From annual appraisals to continuous conversations

By Martyn Dicker, Director of People & Learning, The Prince’s Trust. Martyn is speaking at the Performance Management Conference and Workshop, 13-14 December 2017, London.

If you believe much of what you read, the end of appraisals are nigh!

The reality behind the headlines is somewhat different. Annual appraisals have, quite correctly, been called into question. CIPD research in late 2015 reported that almost three quarters of senior leaders from outside HR considered annual appraisals ineffective, and 55% of senior HR leaders – the very people responsible for designing the process - did not consider them effective. Despite these stark findings, the volume of firms scrapping them altogether is somewhat more limited.

The timing of the public slaying of appraisals reaching fever pitch was closely followed by the launch of a new People & Learning Strategy at The Prince’s Trust. We recognise that to reach our bold ambitions we need to recruit and retain the very best people that believe Youth Can Do It, and this requires a new way of managing our performance and ensuring we are a high-performance organisation.

Rather than simply tweak the approach towards annual appraisals, which was not inspiring our staff or driving high-performance, we debated a number of options and concluded that the best outcome was ditching annual appraisals and moving to more regular conversations that were based on good-quality feedback and staff development.
Our process now has light-touch check-ins (with visually-appealing guides) at the core; is supported by new performance management training; and is greatly helped by a clearer vision of success (as described in a new Behavioural Framework that we developed with occupational psychologists at Cubiks). The onus is on good quality conversations and not form-filling!

The success of the change was greatly helped by gaining the buy-in of senior leaders from the outset, engaging staff representatives in the design and roll-out, launching the changes in a fun and inspiring way that aligned with our culture and of course aligning it to our broader People & Learning Strategy. Although it’s too early to provide a comprehensive evaluation (you’ll have to wait for the CIPD Performance Management conference in December 2017!), the initial response to the change has been fantastic; better-quality and more regular conversations, more frequent and improved feedback, greater focus on well-being and reduced paperwork. The changes have also helped reaffirm a positive image of the People & Learning team; progressive, bold and committed to staff development at the heart of our work.

Hear more from Martyn at the Performance Management Conference and Workshop, 13-14 December 2017, London.

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