams and those responsible for remote team development, need to focus specific interventions on engendering and prospering the level of trust between the dispersed group.

There are three key reasons why the level of trust is in danger when working remotely:

1 – The level of relationship between team members is changed and often significantly reduced when remote working. If I don’t know you well, then I am less willing to trust you. This is especially the case with new team members who join the remote team later and so have no prior team relationship from the original co-locate set up.

2 – The credibility of coworkers is less obvious when remote working. When we work alongside each other, we see how others work, what they do etc. We all learn from one another and so improve our practices over time. Both these elements of observation and iterative development (or social learning) take a hit the moment you start working remotely. We trust people who we believe have credibility, so again remote working has the tendency to reduce levels of trust.

3 – The inherent risk goes up.  Both organisational and individual employee risk are often impacted through remote working.  There is potential for less alignment to the organisation, it’s values, goals and direction.  So remote decision making can be challenging and higher risk from an organisational perspective.  But individual vulnerability also moves up, so for all parties the risk is perceived as higher.  We are far less likely to trust in high stake situations.

Click here to download our presentation.

Stop Motivating Your Team!

For my whole career I have been under the impression that managers must be the ones responsible for motivating their staff. It stands to reason that if you can demotivate your people by doing the wrong things, you can therefore motivate them by doing the the right things.

There has to be some truth in that. However I’ve always struggled with this idea. Mainly because I am so aware that my own personal motivation levels go up and down like a yoyo and it often has nothing to do with other peoples actions! It comes from within, my own mood energy levels, sugar levels (I’m diabetic), my level of engagement etc. In fact I can be totally motivated to do something one day, but feel woefully demotivated to do the same thing on another. I see it in lots of avenues of my life, a simple example of this might be my motivation in visiting the gym.

If other people’s motivation goes up and down like my own, then how on earth am I supposed to be the one responsible for the motivation of others?

Yes I get that I can impact it, but motivation itself will always come from within the individual. So perhaps as a manager I need to work out what I need to do to create the most positive environment for other peoples motivation to thrive.

I’ve been working at this for a while and want to share with you three things that I find have a significant impact on teams levels of motivation.

Inspire people with purpose

The manager does not need to work at motivation, instead they need to work at inspiring their teams. Just as motivation often comes from within, inspiration often comes from outside. People are inspired when they see something that they admire, desire and or align themselves with.

By focusing on inspiring your staff you will start to propagate the right conditions for motivation to grow and thrive.

What does that look like in practice? The answer is simple, work hard at:

Defining why your team is doing what it is doing and
communicate this all the time.

If the why is clear then it is easy for people to admire it, desire it and or align themselves with it.

Sometimes the purpose will be clear, but most times you will have to work at finessing it. It needs to be inspirational, so it’s no good saying the why is to “line the shareholders pockets with money” or something similar. What we need to find is an inspiring purpose. Here are some possible examples. The finance team might have a purpose to ‘enlighten the organisation with numbers’. The marketing team might have a purpose to ‘excite a specific demographic’. At iManage we’ve defined our own purpose as ‘changing people for good’.

Once you’ve got it, you need to work out how to keep it front of mind, not bottom of drawer. This always takes much much more communication than you imagine. Do what you think and then do ten times that much – you’ll be much closer to what is required. Think through how you make that inspirational purpose live.

Guide people with intent

It’s far easier to be motivated when you understand not only the purpose, but also what is required of you. The key here is to find a way to guide your people even when you are absent from the day’s activities. In short they need to know how you would want things done, if you were present.

This may be easier than it sounds. We use an approach called ‘contextual choices’. The manager provides the contextual choice for the activities of the team – this in turn guides staff in everything they do.

The really clever thing about this technique is it’s simplicity – you have to select one word that speaks volumes about the way you want your team to be guided. Just one word – that’s the rule. Here are some of ours to give you the idea:

For finance it’s ‘safe’.
Marketing it’s ‘fun’.
Sales it’s ‘daily’.
People it’s ‘brilliant’.
Customers it’s ‘thrilled’.
Face to face training it’s ‘challenging’.
Online products it’s ‘simple’. Etc.

You need to give good thought to the choice of word, but once its decided it becomes simplicity to share and embed.

Create commitment in people by giving the authority to where the info is. 

