Our Tandem Red Logo

Shaping culture for an agile world


How we can bring out the great in the end of year review

As Halloween is over, Strictly Come Dancing has started and the nights are drawing in, it can only mean that it’s the time for end-of-year reviews to take centre stage. As HR professionals, this is where we see the good, the bad, and the ugly with the review process. The end-of-year review has been hotly debated and is possibly the most criticised aspect of performance management. However, it is still the most widely used practice of performance management. So, let’s unpick why it remains the cornerstone of the Performance Management process and how we can bring out the great in its purpose.


The Godfather of HR, David Ulrich references the concept of Positive Performance Accountability to resolve the performance management paradox. A SHRM survey found that 90% are dissatisfied with appraisal systems and only 55% of HR professionals felt that the annual performance reviews are an accurate appraisal for employees’ work (Ulrich, 2019). The concept of Positive Performance Accountability may have been slightly neglected in his favour of Dave Ulrich’s other great work. However, it is one of the most powerful concepts for us to consider in our Performance Management frameworks.

Recently, Dave Ulrich suggested that while the old days of uninspiring ratings and stack ranking may be over, there is still a real place for people to know where they stand. Talking about the transparency and accountability that means we are clear on how we’re doing. The end-of-year review is the ideal place to do that. But perhaps there’s so much more to it than even that.


A time for reflection

The end of the year is a time of reflection. A time to take a step back and consider what went well for you – and what not so well. This is such a human moment of reflection to consider where we were at our best, what brings out the best for us. What environment, what type of work, and what way of working helps us be at our best. Exploring all of this gives us signposting to where our strengths lie and how we can bring out the best in ourselves. Equally, where did we believe we had some gaps and what does that mean for our future development.

What hasn’t inspired us as humans, and a topic that often gets criticised is the application of ratings. Including the uninspiring titles and the idea that after a hard year’s work, commitment and dedication, someone labels you as ‘fully meeting expectations’ or something akin to that. Agreed, you’ll hardly run home to your partner to tell them your good news of how you fully met expectations. And let’s face it, 70-80% of your organisation face that scenario. However, unravelling ratings isn’t as easy as it looks and it’s not for every organisation.


Consider the implications of removing ratings

There are countless examples of organisations that have removed ratings and suffered poor consequences, and it can be particularly damning if you trigger too early. If you are on a journey to remove ratings, consider the compensation and talent management implications. It’s surprising how many organisations rushed into the removal of ratings. Doing so without considering the impact on the other key HR processes. And that’s before we meet the employee relations team, where this can be built into works council agreements and in some cases contractual commitments with employees. Having said that, many organisations have removed ratings successfully and seen huge benefits from it. Including increased collaboration, greater levels of engagement, and a more high trust environment.


Committing to a world without ratings

As former HR professionals and creators of a progressive performance management platform, we hear client and organisational needs every day. Here’s our advice: if you are on a journey to remove ratings, build up the maturity of your organisation so that they no longer even want ratings and they feel ready for a world without ratings. This is not an overnight journey and needs commitment to the following:

  • Building a sustainable feedback culture. If your employees have regular feedback, there’s less need for the crutch of ratings and labels
  • Help managers navigate high-quality check-in conversations. It’s not enough to ask managers to have regular one to one’s with their people. We need to help them have the right quality of conversation to build those trusted relationships.
  • Introduce performance check-ins. Performance check-ins are a softer form of review. They facilitate frequent moments of check-in without the burden of a full performance review. Living up to David Ulrich’s positive performance accountability concept.
  • Take a longer-term view of phasing out. If you are on a 5-point rating scale, move to a 3-point rating scale, with a longer-term view of phasing it out. It helps get managers used to less reliance on rating scales to have good performance conversations.

When you have hit a culture of regular sustainable feedback practices, frequent and high-quality conversations, you’re ready to review your compensation and talent management practices.


What steps can you take next?

At this point, you can start to change the compensation structures in a phased way. It doesn’t have to be a big bang, you can gradually lessen the reliance on a direct link with ratings. But compensation strategy is a whole other blog! You’ll also need to ensure your talent management practices don’t have a direct link to ratings. But again, another blog!

