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Reflections on The HR Congress 2020

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.

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).


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 and the importance of employee feedback to transform your workplace culture.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced organisations to implement a structural change to where work is done, overnight. Many HR departments championed more flexible work arrangements and were met with resistance for years. While the structural change occurred overnight, the changes to how work is done continues.

Think back to the last time you received feedback or recognition from a colleague or manager. Where were you working? How was it delivered? Chances are it was in an office and face to face. Our research indicates organisations that do not have a feedback and recognition culture have seen a reduction in frequency (both giving and requesting) since the shift to working remotely. The reason why probably will not surprise you. Many employees and managers are not comfortable giving or requesting feedback and recognition. Despite this discomfort, 80% of employees want to receive feedback weekly or monthly.

When organisations started working remotely people were uncomfortable with the idea – expecting collaboration and productivity to decrease. The longer we work remotely and practice collaborating with our colleagues and accomplishing business objectives we become more skilled and comfortable in new ways of working – transforming our cultures. Becoming skilled and comfortable providing feedback and recognition is also a skill which can be developed over time the more we practice.

Here are three important benefits of including feedback and recognition in your performance management system.

Create a learning culture

Giving employees feedback and recognition can increase self-awareness about opportunities to develop and strengths they can lean into. Providing opportunities for employees to learn and recognising their effort and time spent focusing on self-improvement can be the foundation of a learning culture and shows the importance of employee feedback.

Increase happiness

A workplace where positive reinforcement and constructive feedback is embraced creates happy employees. Happy employees are productive employees. Recognising individuals and teams can boost their confidence, promote collaboration, enhance loyalty, and boost the overall morale of the organisation.

Improve employee retention

Hiring an employee is a significant investment. Once they are hired, they need training, development, and motivation to perform. A great way to show appreciation to your employees and keep them motivated is creating a rewards and recognition program.

A culture led employee experience can transform your performance management systems and inspire your employees to reach their potential and your organisation to improve overall performance on metrics you can measure.

Next week we’ll be back with: Check-in’s.

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 in the workplace during these uncertain times to transform your company culture.

Over the last decade, hiring managers and recruiters have included in job postings with greater frequency words and phrases such as flexibility, adaptability, and ‘comfortable with uncertainty/shifting priorities.’ Although some are searching for candidates who have these desirable capabilities, their organisations remain locked into inflexible and restrictive processes rendering these capabilities ineffective. The traditional performance cycle is one of those processes which needs to become more agile and the place to start is goal setting in the workplace.

This year proves with increased uncertainty comes increased difficulty in creating long term business objectives or employee goals. The volatility and ambiguity caused by the crisis spreading across the globe has meant shutting down sectors, leading to businesses rapidly shifting priorities, which in turn affects goals. Organisations and employees rely on goals to provide focus and clarity on the work that needs to be undertaken to improve performance.

It makes sense organisations want to improve performance as it has a dramatic effect on business results (increased revenue, increased profitability, share price, etc.). How can organisations be agile and prepare for continued uncertainty?

Put employees at the centre of goal setting

Employees should not feel like goal setting is something out of their control. When placing the employee at the centre of goal setting in the workplace, you can achieve their buy-in for agile goals which will increase the probability they are achieved. It will also inspire commitment and provide a sense of ownership.

Link individual and business goals

It’s important for employees to understand how their goals are linked to business objectives. Employees are more effective and likely to achieve their goals if they see how they fit into the bigger picture. More importantly, it can provide employees with a sense of purpose, understanding the impact of their performance, and alignment with the organisation’s mission.

Adapt goals as circumstances change

Goal setting should not be a ‘set it and forget it until the end of year’ exercise. Goals should never be static and incapable of being updated. Goals should be dynamic and evolve as circumstances change. Frequently revisiting goals throughout the year and adjusting them will motivate performance despite facing uncertainty.