Commitment is such a powerful thing compared to motivation. That’s because commitment is a constant until it’s withdrawn. I may or may not feel motivated to go to the gym today, but I will still go if I am committed to it. It’s the same for almost anything. Motivation goes up and down, but commitment gets things done. So creating commitment is far more important to a manager than always trying to ensure high motivation.

How do we do that? People are committed when they understand what they are committing to (see purpose and intent above) and when they feel able to influence outcomes.

If I can’t control something, if its out of my authority limit, there is no point committing to it – I cant influence it.

So here is what we managers have to do. We have to put the authority where the information is. Which in most cases means we have to stop being the ‘clear it with me first’ person. It’s one of the hardest things to learn as a manager, you have to stop owning the authority and pass it down. Yes they need the skills required, yes they need to get the intent, but with these in place they are the ones best place to make the decisions required.

Let me give you an example: Lets say we’ve decided to carry out some online marketing, pay per click style. Who gets to make the decision as to whether we spend our precious budget with Google, LinkedIn or Facebook or, or? The answer’s not you the manager, it’s the team or individual that have the information. The team that has researched this, that know about it, that deal with it on a regular basis. You have to give the authority to where the information is. Let them make the decision, it will be a faster decision, even a better decision than you would have made because they have all the info.

Ownership for the process and decision ‘rocket up’ the moment you let go and hand it to them. They will be committed to making it work and so committed to making the right decisions at any point in time.

Managers, stop trying to motivate your people!

So there we have it, three things that facilitate a climate which propagates motivation, but do not rely on motivation. Give it a try, begin putting these things in place and begin to release the potential of your teams.

Is Tin Can API the future of tracking learning?

As a blended specialist we have been keeping an interested eye on Tin Can, the standard that is set to replace SCORM and finally allow blended to become as seamless as our multi device, multi-platform lives.

A lot has been said about Tin Can in the e-learning and learning tech community but its merits have not been embraced by the wider L&D community. This is a shame as it presents a great opportunity for enriched learning in the modern working environment.

Tin Can API (or  Experience API) allows on and offline learning to be tracked cohesively in one learning record, a highly attractive feature in our multi device, networked world where teams are disparate, stretched but reliant on great training.

This blog is therefore written to introduce Tin Can, xAPI to a wider L&D audience and propose why it is different from other frameworks such as SCORM.

What is an API?

Tin Can is an API which stands for application programming interface. An API acts as the conduit for two systems to talk to each other.

What is Tin Can?

Tin Can is an API that allows learning experiences to be recorded and tracked and reported on from different devices, both on and offline.  This makes it a natural replacement for SCORM which has become highly popular as an e-learning standard and one of the few that became known in the wider L&D world as oppose to the technical e-elearning and digital specialists in the learning sector.

Tin Can is different in that it is capable of encompassing offline experiences alongside online training, creating a new and amazing opportunity for capturing learning journeys.

Why do we need Tin Can?

SCORM, and perhaps AICC, are standards you are likely to know if you are tasked with buying, briefing or administering e-learning content that sits on a learning management system (LMS).

The original AICC was not purpose built for e-learning. It came from a training committee working within aviation. It had various iterations as digital became more mainstream. SCORM was ultimately launched as the web matured but aside from an update in 2004, it never kept pace with how the web was evolving or how we were beginning to use and interact with digital devices.

SCORM cannot easily track activity that occurs outside an LMS, rendering it meaningless in such a multi device world where people want to do training on their commute or outside of the office but where organisations still need to track learning progress. This makes it almost redundant in a world where tablets and smartphones are crucial and increasingly used to access sophisticated web content. Analytics show that mobile browsing in increasing year by year with some websites reporting up to 70% of their overall traffic coming from a mobile device.

The rise of cloud storage and the ability to have courses accessible on demand has also rendered the existing standards as inefficient for modern use. However, some LMS’s have been placed in the cloud but this should lead to users being able to access courses wherever and whenever they want.

This has in part, been made possible through organisations becoming more comfortable with having lots of content in a wide range of places rather than fixed behind a firewall where systems can’t talk to each other. Removing such fixed firewalls opens up the flexibility of the systems and the ability for different systems communicate and in doing so, creating the possibility of tracking a consistent learning journey from a range of different places.

Perhaps, the most important point about the current standards is that they only apply to e-learning which is placed on a LMS with all tracking done within the LMS. This does not take in to consideration any of the myriad of ways that an individual might take on learning, all of which can build up to an effective blended learning experience. Tin Can has the ability of taking offline experiences and learning and track it alongside traditional face to face formalised learning and online e-learning as well as social learning etc. For the first time, all learning outside of an LMS can be tracked as one consistent learning journey.