In essence, it’s not an easy journey to remove ratings and it’s certainly not right for every organisation. Some cultures really shouldn’t take this step. But if you believe it’s the right move for your culture, it’s a very doable and exciting journey for you to take on. To find out how other Our Tandem clients have progressed on this journey, please feel free to book a chat with a member of our team.

“It’s a new dawn, a new day” …anyone singing yet? Have these infamous lines ever been more true; they certainly are true of our newly discovered working world. With the great resignation looming, we are forced to rethink what our employees really want of us. Hybrid working may be top of the list but with that come a whole new set of expectations, that fit with our new ways of working. Should we embrace hybrid working on a longer-term basis? We also have to face a new reality that we need to change the way we manage people. So many of our practices are rooted in a time from another era. None of those more so than our performance management strategies and practices.


The new age of performance management

A lot of what we work with today in performance management is rooted in the 1980’s and 1990’s philosophy. This was a time when we all went to the office and met our (singular) boss. We also met in person for our team meetings and our after-work socialising. With a breakdown of those traditional ways, we now are more likely to meet our multiple bosses over teams or other collaboration tools. We are likely to attend the office infrequently and after-work socialising is likely to lose the spontaneity that it once held.

The importance of check-ins and conversations post-pandemic

Our new ways of working bring with it, not only a change to how we work but our expectations in how we’re managed. There’s not ‘a one size fits all’ right for every culture out there. However, getting to know your employees’ expectations is key. Surveys and focus groups may help. Yet, the true reality of what individuals want is more likely to be set in one-to-one individualised check-ins. Where employees can truly express what they need from their managers. Post pandemic the “only viable management style going forward will be ongoing coaching conversations that establish a rhythm of collaboration.” Gallup. Doing so in order to be successful in this new version of working, which can often feel like a brand new social experiment. However, we can’t hope these conversations just surface and that our managers have magically all the answers.

We need to help our managers navigate these conversations with new tools to support a very new conversation. That’s why we are seeing a rise in navigated conversations. These prompted with input from HR to help Managers pose the right set of questions, to truly understand the new expectations of their employees. Dedicated check-ins focusing on ways of working, well-being, and development in this very new unchartered waters.


The effect of the pandemic on our expectations

The pandemic has changed our expectations of life, of work and set a new purpose for many. It’s never been more vital to stay in tune with what those new expectations are. Rooted in these expectations is a more human-centric world, one where we can understand each other, relate to each other and navigate new territory together. We need to put the tools into managers’ hands so they can expertly have these conversations. Helping them understand the new expectations of their people and navigate those choppy new waters together.

In embracing new ways of working, it’s time to equally embrace the conversations that go with it. As well as the understanding of the new expectations that have emerged. This includes the means to retain the talent in your organisation. If you want to find out how Our Tandem can help you create meaningful check-ins and facilitate conversations that will help your employees express what they really want, book a chat with us. 


Human-Centric and Performance Management haven’t sat too well together in the past but we have a real opportunity to change that. An opportunity to embrace a whole new way of managing performance that puts human centricity at the core.When performance management practices were being born, human centricity was probably one of the least considerations in it. We wanted practices that would drive performance, hold people to account, ensure managers managed both high and low performance, and everything in between.

Over the years we’ve added to the practice. We’ve inserted boxes and matrices that went down well with our CFO colleagues. These also helped the business understand the science behind humans. But over time, perhaps we lost something too.

When performance drops

In between the boxes, the matrices, the processes, and the algorithms, we lost sight of the humans behind the formulas. The humans who came to work to do their best in the context of busy family life, long commutes, ageing parents, and many other human complexities we knew little of. Our performance management processes reduced their contribution to singular ratings, to discussions. These discussions include the task, the activity, the project, the contribution to the team. They leave little room for context, for wider consideration. In the process, we lost sight that often performance lags because of the context. When performance drops it’s likely because other, very real human factors, are at the forefront; challenges at home, tiredness, burnout from life’s many stresses can all build up to the one-liner – does not meet expectations. Yet we fear addressing the very things that may be creating that circumstance.

Our new reality of performance management needs to embrace the human factor, the very essence of being human. It needs to open up the reality of their context, the life context that may be holding them back or propelling them forward. That’s why the check-in conversation at its very essence needs to address the whole human. Not just the task, the activity, or the project, but the human behind the work. It starts with a genuine curiosity of how that employee is and a listening ear to what they are open to telling you as a manager.

