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Goal Setting – Are we prioritising process over purpose? 

When reviewing or debating whether to roll out Continuous Performance Management, a frequent topic is the mid and/or end of year review. The new trends and research on performance processes lead to further discussions on whether to rate employees. Or whether to implement three- or five-point rating scale, continuing calibration and the frequency of performance conversations (check-ins). There is an integral part of performance transformation that has been left outgoal management and goal setting. 

A common frustration of the performance review process is that goals are usually only reviewed at the end of the year. And not necessarily because of a focus on goals progress and achievement as the right thing to do. As it’s a measure of our business success. Instead, we are often focused on goal achievement purely through the lens to provide a performance rating. So, we follow the process. This leads us to consider whether we are prioritising the process over its purpose. 

Does the process often overtake the purpose? 

During episode four of #OurTandemTalks, Clare Bonham, CTO of Our Tandem, shared a story from early in her careerDespite performing exceptionally and achieving her goals, but, due to the calibration curve, she did not receive an ‘exceptional’ performance score. Clare was told ‘not to worry, it’s just the process and the budget, we know that you deliver’. This application of the process for an outcome of a performance rating leads employees to have a very cynical view of the true purpose of goal setting. We focus a lot on getting the process right and less about making sure the purpose of goal setting accomplishes the result it was set to achieve. As HR professionals, it is understood that the goal-setting process can have a significant impact on our culture and on employee motivation. 

The famous and widely referenced case study from Deloitte found there is an estimated two million hours a year spent on performance management. It is concerning that after two million hours, HR professionals still didn’t have a better understanding of whether the goal process is right. They still ask the same questions: 

  1. Did we set the right goals? 
  1. Why didn’t we achieve the goals that we set?
  1. How can we improve in terms of goal setting for the next year? 

A deadline is helpful and there is certainly a need for this. But giving a ‘goals window’ forces the transactional nature of goal setting. You might have a piece of work to deliver and you receive the ‘final day reminder’ email submitting your goals. Goal setting then becomes an inconvenient task that must be completedSetting goal can then be rushed and become detached from your work, instead of aligned to it.  

How can we reinstall focus on the purpose in a fast pace environment? 

If only there was one simple solution. As every culture and organisation is unique, there are an array of solutions. An idea from Our Tandem is to separate the processes that have different purposes starting with differentiating the performance assessment – assuming your process includes the goal review. One of the ways this can be done is by increasing the frequency of goal review conversations without managers providing the performance rating. These are distinct processes with distinct purposes. The ongoing goal conversations with employees help them stay on track of their top priorities.  

Continuous Performance Management brings copious amounts of benefits to the business, and especially the employee experience. However, it may sound exhausting for the employee to have your performance continuously monitored. De-coupling performance ratings and goals allow for moments in the CPM model that are purely focused on your goalsThis can be done by modifying the way we communicate the difference between a performance conversation and a genuine interest in how the work is going. Helping the employee to understand the alignment with their goals and the work they do. Shifting greater focus on goal setting in the performance procesis the secret to a high performing employee culture.  

For decades, employee engagement was the key to a happy productive workforce, but what are the ways that you can empower your employees? In the last decade, employee experience stepped onto the stage. Both concepts are united by comparing your organisation to others (Benchmarking) and learning what others are doing and imitating them (Best Practice). And there are numerous studies that show the positive effects of both.  

Since we love new concepts in HR, we want to share the secret sauce that will deliver the employee engagement scores and create the memorable employee experience you desire for your organisation. You can create your aspirational culture and drive business performance through employee empowerment by asking yourself these questions: 

  • Do your employees feel confident in their abilities?  
  • Are they encouraged to do their best work? 
  • Do they feel motivated to develop and reach their potential?  

If you answered No to any of the questions here are five ways you can empower your employees in 2021: 


People are motivated to perform their best when they understand how their role helps to achieve the organisation’s why. Every organisation knows what they do and some know how they do it. But, very few organisations know why they do what they do. Great leaders can inspire everyone to take action by starting with why.1 


It is common for employees to feel more valued when they know what is going on in their team, department, and organisation. When you share what is going on you build an inclusive environment where they begin to feel like owners. If you can get them to feel like owners and they begin to think and act as such they will do their best work if they haven’t already.  