What makes Tin Can different?

Tin Can is designed to evolve more than SCORM and other standards but there are certain things that will be evident from other standards straight away.

With Tin Can xAPI, content can be hosted anywhere including e-learning which no longer has to be necessarily part of your LMS. You can point to it. This makes externally hosted content from other suppliers now trackable, potentially opening up far more content from other providers.

You don’t need a full LMS or need to launch the course from a LMS in order to track it. A learning record store (LRS), which is not tied to an LMS, can be utilised instead.

Any activity that can output a Tin Can or xAPI statement can be launched from anywhere. This introduces the opportunity of apps which make the user experience enriched when using a tablet or smartphone.

Tin Can allows activities to be tracked without having to be previously programmed in to an LMs. Learners can therefore choose their own content and construct their own learning journey in addition to those prescribed by management or mandatory to their role.

What does Tin Can mean for learners?

For an individual, the biggest advantage is that, for the first time, the user will own their own learning data and will be able to post up things that they have experienced or completed regardless of where the activity took place. This allows a scalable learning log which will be useful for accreditations such as continuing professional development (CPD). It may also be useful to show future employers in much the same way as a CV is currently used to show working history.

The obvious result of moving to a Tin Can standard will be an increase in the amount of data that will be collected via a wide range of channels, devices, both on and offline.  The challenge is then how we manage to process this data.

This will be reliant on certain channels allowing a Tin Can output but this will surely happen as the standard become known.  For example, podcasts, journal articles, kindle files, videos, online courses may include an output.

What sort of information can be recorded in Tin Can?

Like AICC and SCORM, xAPI records time, completion status, score and pass/fail but it can also record experiences; a game changer over e-learning.

This works on an actor-verb-object statement format. SO in addition to something like Bob completed the course, Tin Can will also allow statements such as Bob read an article or Bob listened to a podcast or Bob visited a conference.

This opens up the opportunity of racking an almost endless number of potential experiences being trackable as part of a learning journey.

How much is Tin Can being supported?

Tin Can is out there and is currently being utilised by some technical teams who are exploring its potential. It will only reach this potential if it can be embraced by the wider L&D community and become a part of an accepted specification for blended learning programmes.

For this to happen, those tasked with briefing and buying such programmes need to have confidence in specifying it from their suppliers. For this to happen, there needs to be a wider organisational acceptance that SCORM has moved on and no longer represents the best of breed approach to tracking. For example, some LMS’s may be the remit of hardened IT staff who need to be enlightened and buy in to the wider potential rather than being reluctant in having to learn and use yet another framework.

Until Tin Can wins such hearts and minds throughout all areas of L&D, IT and senior management teams, it will struggle to reach this potential. This may be accelerated by new ways of presenting the outputs in things like dashboards. This will graphically demonstrate the journey and the effectiveness of the standard that will then encourage it to be an ongoing part of the spec for learning content and technology.

Most of the main e-learning authoring tools allow Tin Can statements and some native iOS apps allow content to track rather than the LMS.

It is still early days but in time it will replace SCORM and true multi-device and multi-experience tracking will become not only a reality but a natural, accepted convention reflecting at last how we really learn.

Crappy Performance Management Rule 4: Wot, No Job Description?

If you really want to make a disconnect between performance management and your staff then here are three must haves for your team’s job descriptions:

1.The old ones are the good ones
Why go to the bother of updating perfectly good JD’s?  If you’ve an old one that’s been faithful in the past, then save yourself the effort and issue it again. Even better, you might have a good one from a previous employer, search it out and get this time wasting activity out of the way. No one ever looks at them anyway!

2.Make the job title as flash as you can
If you have to tart up an old JD then go for a flash title. The grander the better. People love to feel important so dream up the biggest title possible for the role in question.

3.Don’t tie your kangaroo down sport
Keep any JD as vague as you possibly can, that way you can get them to do anything you need.  After all, a flexible team is key to success.

OK, so none of us would really subscribe to these guidelines would we?  Scan them again asking whether they could (even in part) be applied at your own organisations job description practices. It’s often not that difficult to find more than a hint of these practices in our organisations so let’s make sure it’s not us that’s doing it. Performance management should be built on an effective foundation that starts with writing robust and clear job descriptions. Let’s flip these three crappy rules around to create better ones.