The importance of effective check-ins

HR has been redesigning check-in conversations to take into context the human factors. It has started addressing well-being, challenges, and the whole human behind the work. Deloitte found in a study of workers in the United States and the United Kingdom that 94 percent report feeling stress at work and 96 percent of their respondents agreed that “well-being was an organizational responsibility”, making these check-ins all the more important for employees.

The secret to these effective check-ins is to help navigate an open conversation. A conversation that allows us to go where we traditionally haven’t gone, into the person’s context. Those moments can help give a real understanding of why performance is falling behind or pacing ahead. However, we can’t assume that every Manager just knows how to embark on such a check-in. It’s advisable to provide coaching prompts and tips to help them navigate the journey. Regular check-ins and continuous conversations will build the trust that’s needed prior to launching straight into this new territory.

The growth and development of employees

Our and most innate human need is to grow, to develop, to aspire to self-actualisation. We know our people are hungry to grow and develop. Yet, we don’t always put in place the right opportunities to do so or even to start the conversation. Perhaps we don’t have everything worked out in our learning strategy. However, this shouldn’t block us from starting the conversation. That conversation will help us understand what’s important to that employee for the future, what career do they aspire to. Growth and development conversations are key to putting human centricity back into the core of our experience.

We can transform our performance management practices. This can be done by putting human centricity at the core by having the right conversation at the right time.

Here are 3 simple steps to help you transform your performance management practices:
  • Introduce tools to the employee to allow them to own and drive the conversation about their growth and development
  • Help managers have strong check-in conversations that help navigate the employee’s context as well as their performance
  • Work ‘human’ moments of appreciation, feedback, and connection into your process. Make these frequent, so trust is built and those conversations flow more naturally.

The road to more human-centric performance management has a clear path. It’s built of a continuous performance coaching experience. One that will fundamentally change the working practices of employees and managers for the better. If you want to find out how Our Tandem can help you on your journey to a more human-centric approach to performance management, book a chat with us. 


They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Nevermore so than when you’re transforming your performance management practices. Over the years, I’ve witnessed hundreds of changes in performance management strategy, interventions and practices. While everyone has a unique change plan and an even more unique culture which makes every project different, one thing they all have in common is the importance of the change management efforts on the outcome.


Change management is all-encompassing and doesn’t just start and end with a communications plan and a good training programme. The more sophisticated change plans consider all aspects, everything from the champions behind the programme, through to the role modelling behaviours and count every detail, right down to the high energy music on the launch video!


When it comes to transforming performance management, there are a lot of stigmas and barriers to be overcome. This is why it is all the more essential to have a great change management plan in place. One that breaks down barriers and perceptions that have built up over time, one that ignites excitement, energy, and momentum, and finally, one that has impact relevant to its audience. A change management plan shouldn’t have a one size fits all communication and training plan. We need to audience those communications relevant to who’s on the other end. Employees need to hear something quite different than their team leads, who may need different messages than their leaders and indeed senior executives. Audiencing your messages to suit the receiver will serve you well and ensure it resonates all the more strongly.


There are 3 core steps in building a great change plan:

Know your stakeholders.

They are the champions who can get behind your new initiative; the leaders who will become barriers or advocates to your change, the wider population who needs to receive the change; and make a plan for all of them.

Consider the appropriate channels to disseminate the right content.

Content should be audienced to the receiver. Ensuring that they hear the message in the right way through the right channels is key. Think like a marketeer. We need to advertise this change to the relevant audience in a way that resonates with them.

Focus on the why.

Too many change plans address the what – what we’re changing, what’s happening and what does it mean for you. But they often fail to address the core important question – why are we changing it? By focusing on the why, you can reassure your audience that you understood the problem in the first place. Also, that you have a vision for a new way of doing things, that will fit the needs of the organisation. Here in the why, you can also address the link to your business strategy. Doing so by setting it in a context that people understand.

The change plan is probably even more important than the changes you are making. Without it, you’ll have little impact in getting across your message. More importantly, you’ll be mobilising your people to make that change. “If employees feel that the analytical work was thorough and inclusive, they are more likely to accept the decision, even if they don’t like it.” Harvard Business Review. So next time you are planning some changes to your performance management strategy or practices, make sure your change plan expert is with you all the way. The closer and earlier they are involved, the better the outcome and success you are likely to see.


“Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing” – Rockefeller


Change management is at the heart of transformation. Start early and bring a group of champions along with who you can sound your decisions off. Doing so while seeking feedback along the journey. In starting early, your champions will help you form the change plan that’s right for your organisation.

Our Tandem is a Continuous Performance Management that has been created by HR experts. This means we understand the necessity of design implementation and change management, which is why we support our clients every step of the way. To learn more about how Our Tandem can help you transform your performance management strategy, book a chat with us today.

Over the years, there have been high aspirations for employees to own and drive their own development. Courses were rolled out to employees, messaging packaged up cleverly and countless booklets were provided to support employees. With Forbes stating that 78% of employers say they are providing training or development opportunities to help employees learn new skills, Forbes states that professionals don’t agree.  This points to a clear disconnect between employers and their staff. All with the aim of helping employees own and drive their own development. This indicates that many of the initiatives haven’t ‘hit the mark’ and translated into reality.


What is stopping employees from owning their own development?

Why it is hard for employees to own and drive their own development? As there is certainly a common consensus that it is in everyone’s best interest. Well, the reality of it is it’s not that simple. It’s not easy for many to simply ask for feedback, especially in a virtual setting. Especially as there is a common conception that employees think that feedback will be negative. So as many don’t necessarily want to hear it, only a few seek it out (Inc 2020).

The result of not asking for feedback is that many employees then do not understand how they are performing. Whether they are growing their careers and have little clarity of future opportunities and development.

If you want to avoid this disconnect in your organisation, here are some things to ‘unboss’ performance and put the ownership of growth and development on the part of the employee:


Five ideas to unboss performance

Provide employees with the tools to ask for feedback

As HR professionals, we need to give employees the tools and the ‘licence’ to ask for feedback so that they can understand what they are good at and where their development gaps may lie. Asking someone for feedback in person is beyond brave. It can be embarrassing and too big of an ask of our employees. Building a feedback culture means putting the tools in their hands where they are given comfortable ways of asking for feedback or advice and they are even nudged to do it. At Our Tandem, we brand our Continuous Performance Management platform as a ‘coach in the employees’ pocket’. This involves giving them some helpful phrases to get the conversation started, and nudges to prompt action. Asking for feedback is an art, don’t assume it’s natural for most.

Implement regular dedicated check-ins

Development isn’t served well at the end of a performance review. If you are an organising working with a ratings culture, chances are your employees are more focused on what their rating is than the conversation at the end that addresses their development. Segregate out the development conversation so it’s a dedicated discussion, focused on their development needs and their longer-term aspirations. It’s recommended to do it early in the year, not at the end of a tiring year. Most people come in with new year resolutions wanting more from life. That makes it a great time to grasp their imagination and plan for a great year.

Discuss the employee’s strengths with them to optimise development

Help employees understand their strengths and the opportunities that may exist for them to grow further in the organisation. We shouldn’t assume that everyone understands what their strengths and true potential are. Managers can gather objective feedback from peers, stakeholders, leaders, and direct reports, where relevant, to understand what their employees’ strengths are. 360 surveys are great tools to understand this further. It’s important that the employee and manager discuss what strengths there are and explore opportunities that link to those strengths. Sometimes development discussions can stray into weaknesses and gaps to the overemphasis and lose sight of the much needed discussion on strengths and how to optimise them.

Support the development of your employees through opportunities

Bring transparency to internal opportunities. Opportunities don’t always come in the form of job promotions. There can be countless means of supporting employees to develop. Secondment, job shadowing, mentoring, project, step in leadership, or even external community or charitable leadership roles can all become great means of development. Review all the options with your employee and decide on a positive next step for their development.

The expectation of an organisation is not to carve out a career for our employees, but we can certainly structure an experience to give them a helping hand, to understand their strengths and the potential opportunities that may be available to them. The more information, tools and ‘licence’ we put in their hands, the more likely they are to take that mantle to own and drive their own development.

Our Tandem concentrate on encouraging employees to drive their next actions and sustaining habits, taking accountability into their coaching ability, and making Continuous Performance Management an experience that employees love, not fear. If you want to find out how Our Tandem can help empower your employees to drive their own development, book a chat with us.