Humans feel most encouraged when they feel seen, heard, and cared aboutThe surest way to create these feelings is building authentic connections with each other. Whether you are still working in a physical office or working at home don’t overthink it. Find ways to connect with each other to show our concerns are heard and someone cares about our wellbeing 


Good leaders acknowledge great work and instill confidence in their people. Challenging them with additional responsibility is an opportunity for them to take on new challenges and learn new skillsGuiding them to success shows you are invested in their growth and development, you value them, and they can feel more confident about their capabilities.  


Teaching everyone they have something to offer and can make each other better is part of an empowered culture. They can all learn how satisfying and rewarding it is to help others becoming indispensable to the team and organisation. It also lets them know you’re confident in their abilities and creates bonds in the team through shared experiences.  


Go back to Our Tandem’s Resources page to read more content.


1Sinek, S. (2009, September 29). Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en 

January has arrived again, and for those of us in HR the goal setting cycle begins renewed once more. It’s time to cajole, tell, demand that everyone in the business set their goals. When ‘goal setting’ is mentioned, does your heart fill with dread?

Now, of course, not everyone is reluctant about this particular process.  The CEO and Management teams are generally very clear on what needs to be done to make 2021 a successful year. But as this process feeds through our organisations, that vigour and direction is often much less, if not lost.

Why does such a chasm exist between the direction of our business and the way we set goals? And, dare we mention “the new COVID world” that has dispersed our workforces? Can we really afford for the chasm to remain?

As 2021 takes off we need to refrain from putting all our energy into the “Goal Setting” windows and deadlines for goal creation. The conversation with our people has to be, “do you understand the purpose of your work this year and how your day to day shapes the delivery of our organisational purpose and delivery?”

The approach to how we set the goals and where we set them; OKRs, SMART, Agile, FAST shouldn’t matter half so much if people see how their work contributes to the overall business purpose.

Process without purpose creates resentment and fatigue.

As 2021 kicks off we have a natural opportunity to reengage our people with purpose. It shouldn’t be a drag on your business in 2021; it’s the fuel for your growth.

In March, Our Tandem attended a HR conference in Birmingham, England. Little did we know how much the world was going to change and that it would be the last in-person event we would attend in 2020. COVID-19 has had catastrophic consequences for many industries, and in particular the events and hospitality industry. As spring bloomed, organisers and vendors awaited guidance from public health officials and governments on how to proceed safely. One by one events were cancelled or delayed in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading. The outlook was bleak whether we would have an opportunity to gather as a HR community to share our knowledge, hear new ideas, meet new people, and celebrate our accomplishments.

With Mihaly’s vision and aspiration his team set out to hold the first virtual HR Congress. It was the event the HR Community has been waiting for, and we must applaud Mihaly and his team for creating such a successful event. The last three days were packed with over 40 hours of incredibly insightful content from 73 of industries top-level speakers featured in track sessions, panel discussions, keynotes, and Masterclasses. With that being said, we want to share with you some of our highlights to inspire you to keep leaning forward until we meet again.

Key Event Highlights

  • It’s time for HR to be BOLD.
  • Creating a compelling human experience is what employee experience is all about.
  • It’s not feedback it’s feedforward. – Dave Ulrich
  • It’s time to stop rating people. You don’t rate your children or your partner. Why do you rate employees? – Tom van der Lubbe
  • There are two types of HR organisations: 1) Those who look at the benchmarks what everyone else is doing and follow. 2) Those who create the benchmarks and lead. What do you want the future to be?
  • We need to have the courage and confidence to move with the times and proactively impact change from the front rather than lag behind.
  • What would you do if you were not afraid?
  • How can you change if you are doing what you were doing in the office?
  • It’s time to look at things with new eyes.
  • We can’t progress and solve with the same way we did things a year ago.
  • Be brave and create urgency. Now is HR’s time to stop asking for permission and believe in their business case.
  • When I was young, I had all the answers. Now I’m old I have all the questions.
  • We are not leaders because we rule. We are leaders because we care.
  • HR needs to step into two critical roles in the ‘next normal’: to RUN the function and to help the business to ADAPT in volatile markets. – Siobhán McHale
  • A leader needs to be emotionally available. To be a good leader you must be 100% caring. Caring shows interest. To be a leader, you must inspire others and that means you´re inspired. The essence of resilience is getting back to the joy (of life / of work). As HR and leaders, we need to seek answers to: How do we connect to people? How do we create psychological safety? – George Kohlriesser
  • It doesn’t matter what you think people will like or what they want. If you see in your heart what is the right thing don’t think so much about it and just start doing it. – Lara Bezerra
  • Everything is not black and white anymore. We need to learn to live in the grey. Use systems thinking to look at things with a new set of lenses Move from being an expert service provider – complicit with the system – to a disrupter, a catalyst for the change we need. – Joan Lurie