1.Job descriptions become dated as soon as you’ve written them
The fact is people often dismiss the value of JD’s because they have the potential to become out of date very quickly. Not only should we start with a clean sheet when we are writing a JD, we should make time to regularly review existing ones. If you do this it will send a very strong message to your team about the direction of your function and about the value you put supporting the team. Never pull out an old JD and pass it on. Start with a good job analysis, use your team to support this activity and craft the new document. If you’re revisiting the JD because someone is leaving, then interview them about the job they were doing, then ask how what you have learned impacts what you do next and use your knowledge to influence the new version.

2.Ensure that the job title will attract the write candidate
Avoid at all costs the temptation to ‘over-egg’ the job title. It is the main trigger for attracting new candidates to the role. It is the thing that they will latch onto first and if done badly can attract all the wrong people to your recruitment process. If you had a vacancy for a systems support role you might give it the title of Systems Manager or perhaps Systems Specialist. These two titles have the potential to attract very different applicants.

3.Make the language used as specific as possible:
A vague JD does not correlate with having a flexible team; more often it creates confusion. Use very clear descriptions of what is needed to do the job, trying always to remove ambiguity. Avoid fashionable but meaningless phrases such as “computer literate” – They can mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people. The more specific you are, the better able you will be to judge role suitability and the better the employee will be at developing the required capabilities. For recruitment make sure you differentiate between role ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ competencies / requirements, it will help you to see which applicants are in the race at all and for those that are which can offer your team the most.

You may have heard biblical parable of the man who built his house on the sand and his peer who built on the rock. Great performance management should start with a rock like foundation – despite all the corporate criticism they receive Job Descriptions offer you the opportunity build a strong effective team that will take less of your precious resource to performance manage the results you require. Perhaps it’s even a good time for a complete team JD review?  Go on, build your team on a solid foundation.

Crappy Performance Management Rule 3: It was out of my control!

In my previous two blogs, I articulated rule 1 of crappy performance management: Don’t tell anyone about the vision and rule 2: Never attempt to motivate staff as it will merely be seen as patronising. In this final instalment of the trilogy, the hero of crappy performance management wins the day as we trace the steps of the 3rd most importantrule when designing a ‘damp squib’ performance management system.

Crappy Performance Management Rule 3: At all costs ensure that objectives set are well outside of the owners span of control.

Some managers are already great at this rule, but if you still need to develop this ability here are some guidelines:

1.Set the objective as close to the organisational vision as possible
Don’t worry about applying the objective at an operational level, no one needs you to spell out the obvious. It is far better to pass down exactly the same objective you received from your boss and they received from their line manager. Look for top to bottom consistency; you can’t go far wrong if everyone has the same objectives.

2.Never make changes
Once objectives have been set, ensure they are like the law of the Medes and Persians, irrevocable. Never give into that cowardly cry that “things have changed since the objectives were set”.

3.Multiple objectives are best
No one likes lots of objectives so here’s a tip to keep the number down.  Roll multiple objectives into one – staff often don’t even notice you’ve got away with it. Sneak nested objectives into the mix by multiple use of the little word ‘and’.  You might say “achieve this ‘and’ while you are at it complete this other thing as well”.

4.SMART really means Specific, Measurable, Awesome, Ridiculous, Terrifying
There is only one way to make an organisation buzz, that’s to set proper stretching targets. Don’t mess with the tendency go soft and easy with your objective setting, expect awesome and ridiculous achievements. Test your ability to do this by gauging the level of individuals terror when expected to meet your objectives.

5. Seek challenge over success
It’s best not to expect your staff to be successful at their objectives.  If they are, you clearly haven’t been stretching enough.

OK, so none of us would really subscribe to these guidelines would we?  Scan them again asking whether they could (even in part) be levelled at your own organisations management.  I have been genuinely surprised over my career just how often I bump into staff that claim their objectives are outside of their control. Why don’t managers tune in to the absurdity of this? Why would anyone perceive this to be motivating?  Yet it happens, year after year n many organisations around the globe. It is possibly (in my opinion) the single biggest factor in discrediting otherwise useful performance management processes, and in those places where objective delivery is linked to performance related pay, it’s close to criminal.  I am unsure whether it born out of incompetence or laziness, but no one should ever be set an objective which they cannot directly influence. There are no extenuating circumstances for such management behaviour.  I have met the man who was single handedly tasked in his objectives to reduce teenage pregnancy across the county for which he worked.  Unsurprisingly he
was frustrated!  There were things that he could do to aid thisadmirable goal, but ultimately success was not within his control.  He might have been lucky and secured a wonderful bonus but there was equal chance that he would be a failure with his performance determined by this objective.