There has been a striking evolution of diversity in the workplace – as it now takes center stage. As we see, D&I now permeates our strategies, policies, thoughts, and actions throughout almost every organisation. The D&I approach now informs our recruitment practices, succession planning, training, leadership effectiveness development, and much more.

How can Performance Management encourage diversity?

As HR professionals, the question remains whether we have considered how our performance management processes can influence the D&I agenda.

We often focus on the gender pay gap, but there are many other moments that matter which influence the D&I of an organisation. Especially as the compensation and reward are often directly linked to the performance management process.

When you consider one of the first steps in a performance management process, employees must take a self-assessment survey. Most would think this is good practice, and of course, managers must understand their people’s perspectives. Tracking this is paramount, as it often highlights gaps in self-promotion and how individuals communicate their performance and ability to others. Our Tandem’s rich data tells us that, on average, women are more likely to self-assess themselves harshly compared to their male counterparts.

The gender gap in self-promotion

A recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper examines another issue that possibly contributes to these gender imbalances at work. They tested the hypothesis of whether women undersell themselves when it comes to their self-assessments. As many workforces rely on their employees’ subjective assessments of their skills and abilities, a gender gap in self-promotion can seriously jeopardize a women’s career trajectories. They put both women and men through a test that required an analytical task that answered 20 questions. To assess their confidence levels, the participants then indicated how many they thought they had answered correctly. Lastly, the subjects answered ‘subjective, quantitative self-assessment about their performance.’ Even though women performed better than men on average, they rated themselves lower on the self-assessment questions.

Alarmingly, the differences were rather striking. For example, when asked to agree with subjective statements such as “I did well on the test” on a scale of 0 to 100, men averaged a rating of 61 while women scored a mere 45. Intriguingly, the authors assert that the gender gap was not a function of confidence. Even when participants were told how many questions they got right and how they fared relative to others, the gap in self-promotion persisted. Thus, despite being provided with “perfect information about their absolute and relative past performance,” women were more likely to belittle their achievement when asked to evaluate their performance on the very same test. (Gender Equality at the workplace: Promoting Self- Promotion in Women, Financial Express).

Don’t wait for the annual review.

In reality, the problem persists long before you get to the annual review. We must consider the moments that form part of our performance conversations throughout the year. The real questions to think through our continuous performance management:

  • Our female counterparts receive feedback as often as their male counterparts, and is it likely to be growth-oriented or constructive?
  • Do the employees who have worked at our company longer have less frequent check-in conversations than those who have recently joined?
  • Are men more likely to give constructive feedback to their male counterparts based on a ‘man to man talk’ which doesn’t necessarily translate so easily to their female counterparts?

I know many women, including myself, who assume that you are reluctant to travel due to family commitments. The unconscious is often lurking beneath your performance processes without being easily spotted. So, the next time you are discussing your diversity strategy, consider your performance management practices. The source of your challenge may have started well before the gender pay gap took hold.

On the upside, there are answers. We can now measure these things in infinite detail, spotting where the discrepancies may lie.

How Our Tandem can help

Our Tandem’s rich data insights enable us to provide actionable insights that allow HR to tell the narrative that matters. Understanding diversity gaps throughout the year will allow you to deliver a performance management process more than accelerating performance. It helps create an inspiring employee experience that enables your people to unlock growth and accelerate their potential. For more information, book a chat with a member of our team today.

Measuring the Moments that Matter

As Gartner stated, in HR, ‘moments that matter’ are the moments that impact an employee’s organisational experience most significantly throughout their day, year, and career. Furthermore, they state that these ‘moments that matter’ allow us to learn more about what’s truly important to our people. Rather than the moments that HR and leaders think matter. To take this one step further, measuring these ‘moments’, give insight into the small but important interactions their people are having, and it enables HR to take action to improve the employee experience.

Although it is granted that the moments matter, often they are not effectively measured due to a lack of reporting and visibility. Our Tandem are passionate about investigating the meaning of all the granular interactions that happen continuously across and between users in our platform. We care about the measures that can be useful in assessing the employee experience, leadership effectiveness, coaching capabilities, and the drivers behind an employee’s growth and development within an organisation.