As the legendary godfather of HR, Dave Ulrich said, “The best is yet ahead.” And with the wonderful news of multiple vaccines in the last couple weeks this could not be truer. We hope it means that not only will we see you at HR Congress next year; we are optimistic it will be in Valencia. Until then, Año nuevo, vida nueva.


*We endeavoured to credit the brilliant minds who said our favourite learnings. These might not be the people who originally said the words. If you recognise your words or someone else’s please let us know and we will attribute them correctly.

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Over the past five years, Performance Management has changed and evolved with the introduction of Continuous Performance Management and the adoption of new practices. The Future of Performance Management is changing. We’ve come a long way since the 2015 Harvard Business Review articles that announced Performance Management as the most reviled practice in the organisation. Now in a transformed world of work, where’s next for performance management? As 2021 is on the horizon and we navigate the new ways of working whereby our workforce is more dispersed than ever, this is the burning question on many CHROs minds. The short answer is that the transformation needs to continue. As we guide our leaders and teams into 2021, how does Performance Management fit into the virtual world of ‘Teams’ and ‘Zoom’, and how do we make it a beneficial and comfortable experience for our people and organisations? As the employee experience takes centre stage, Heads of HR globally asked themselves the question of how to design a Performance Management practice that is engaging, fair, and fills the need for accountability? The answers to that were not straightforward and didn’t come with a universal formula applicable to every organisation. In fact, a greater variety of solutions have emerged over the past five years.

To download our NEW whitepaper on The Future of Performance Management, visit https://hr.ourtandem.com/future-of-performance



Welcome back to the Five Features to Include in Performance Management in 2021 series. This weekly series will help you transform your organisations performance management systems by focusing on a culture led employee experience. This post focuses on how your organisation can use data to optimise your employee and ultimately, organisational performance.

The world, and by extension, the world of work is rapidly changing. It is more important than ever to focus on the employee experience. This involves driving individual and team performance, therefore achieving or exceeding business objectives. The future is being able to show how traditional HR metrics such as time to hire, headcount, churn (voluntary vs. involuntary), diversity, learning hours, engagement, pulse, performance reviews, and 360s impact organisational metrics like Return on Assets, Earnings per Share, or Operating Margin.

There are some HR leaders and organisations who are more sophisticated with their people analytic capabilities. These understand the importance of providing employees, managers, and leaders with direct access to either the raw data or dashboards to quickly see the impact of programs and initiatives.  Employees can own their careers, manage their goals, ask for feedback, and view reports to gain self-awareness – understanding their strengths and development opportunities. Managers can become better coaches and guide their employees and teams using dashboards designed to increase performance and achieve business objectives. Your organisation can enable all of this by investing in the right technology, tool, programs, and initiatives to create a high performing employee experience.

That’s a wrap for our Five Features to Include in Performance Management in 2021 series. While the end of the year is fast approaching there is still time to take steps towards transforming your performance management systems. By placing the employee at the centre, you can create a culture led employee experience inspiring them to reach the potential they never knew they had. As you use data to optimise employee performance, you may also find that your organisation’s overall performance will improve on metrics you can actually measure.

Book an exploratory call to find out how!

As organisations, we often don’t realise the level of support and impact we can have on our people’s mental health. As we move to more dispersed teams and remote working arrangements, the potential for not realising someone is suffering from professional isolation becomes far greater. So how can we help our people, without the powers of observation in real time that we would have had were we in the office.

At Our Tandem, we have seen a rise in the frequency of times ‘mental health’ has been mentioned in our check-in features over the past six months, and this appears to be a common trend right across Europe and the US. Often, our managers aren’t prepared for these conversations and are ill equipped to advise and take the right next steps. So how, as employers, can we help our people through this difficult time and play our part in caring for our people’s mental health? There are a number of practical steps you can take now that make all the difference to the human, behind the zoom/teams meeting.