It really isn’t hard to get this right. Some simple direction coupled with a realisation of the damage demotivating objectives like this cause will often suffice. From the top to the bottom of any organisation five simple things need to happen:

1. Agree objectives that are as close to operational activity as possible
There is a missing link in many performance management cascades from strategy down into operational activity.  Managers fail when they take the strategic goals or the organisations vision and set objectives that resemble them too closely. The missing link is to first define the critical success factors that will bring about the vision and goals of the organisation and from these develop objectives at a ‘successful’ level – Objectives that are within the span of influence and control of the owner.  Using the previous example of the strategic goal to reduce teenage pregnancy, we might determine that one critical success factor is to educate all teenagers. From this we can develop a series of objectives that would be completely within the span of control and influence of the owner. They might for example be to design and
or organise a number of workshops across the county

2. Build objective recalibration into your mid term reviews
In our fast moving world it is farcical to argue that an objective has to be retained simply because it was set for the current period or year. I’ve seen this happen on many occasions. Managers must revisit objectives periodically and ask whether they are still relevant, and or whether the level of stretch is still appropriate. We refer to this process as ‘Recalibration’ of the objective. It is not weak management unless the manager is gutless enough to relax targets simply to ensure perceived success. It is strong management making adjustments so that the outcome remains within the span of control of the owner. Managers must stop judging individuals performance on objectives that for whatever reason are no longer relevant.

3. Real objectives are singular
I have read individual objectives and suspected that it really contains five or more!  By doing this you are making the whole process over complex. It’s harder to understand what the objective requires, it’s harder to determine what to measure, it’s harder to get the sequence of events necessary to succeed. All of this added difficult is removed when you keep objectives concise and to a single idea. That can be done using the following structure:

4. Structure all objectives in the same way to ensure they are SMART
There are a few variants on the smart acronym, but non of them include awesome, ridiculous and terrifying. Unify the way objectives are written across your whole organisation and keep them SMART by using this structure;  Verb, Target area, by Measure, by Time. E.g. Organise (verb) teenage pregnancy education workshops (target area) for 5000 14 to 18 year olds (measure) within the current fiscal year (time). Some have argued with me that their objectives won’t fit this structure – I fight them to the death 😉

5. Seek success over challenge
Stretch in objective target setting is vital.  It is motivating and it facilitates the ability to keep up with ever increasing expectations of our world. However from a motivation perspective the target has to be within the perceived grasp of the owner, if not the balance shifts and most (after an initial flurry of enthusiasm) will not be bothered to attempt it. It is very close in frustration levels to being set an objective that is out our your control and does plenty to discredit otherwise good performance management processes.

Managers should not be afraid to ask their staff whether they feel their objectives are within their span of control and influence; then they should listen carefully to the answer. It is beyond me why anyone would ever want their staff performance to be judged on something they cannot humanly achieve. After all, who amongst us would not struggle to find motivation in an objective they cannot attain without the aid of significant divine intervention?
Bob Bannister

Crappy Performance Management Rule 2: Never attempt to motivate staff as it will merely be seen as patronising.

In my previous iThink article I articulated rule 1 of crappy performance management: Don’t tell anyone about the vision. In this blog post we step up a gear and think about the 2nd most important rule when designing a ‘wet lettuce’ performance management mindset.
Crappy Performance Management Rule 2: Never attempt to motivate staff as it will merely be seen as patronising.

Some managers are already great at this rule but if you still need to develop this ability here are some guidelines:

1. Remove staff control: Always try to ensure that you stay in total control. Never let go of the detail and expect your staff to report back to you on everything before they act.
2. Stop idle interaction: If your people start to feel a sense of allegiance towards one another, they may rise up and revolt against you. Keep them as isolated as possible.
3. Leave the learning to them: They took the job, so they should make sure they are capable of doing it. Avoid a spoon feeding mentality that puts the emphasis on you as the manager having to do all the development.
4. Ensure frequent subtle changes: Never settle into a single groove, make sure that your leadership direction is kept fluid. Keep staff on their toes by introducing frequent subtle changes to your strategy and goals.
5. Let them know who’s boss: Start each day by setting a tone of superiority. Leave no one in your team with any doubt that when you walk in, you are the boss.
6. Problems will pass: Do not feel the need to address all underperformance in a team as problems will often pass unnoticed. The group itself will be effective at dealing with team members that aren’t pulling their weight, so leave it to them.