Formulate Strategic Business Questions

The advances in ‘People Analytics’ during the past decades have demonstrated the vast application where HR data can provide invaluable insight on HR and business decisions. There is a growing amount of literature showing that there is a lack of evidence around the impact that these interventions have on organisations.

Often, ‘People Analysts’ work is dedicated to analysis on highly operational data. This may include forecasting attendance, attrition risk assessment, and they may create global dashboards on headcount related metrics. However, what is often missing is the ability to formulate strategic questions for a business. Considering such questions gives HR the ability to present at the senior level of the organisation and promote concrete actions. Currently, the statistic showed by most HR teams in board rooms is often headcount, followed by employee engagement results.

Measuring the Moments That Matter

Strategic workforce planning tools have rapidly evolved. These allow companies to evaluate the impact of certain attributes at the individual level and their effects on performance. These tools can provide a wealth of insights. However, often the limitation is that the information sent to these tools is focused on the individual rather than on the interactions of that person in the organisation. This often leads to information that is incomplete. The information is not representative of the real-life flow of interactions between colleagues and between employees and leaders.


Key People Metric Questions that Should be Considered
  1. How can we identify good coaching practices in our organisation?
  2. What are the metrics within the platform that have a predictive impact on employee experience?
  3. What measures should we consider that have been found to be strong drivers of leadership effectiveness?

These are significant questions that must be carefully considered, to establish what the organisation is trying to achieve. The answers then allow HR to distill concepts into measurement frameworks. They also require defining how they are going to measure impact. This is a point that is often ignored by performance management platform providers, but not Our Tandem.

The Our Tandem Difference

At Our Tandem, we believe that our clients need a partner that allows them to navigate the complexity of what can be measured in performance. This partner should provide advice and recommendations as to how to approach these answers to those key questions. That is what we do and that is why we are proud to partner with our clients. Our unique partnership approach helps them connect the data points and enhances the decision-making for both HR and the overall business.

Go Beyond Engagement Surveys

Our Tandem is transforming the way organisations measure the global employee experience. Our employee experience strategic measurement frameworks help global organisations evaluate key aspects of their employee experience. They also enable them to drill down into inconsistencies and highlight key areas of focus. Creating such a framework enables our clients to start creating leading and continuous indicators of employee experience. These indicators go beyond engagement/pulse surveys. They deliver powerful insights that can proactively help address inconsistencies in the way we manage our people.


If you are interested in how Our Tandem can help you take performance measurement to another level, click here to speak to a member of our team!

Navigating the decisions involved in a return to the office are complex and multi-dimensional

As vaccines roll out globally, organisations are busy planning how they will return to some sort of normal post-pandemic. These are complex decisions; organisations need to balance a whole range of competing factors. A recent McKinsey report found that in many organisations, productivity actually increased during the pandemic, but “many employees now report feeling anxious and burned out”.

On one hand, companies are desperate to see teams co-located once more in a collaborative, physical workspace. They also believe it will inject positive feelings of morale and employee wellbeing. Many hope for a welcome boost of productivity when employees co-locate together once more.

But on the other hand, employers have a duty of care to guarantee (as far as possible) the safety of their employees. They must have fair policies that are equitable and non-discriminatory. HR will want to avoid forcing workers back into the office who are not comfortable or ready. They are also conscious that many employees have thrived whilst working from home. With 52% of workers preferring a more flexible working model post-pandemic, and 30% saying they are likely to switch jobs if they were forced to return to fully on-site work, these are significant factors to consider.


How organisations can tackle this conundrum

Both the Our Tandem team, and many of our clients are diverse organisations that are located all over the world. Our Tandem is also a team that has doubled the size of our employees during the pandemic. We have therefore evolved in a virtual setting. As we approach our ‘return to the office debate’, we considered the philosophical issues, to the strategic and thoroughly practical.

