Andrew Baxter interviewed in Fairfax newspapers on the new world of employee performance reviews

Self-managed employment reviews help employees become 'addicted to progress'

Author: Claire Dunn

Employees crave attention and feedback from their managers, whether good or bad. Too often though the boss is too busy to chat. So how can businesses break the silent treatment cycle?

According to managing director of Performance Shift, Kirk Peterson, by increasing the frequency of reviews and looking at performance management in a new light, businesses can create a culture of continual improvement, increase engagement and encourage employees to become "addicted to progress".

"The biggest challenge for management today is that most managers don't have the time to spend with their people in order to truly understand how to get the most out of them. As a result employees start to feel unloved and unappreciated," says Peterson.

No more command and control

Rather than relying on traditional "command and control" management techniques, it's time to embrace a new paradigm of "self-management", Peterson says.

"We need to stop using yesterday's logic for tomorrow's challenges. Employees today will not respond to archaic management styles that don't allow them to engage and feel valuable in their role," he says.

"The most challenging part of this is creating a self-managed culture."
Instead of relying on managers to make the first move, self-management means employees taking accountability for their own progress.

"We need to upgrade our management software and provide the tools and training needed to allow individuals to effectively manage themselves with the support of their manager," Peterson says.

The new performance review

A key part of the strategy is a new understanding of performance reviews.

"The term performance management tends to have dirty connotations to describe the process of managing an underperforming employee person out of the business," says Peterson.

"A review should not be about the manager telling the employee what their strengths and challenges are. Reviews should not take more than 30 minutes with the employee speaking for the majority of time."

In this way, says Peterson, employees become responsible for reviewing their own performance, keeping them in tune with their day-to-day "wins" and creating a culture of "addiction to progress".

Staying 'on game'

Sales and sponsorship manager for the NBL Lauren Hanson says that creating a culture of self-management keeps her staff motivated and "on game".

"A review should never be a surprise. I encourage my staff to take it upon themselves to initiate that monthly conversation and make it part of their job, to monitor their own KPIs and be driven enough to make it happen," says Hanson.

According to Hanson, her experience as an employee for the Grand Prix taught her the importance of timely reviews.

"Reviews were always linked to remuneration, so of course you wanted to present yourself in the best light rather than an honest reflection of your journey," she says.

"They were also done in the mid-year lull period rather than when it really mattered."
Rather than formal feedback, communication should be part of the day's flow, says Hanson.

"I have a chat with my team every morning, which opens up dialogue and the communication barriers. I want that environment for my staff and in the end it's what creates success," she says.

Daily debrief

It's the daily communication that matters, concurs Andrew Baxter, chief executive of advertising agency Publicis.

"It's important for leaders to get away from their desks and go talk to their teams on a daily basis. You need to ensure that everyone from the youngest members of the team through to the most senior have their say and their contributions valued," he says.

As well as daily chats Baxter uses more formal forums such as weekly staff meetings, conferences, an annual climate survey of all employees to gauge how they are feeling, as well as mini climate surveys throughout the year.

"I remember my time as a junior in large organisations and how I liked to be engaged by management. Fast-forward to now and we try to engage with people from their perspective, putting ourselves in their shoes," he says.

Staff turnover at Publicis is 18 per cent per year, with an average tenure of five years, compared to the industry average of three.  

Baxter says he is getting the clear message that employees want more frequent guidance and coaching than just the annual performance review. 

"We like to think of performance reviews in the context of sports teams, or an orchestra, where members of the team are evaluated at the end of every period of play," he says.
Baxter's advice to other managers is to "be who you are".

"We try not to be different simply because we are leaders. Authenticity is at a very high value in our business."