OK, so none of us would really subscribe to these guidelines would we? Scan them again asking whether they could (even in part) be levelled at your own organisations management. In an article “The Ten Ironies of Motivation,” reward and recognition guru, Bob Nelson, says, “More than anything else, employees want to be valued for a job well done by those they hold in high esteem.” He adds that people want to be treated as if they are adult human beings and that the number one reason people leave there jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated.

I was reading all this only a matter of months ago when to my bemusement we had a member of staff leave us, and their primary reason given for this was that they didn’t feel appreciated! Now, we are a small company, making people feel appreciated shouldn’t be
hard, but it served as a good lesson in realising that often peoples need for appreciation is much higher than we might imagine as the manager. There is a great little book ‘How Full Is Your Bucket: Positive Strategies for Life and Work’ by Tom Rath in which a study on
praise / criticism confirms the logic that those praised significantly out perform other students. Over a series of tests a separated control group (given neither praise nor criticism) were the lowest performers in 4th place. The highest performing students by a large
margin were those who were praised, followed by those that were criticised, and then thirdly those that heard the praise and criticism but were ignored. Rath draws the conclusion that there is a magic praise / criticism ratio of 5:1

Without doubt financial reward plays a part in motivation. Fair benefits and pay are the cornerstone of a successful company that recruits and retains committed workers. If you provide a living wage for your employees, you can then work on additional motivation
issues. Without the fair living wage however, you risk losing your best people to a better-paying employer. We may have read or heard about the surveys and studies dating back to the early 1980s that demonstrate people want more from work than money. While
managers predict the most important motivational aspect of work for people would be money, personal time and attention from the supervisor is cited by workers as most rewarding and motivational for them at work.

So let’s have another go at those guidelines by presenting the key elements in the effective motivation as suggested by Nelson:

1. Control of their work inspires motivation: including such components as the ability to impact decisions; setting clear and measurable goals; clear responsibility for a complete, or at least defined, task; job enrichment; tasks performed in the work itself;
recognition for achievement.

2. To belong to the in-crowd creates motivation: including items such as receiving timely information and communication; understanding management’s formulas for decision making; team and meeting participation opportunities; visual documentation
and posting of work progress and accomplishments.

3. The opportunity for growth and development is motivational: and includes education and training; career paths; team participation; succession planning; cross-training; field trips to successful workplaces.

4. Leadership is key in motivation. People want clear expectations that provide a picture of the outcomes desired with goal setting and feedback and an appropriate structure or framework.

5. Your arrival at work sets the employee motivation tone for the day. Your arrival and the first moments you spend with staff each day have an immeasurable impact on positive employee motivation and morale. Start the day right. Smile. Walk tall and confidently.
Walk around your workplace and greet people. Share the goals and expectations for the day. Let the staff know that today is going to be a great day. It starts with you. You can make their day.

6. People need positive and not so positive consequences. Employees need a fair, consistently administered progressive disciplinary system for when they fail to perform effectively. The motivation and morale of your best-contributing employees is at
stake. Nothing hurts positive motivation and morale more quickly than unaddressed problems, or problems addressed inconsistently.

Why not grab a sheet of paper and a pencil and work through your own application of these six ideas. What things could you do for your department or organisation this week that will lead to higher performance, by encouraging staff to feel more
motivated?

Performance Management Rule 2 should simply read: Work constantly at making your staff feel appreciated.
Bob Bannister

Crappy Performance Management Rule 1: Don’t tell anyone about the vision.

It’s a rule well rehearsed in many organisations but if you are not quite there with it yet, here are some guidelines:

1. Make sure it’s over complex: Try to use as much jargon and technobabble as humanly possible
2. Be as boring as possible: A verbal picture is worth a thousand words, so never use metaphor, analogy or example
3. Only ever use a single channel: Keep the message to a single channel, like SMS texting. Be sure to minimise interaction – staff are ineffective at spreading the word
4. State it only once: People aren’t stupid so you only need to tell them once
5. Lead inconsistently: Be careful not to be seen as a swot
6. Leave seeming inconsistencies unaddressed: It’s just better not to go there!
7. Minimise give and take: Avoid two-way communication about the vision. Just present it as an order

OK, so none of us would really subscribe to these guidelines would we? Scan them again asking whether they could (even in part) be leveled at your own organisations communication of the vision. It’s actually not that difficult to find more than a hint of these chocolate teapot practices.