10 key considerations when navigating the return to the office
  1. Reconsider the purpose of the workplace – A philosophical discussion about the purpose of the workplace post-covid; has our understanding of the purpose of going into the office changed forever?
  2. Re-thinking ‘office work’ – Understanding what type of work we think is best done in the office (collaborative workshops, teamworking activities, strategy planning days etc.) versus what work can be best performed from home
  3. Impact on client relationships – A strategic debate about what impact the new ‘return to work’ era will have for our clients and therefore our company strategy and priorities
  4. Understanding the desire – how many want hybrid working? How many days would they like to be in the office / at home?
  5. How to optimise team cohesion – How to cater to the needs of people who are desperate to go back to the office full-time versus those who want to work from home full-time and indefinitely
  6. Level of flexibility – Whether to decree the number of days we expect people to be in the office or whether to leave it to their discretion.
  7. Ensuring fair practice – How to ensure fairness between our people given that recent growth has meant some locations do not have an office space at all (or the location’s office lease up for renewal)
  8. Organisational transparency – How to avoid setting unrealistic expectations or making false promise.
  9. Home office suitability –Whether all our employees have the equipment they need if the home location is set to become the primary work location for many (or whether they have been ‘making do’ with suboptimal equipment assuming they will return to the office at some point
  10. Maintaining a culture of connectedness – How to open lines of communication between management and employee. And involve people early enough so that they feel they can express their views and influence the decision.
The Importance of the decision

Getting this right is important. A recent survey by McKinsey (Reimagine Work: Employee Survey) clearly showed that many employees feel they’ve yet to hear enough about their employers’ plans for post-COVID-19 working arrangements. 47% of employees are feeling this lack of vision is a cause for anxiety. They found that “organisations may have announced a general intent to embrace hybrid virtual work going forward. But too few of them have shared detailed guidelines, policies, expectations, and approaches”. Employees need to understand these specifics as soon as possible.

Over to you

Suffice to say, Our Tandem will be adopting a pragmatic ‘safety first’ response to our return to the office. We are hoping to respond to our employees’ needs and concerns as possible. Always working to ensure a working environment and culture that help our employees thrive.

While performance management was sometimes defined as the most reviled practice in HR, calibration was often the reason behind that title; the difference being it was happening behind closed doors so not everyone even knew it existed. The intent was good, ‘let’s align on what great performance looks like, let’s ensure consistency and fairness in the evaluation of our people’. However, the reality played out very differently.

Ratings and comparison

It found itself in a pool of subjectivity, as Harvard Business Review points out, most performance evaluations are biased. Leaders often take defensive positions in backing their own people. Doing so to secure those top boxes of the rating curve, at the sacrifice of another department’s people. It also rarely required real data or objective evidence that validated a point of view. As such too, it would often end up in a subjective view of opinions, where the loudest voice was most often heard. It also had the disadvantage that the comparisons were unfair and unhelpful.

How do you compare one individual’s performance to another? particularly when specialist roles or unique responsibilities were a factor, and indeed was it even right to compare people at all. We don’t compare our children and pick out our favourite or if we do, we’d rarely go into a room to debate it! Inevitably, it ended up being a hostile uncomfortable experience for many. This led to many challenges and ultimately unfairness, the very thing it aimed to avoid. In many respects, calibration in its purest form rarely lived up to the promise.


‘Levelling’ and grounding the performance rating curve

As many companies exited these practices, in favour of more progressive forms of performance management, others remained with different versions of the practice. So where do we find ourselves now?

Is it time to end calibration? Or do we have an alternative to deliver on the original intent of calibration which still feels relevant? Aligning on what great performance looks like in an effort to improve the fairness and the accuracy of performance reviews. After all, if you work for a manager who has a highly optimistic view of his own team and will tend to over inflate ratings, it’s pretty unfair if you find yourself with the opposite type of leader, who will be more prone to harsh ratings and a pessimistic view of your team’s performance. These alignment sessions can and sometimes were helpful in assisting managers to work through a ‘levelling’ and a grounding on the performance rating curve.

Well, there are new answers to calibration that do live up to its original intent. Arguably, the label and much of the practice are reducing and reshaping itself as many walk away from the practice. Fortunately, new practices are emerging with a much more inspiring intent. There’s a new kid in town and thankfully it’s a far more inspiring practice than its predecessor.


Aligning on ‘great performance’

Sometimes named ‘Talent Days’ and sometimes ‘People Days’ have arrived and are giving managers the opportunity to align on great performance. Also aligning on sharing their thoughts and evaluating what great looks like, but with the purest of intent. Many of these days are oriented around how do we help this individual grow and accelerate their potential. The practice is simplicity itself and with wholly good intent that takes an individual’s current capability, performance and skillset and defines how to take that to the next level. Sharing with other managers thoughts, ideas and even finding cross-functional opportunities that may benefit that individual.