Combatting Professional Isolation

In recent research, it has been identified that the introduction of mentors had a highly positive correlation in combatting professional isolation. Often having someone to talk to, who you don’t directly report or hold accountability to can be a powerful means of removing the isolation that can build up over time in remote working environments. It’s a simple, cost effective and easy means of introducing a support measure to your people.

While differing people will have different reactions to remote working, it’s fair to say that some of our colleagues will be missing the interaction and the external validation they often receive in working life. Moments of validation come in a myriad of forms in office life – such as engagement and agreement during meetings, a smile at the coffee corner and a quick passing well done from the boss as they pass your desk. All these individual moments are lost to us in a remote working environment. As such, there is a need to heighten moments of recognition and put routines in for managers to purposefully recognise someone on the team. ‘Feedback Fridays’ or appreciation moments can be powerful reminders to managers to recognise and keep feedback flowing.

Often employees can experience heightened anxiety when missing the presence of the office. Concerned that they are not being asked to the right meetings or involved in the right level of decision making, the fear of missing out becomes very real and sometimes distorted in a remote setting. Ensuring managers are checking in with their people in a routine way facilitates an open discussion to reassure their employees that all is well and identify if they are falling out of communication loops. A greater frequency and regularity to one to one meetings is key here, ensuring that mangers are checking in on their people.

Humanising the check-in experience

Check-ins will also need to take a different form. Traditionally, it was tempting to fall into a pattern of discussing the work, and not necessarily the human behind the work. It’s more important than ever to humanise the experience and ensure that managers are kicking off those check-ins by asking their employees how they are coping. Some early conversational starters can be helpful guidance for managers to get them through those early parts of the conversation with ease. Guides, tips or even a short course can be helpful to managers to have those conversations that may lead to the identification of an employee who’s struggling.

Six ways to raise community spirit

It’s long been understood that community is a great means of lifting spirits, keeping everyone connected and gaining the camaraderie of being in it together. It’s never been more pressing to raise the level of community spirit in your organisation. Here’s some quick wins that can create the connection that most of your people will crave:

  • Overcommunicate. Your people want to know what’s going on and they will have concerns. Open communication about the challenges will create a trusted environment. Showing resilience and optimism in your leaders will also reassure and demonstrate that you all work toward a common goal.
  • Have very clear goals. When people feel more part of something bigger than themselves, it’s uplifting and creates a sense of purpose. Being very clear about goals and linking them to wider departmental or where relevant organisational goals, can bring a great sense of mission and purpose to an individual.
  • Harness the power of the crowd and launch virtual coffee meets. Pair people together who’ve never met to meet for coffee and get to know each other.
  • Virtual networking. Networking is key to combat professional isolation so creating virtual moments where people can gather to get to know each other and perhaps learn together can be really powerful. Everything from cooking classes to personal development has been tried and tested to great impact.
  • Facilitate peers to give each other feedback. It is important to recognise each other for a job well done, adding to that sense of all working, and appreciating each other together.
  • Give people opportunities to grow and personally develop by adding to your learning suite. Resilience programmes or 360 can be really useful in helping your people discover their best selves.

Raising Resilience

In the year we’ve experienced to date, there is no doubt that resilience has been required. But resilience throughout your organisation may be flagging in the latter part of the year. There are several means to diagnose the resilience and agility in both your organisation and in the individual, giving you a gauge of whether interventions are required to raise the resilience of your people. HR can take a proactive role in this, in measuring the resilience and then identifying where the concerns may lie.

How Employers can help

HR can use a range of employee experience platforms and tools – such as Our Tandem, to heighten communication throughout the business. One feature to use is pulse surveys, which measure the resilience and indeed the morale of your people. While you may want to avoid an over zealous approach that leads to survey fatigue, pulse surveys on a monthly basis can be a great means of checking in with your people and identifying if there are interventions that would help. Our Tandem offer a range of features that benefit the employee, manager, HR department and business performance as a whole – including pulse and agility surveys.