Buy-in from competent people in the business is critical to the successful implementation of any organisational strategy yet John Kotters Harvard research suggests organisations under-communicate the vision by a factor of 10 (or 100 or even 1000!). In practice this means that many people are unable to make the connection between the objectives that they work to and the goals of the organisation. There will often be plenty of activity, lots being done, but organisational success will be more luck than judgement as people do what they think should be done rather than what they are certain must be done.

For many there is no golden thread between the organisations vision, their own functional strategies and objectives that they are working on. If people don’t truly get the vision it’s not their fault. There are a lot of places for the vision to become lost and muddled as it cascades down the organisation, but leaders and managers need to do more in order to facilitate a visible golden thread. The introduction of functional critical success factors can go a long way towards this. Great organisations are good at defining and focusing on what is critical for success. They articulate well the links between the vision and the functional strategy by developing critical success factors that determine individuals objectives.

So let’s have another go at those guidelines by presenting the key elements in the effective communication of vision as suggested by Kotter:
1. Simplicity: All jargon and technobabble must be eliminated
2. Metaphor, analogy, and example: A verbal picture is worth a thousand words
3. Multiple forums: Big meetings and small, emails and newsletters, formal and informal interaction – all are effective for spreading the word
4. Repetition: Ideas sink in deeply only after they have been heard many times
5. Leadership by example: Behaviour from important people that is inconsistent with the vision overwhelms other forms of communication
6. Explanation of seeming inconsistencies: Unaddressed inconsistencies undermine the credibility of all communication
7. Give and take: Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication

You might challenge this idea, but I believe it is almost impossible to over communicate your organisations vision. At least not if you don’t want to pilot a rudderless ship.
Performance Management Rule 1 should simply read: Ensure your people get the vision.
Bob Bannister

How to inspire an appetite for learning

I guess many companies have survived over many years without what we’ve started to call a ‘learning culture’ but without doubt, it’s a major benefit in modern business. When Kaplan & Norton first published their ‘balanced score card’ method in the mid 1990’s, it was interesting to note their attention to learning. Customer goals, finance goals, process improvement goals and the 4th – organisational learning goals. They argued very well the case for a balanced organisational strategy across all four areas, clearly realising the benefit of having a learning culture or perhaps, more accurately, the danger of excluding one. To an extent we could make comparisons with developing countries. We implicitly understand the role that learning has to play in their progress and development. Organisations are not so dissimilar. A failure to learn and improve can quickly leave them far behind leaders in their market place.

What we need in our organisations are people who are willing to learn. What a learning culture does is aids the facilitation of that learning by encouraging its progress, improving its availability and building a ground swell of interest in developing capability. So how can an embedded learning culture be achieved? Here are some suggestions:

Management sponsorship

This is much more than just having a figurehead. The organisation needs to see senior commitment in words and actions which is modeled and evangelised by the programme sponsor.

Exemplary management behaviour

The role of the manager is a key element of embedding a learning culture. Our own research has shown that good attendance performance was influenced strongly by tangible Management and HR involvement. This may not be very surprising, but the study revealed tangible involvement was evident in 67% of a good attendance group, 33% of the acceptable group, and 0% of the poor attendance groups we analysed. The loose ends need to be tied up; goals, monitoring, feedback and learning reviews all contribute and management have to take the lead in making sure this happens.

Rewards for outstanding behaviour

We have been quick to identify the value of linking personal performance with some kind of reward mechanism in many avenues of work, but we have not seen any that link reward to changes in learnt behaviours. Why not? If we want to create a learning culture we should put our money where our mouths are!

Measurement of behaviour in appraisal processes

This is such an obvious way of heightening the commitment and interest in taking on board learning. We know some that do, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Make sure you add learning to personal annual goals.

Making learning an organisational value

We all have many things to balance and achieve, so don’t confuse the workforce by sending multiple and conflicting messages. What we should do is make sure the messages are aligned and consistent to values, strategy, goals and tasks. Embed learning into the heart of the organisation.