By placing the employee at the centre of goal setting in the workplace and creating a culture led employee experience you can transform your performance management systems. This will inspire your employees to reach their potential and will help your organisation to improve overall performance on metrics you can measure.

Next week we’ll be back with The Importance of Feedback and Recognition at Work.

This year challenged organisations for a myriad of reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic continues across the globe leaving in its wake a trail of destruction affecting everyone and everything. Organisations that weathered the crisis reacted quickly – accelerating long term strategic plans to introduce more remote work – seemingly overnight to 100% remote work. The key is not whether the structural changes were made, it’s whether new ways of work are embraced, and culture transformed. One part of the employee experience which many organisations evolved over the last decade is performance management and the crisis brought more attention to why it needs evolution.

A new archetype of employee was created during the pandemic – those deemed essential workers, kept our healthcare systems, food supply chains, and other services operating while the majority stayed at home. The traditional performance management guidelines no longer seem fit for purpose if a manager at the end of the year tells an essential worker they are underperforming. Yet, they were the ones showing up day in and day out, doing their part to keep our services open.

HR has an opportunity to transform archaic practices which do not create the cultures we have so long aspired. Korn Ferry’s research indicates “performance management as the second highest ranked area of change for the next two years.” [1] So, if you are responsible for transforming your performance management system, what will it include? What will you design to help your employees reach their full potential and improve organisational performance?

If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is probably not the dreaded annual performance review. That outdated process launched by HR, sent to employees and managers who spend countless hours filling out a form providing evidence to justify performance ratings, all the while anxiety mounts before meeting in person to discuss performance (issues) better addressed in proximity to the time of the event when something could actually be done. Does that sound like a great employee experience for either the employee or the manager?

I’ve got great news for you. By focusing on a culture led employee experience you can transform your performance management system. Here are five features to include in performance management guidelines in 2021:

  • Agile goal setting
  • Feedback and recognition
  • Check-ins
  • Surveys – 360 and Pulse
  • Coaching Reports

Over the course of the next five weeks we’ll dive into each feature to give you insights on how to put the employee at the centre of employee experience and create a system that inspires employees to reach their potential and your organisation to improve overall performance on metrics you can actually measure.

Stay tuned.

[1] Korn Ferry. (2020). Optimizing Rewards in a Changing World. https://www.kornferry.com/lp/whitepaper-optimizing-rewards

Free eBook – The Resilience Toolkit

Download your copy of The Resilience Toolkit: https://hr.ourtandem.com/resilience-toolkit

We recently hosted a series of conversations with leaders in the fields of employee experience, performance management and HR to discuss the impact of the most significant changes in work practices in over a century. We compiled the highlights, tips and tricks, frameworks and inspirational thoughts from the world’s foremost thought leaders in HR.

Aisling Teillard, Tandem CEO shared her insights on the new performance management toolkit for managers:

“One of the things that I think we we need to consider is what is the toolkit for managers will be when they return from all of this, you know, because it’s almost like we can’t go back now and pretend we didn’t see into each other’s homes and that we didn’t experience this dramatic set of events together and that we’ve all been slightly traumatized together. And we’ve lived through this new experience. So perhaps the things that we relied on in the past will not work for us in the future. And I’m thinking of those managers in particular who relied on tactics like presenteeism or micromanagement, and they’ve kind of been at sea for the past few months. You know, I was talking to HR consultant the other day and she was working with some clients and they were literally the last people to obey the government’s lockdown rules because they just didn’t want to leave the office because they didn’t know how to manage without an office you know? They were catapulted into this future of work world that they were so unfamiliar and at sea with. These sorts of people, I think they just need a new direction. They need a new toolkit, they need a new way of managing their people. You know what? You don’t have to manage them the old way anyway, and we can see now that it doesn’t work. And I suspect what’s going to happen is you’re going to see a whole new host of demands coming from employees.”

Download your copy of The Resilience Toolkit: https://hr.ourtandem.com/resilience-toolkit

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