Finally, mental health can often be derived from that sense of nobody cares, nobody sees and the risk of that is far greater than ever. Giving employees voice and a sense of community will help to overcome those feelings of professional isolation. Asking our managers and leaders to take care and take note when they have concerns for their people can make all the difference. There are many processes in HR we can look to where we can rehumanise the whole experience for our people and we shouldn’t be shy about trying new things in a very new working world to transform our processes and our people management strategy.

Welcome back to the Five Features to Include in Performance Management in 2021 series. This weekly series will help you transform your organisations performance management systems by focusing on a culture led employee experience. This post focuses on how your organisation can democratise 360 feedback surveys to empower the employee and derive business benefits from doing so.

Over the last couple decades, it is common to see a small percentage of employees have greater access to learning and development programmes than the rest of their organisation. The employees with access to these programmes experience great coaching, feedback, and development conversations which can accelerate their careers. If these programmes have the potential to improve individual and organisation performance, why does only a small percentage of employees get these opportunities? In short because they are an expense often looked upon as discretionary spending by executive committees and board members.

When the economy is thriving and organisations are reporting record profits, HR can sometimes get more budget to create a memorable employee experience and transform an organisation’s culture. But, in times of crisis when the economy is on the edge of a recession and businesses are faced with difficult decisions how to survive, HR is often asked to continue providing the same employee experience with less resources. However, NOW is the time  to invest in your people, care for their wellbeing and ensure a great employee experience.

Three points to consider

Your organisation can democratise surveys so that every employee has the same opportunity for their voice to be heard, to gain self-awareness, and reach their potential despite limited resources. There are several things to consider when making 360 feedback accessible to the broader organisation.

  • Your employees might be familiar with participating in a 360 as a rater but not as the subject – and it’s different.
  • Start with communicating the purpose of 360 feedback, why they are participating, and how it fits into the larger performance management system.
  • Provide training and resources to employees so they know how to select raters, interpret results, and create a development plan.

By democratising the 360 Feedback Survey you can create a culture led employee experience, inspiring your employees to reach their potential and your organisation to improve overall performance on metrics you can measure.

Welcome back to the Five Features to Include in Performance Management in 2021 series. This weekly series will help you transform your organisations performance management systems by focusing on a culture led employee experience. This post focuses on how you can use agile goal setting during these uncertain times to transform your workplace culture. This week we are talking about check-ins, and how they are the keystone to accelerating your organisation’s performance.

As a child, I was always fascinated by architecture, especially masonry arches. What intrigued me was how they could create a shape using heavy stone without the convenience of modern machinery. I learned that every arch has a keystone which locks the stones together and gives it strength.[1] This simple, elegant solution allowed structures to withstand the tests of time.

One-to-one check-ins are the keystone to resilience and focus, allowing organisations to survive and thrive in a world of constant disruption. Imagine one side of the arch is the organisations collective knowledge, skills, and abilities. The other are the tasks, processes, and objectives which need to be completed. The check-in allows both sides to work in tandem strengthening the organisation by removing the uncertainty and ambiguity employees face daily.

Here are a few tips how your organisation can use the check-in to accelerate performance.

Employee owned

Shift the mindset of employees from being a passenger to the driver of the check-in. Everyone is busy and employees should have the ability to schedule check-ins when they need one. Also, they can ask themselves, “What important things should we discuss? Are there any barriers to accomplishing goals? How can my manager support me better?”

Manager guided

Being prepared for the employee check-in is half the battle, the other half is remaining present. Some ideas for being prepared include agreeing on an agenda in advance, reviewing the employee’s goals, and making sure you are familiar with the current business priorities/objectives. Stay present by actively listening, keeping an open mind, and being flexible if topics come up that were not on the agenda.

Organisation enabled

Technology can enable employee check-ins to happen in the flow of work with templates for different types allowing the conversation to stay on track and enriching the relationship between employee and manager. HR can see whether check-ins are scheduled and if they occurred. They can also see what topics are trending and where. I’ll cover more about leveraging analytics in a couple weeks.

Create a culture led employee experience by harnessing the power of the check-in and transform your performance management systems. You can inspire your employees to reach their full potential and your organisation to improve overall performance on metrics you can actually measure.

Next week we’ll be back with The Democratisation of 360 Surveys.

[1] ‘Keystone (architecture)’ 2020 Wikipedia. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keystone_(architecture) (Accessed: 09 September 2020).


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