Make the funding route clear and accessible

Bring some real budget clarity to the heads of department. Make funding available and make sure it’s ring fenced so that it doesn’t get diverted into other activities.

Create and implement an internal marketing plan for the L&D offering

Spend some time and money creating a professional marketing campaign for your organisations learning. It doesn’t have to cost much but will inform, build interest, and keep the theme in front of them. Get more creative than a few scrappy posters;  build a consistent high quality approach to your market and sell it like your mortgage depended on it.

One click ease of sign up

We all know how easy it is to buy a book on Amazon, oops I’ve just bought another one! Make your learning similarly easy to engage. Consider how your teams may wish to consume learning and how their roles are evolving. Are they more disparate now? Are they using devices more than ever? Blended learning programmes can deliver whatever, whenever and however you wish so that it fits with how your teams work.

Work at removing obstacles

Empower managers to remove obstacles whatever they are. Excuses are often related to priorities. Re-focus what’s important to the organisation.

Keep reminding everyone

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! When you’ve communicated more than you thought possible then you are probably still only a tenth of the way there!

Clearly we seek to encourage and support a learning culture in the organisations we work with, but they do have to own it themselves. Our particular approach is to work hard at the pre / post learning intervention piece. By creating strong intervention bookends, we seek to provide the learner and their manager real clarity around the translation of learning into behaviour and improve the level of retained learning. Bookending also allows the organisation to monitor progress which aids the development plan and feedback process. A true learning culture takes time and energy to embed but the rewards extend way beyond other forms of investments. Hopefully the above tips have helped you create an appetite for learning, but please do call us if you would like more input into your own organisation situation.

Things to look for in a new training provider

Whether you are looking for a training provider for the first time or looking to replace an existing supplier with an new one, there are a number of things that are important to keep in mind. We’ve summarised some key thoughts to help you select the perfect relationship that
will deliver great learning experiences for years to come.

1. Does the training provider have a style and culture that fits with your own?

Training companies come in all shapes and sizes, so it is important to consider what it is you are looking for in a future partner. Once you’ve met your potential candidates, try to sum them up with a just a few words. Are they serious and academic or lively and fun? Compare these words with those that you might use to summarise your own organisation. Think too about the style of learning culture that you want to adopt or aspire to within your own organisation. Ask whether the new provider would help to engender that learning culture.

2. Is the new training provider more interested in solutions or outcomes?

Be really careful if your potential new training provider just keeps talking about the courses they run. They are bound to have a standard course catalogue but is that their focus? Would they just be going through the motions. A good supplier will be more interested in asking lots of questions about the change that their training will be expected to deliver. They will then taolir their approach accordingly.

3. Can the provider put me in touch with satisfied clients or offer testimonials?

A really great training company will have a large number of satisfied clients who they can ask to provide you with a reference. Ask for at least three and speak to each of them to guage how satisfied they have been with the training delivered. Ask for exmaples og training delivered in the same sector or in the same areas of your learning objectives.

4. Does the training provider guarantee adoption of new behaviours in any way?

Great training companies know that any learning intervention is a waste of budget unless the learner adopts the new actions and behaviours after the training has finished. Test how confident they are in their ability to engender lasting and  meaningful change in
the group. Would they be willing to give you a money back guarantee based on whether people adopt the learning post-training?

5. Does the training provider measure learning in a structured way?

Look for an training organisation that has methods in place for tracking the impact of the learning experience. Expect this as an integral part of the training delivery. They should be able to suggest and offer you ways of measuring the training adoption however large or small you are.

6. Does the training provider offer blended learning; other learning interventions in addition to classroom based training?

You may be quite happy with a trainer who can deliver classroom based learning but other intervention approaches are growing in popularity and effectiveness. With an increasingly mobile workforce, flexible working and a multitude of possible devices to deliver training on, blended learning delivers whenever, wherever and on whatever learners need. Look for a provider that can support the classroom training with a range of other intervention styles such as e-learning, podcasts, social Media, ‘forum theatre’ with trained actors etc. Ask them how they will reach out to the learner beyond the classroom, to support them and aid the learning experience.

Spend some time asking your potential suppliers questions around these six themes to ensure you find a company that meets your ongoing organisational learning needs.

iManage Performance is a specialist blended learning provider, designing and delivering effective multi-intervention programmes that engage and deliver every time.

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Hi, thanks for visiting our website, I'm Bob Bannister, owner and trainer at iManage Performance.

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