The practice can also lead to very tangible actions such as identifying appropriate mentors. These tangible actions also include defining clear career path opportunities and unifying around what exceptional performance looks like. While they are veering more toward the talent management category of talent reviews, we see a merging of the two practices coming together. It opens the conversation on how do we know what great performance looks like. When we see great performance, how do we accelerate the potential of that individual.


The new practices of performance management

As ratings and matrices take a back seat to the new practices of performance management, the good news is they are being replaced by great conversations that fulfill the original purest intent of performance management. This intent was to let people know where they stand and holding them to account for their performance. Doing so by recognising great performance and managing underperformance and aligning on what that great performance looks like.

It’s difficult to know how widespread these practices are. We have certainly seen a lot of variations of this in our client sites. Yet there is little writing material about the new practices that are emerging. One thing is for sure, the new practices are inspiring and wholeheartedly good. We see these highly welcomed by managers, who still bear the scars of the former calibration era. We say Bravo to those companies embracing the new kid on the block.

Our Tandem can help drive meaningful conversation in your organisation through our use of check-ins and other features. To find out more chat with a member of our team!

The merits of having a strong feedback culture have long been documented. The link to business performance has been proven with studies such as Zenger and Folkman.’s. The study proved those who engaged in strong feedback practices saw the top third of companies being double that of the bottom third. This including profit margin, return on investment, return on assets and return on equity. So the business case is there and multiple studies show the beneficial impact on engagement. As well as all the returns that engagement delivers. So if you are convinced by all the rich data that tells us it’s worth doing. How do you go about doing it in an effective way, that sustains long past the novelty value of an initial push?


Every day we get to witness companies building their feedback cultures and embedding these new habits into their organisations. Here are the 5 key differentiators that make the difference between a short-lived novelty approach to feedback to a sustainable ongoing habit that lives on and deepens in value over time.


Here are the 5 Key Steps:

Create a disciplined habit.

This sounds more severe than it is and it can be light, easy, and fun. Simple tactics such as ‘Feedback Fridays’ as promoted by Laura Grealish and Tamra Chandler in their brilliant book, can create consistency. These can also create an ongoing sustainable way of ensuring people build it into their Friday habits. After enough Feedback Friday communications, everyone settles into the new way of working that’s when we share feedback with each other.


Role modelling.

Too obvious, I know, but we have data that clearly demonstrates where managers engage in feedback, employees will follow. Not rocket science I hear you, but here’s the good bit. They not only will receive and share on feedback with others. They will engage in greater levels of peer feedback but even more excitedly they are more likely to deliver upward feedback. Yes, that’s employees brave enough to give their managers feedback. Isn’t that the holy grail of feedback! We have a client who got their role modelling so right that 94% of their employees sent upward feedback to their managers in the first month of Tandem usage.


Make feedback easy.

Too often initiatives are focused on how do we get people to give constructive feedback. Here’s the bad news, they won’t, upfront. They will only engage in constructive feedback if they have formerly built a habit of giving feedback. In order to deliver good constructive feedback, you need to have a bedrock of trust underlying that; otherwise, you risk destroying that relationship.

The 5:1 ratio is a well researched one and a good one for us to lean on here. If you give 5 positive feedbacks, it gives you a licence to deliver one constructive one. By the way this one works in relationships too (try it out with a spouse!) This well researched model shows that if we are delivering 5 positive feedbacks we inspire trust. We know that person appreciates and values us. So, when we go to deliver constructive feedback it’s in the context of a trusted relationship and is far more likely to be well received. So how do we make feedback easy? Start easy and positive, with little hints and tips about what great feedback looks like. There are some super new models out there to avail of.


The Art of Receiving Feedback is just as important as Giving.

Sometimes we focus all of our attention on helping people give feedback, but we forget that receiving feedback is just as important. Setting up the right environment to receive feedback is key. If feedback catches you at the wrong time, it can create a fight or flight reaction. Also, different profiles respond differently to feedback; introverts need to digest it before they respond so will often go quiet; extroverts will often have a more immediate reaction but can sometimes jump to a place of defensiveness before digesting it thoroughly.


Think about the setting.

The environment in which they receive feedback matters, catching someone unawares and pouncing feedback on them can backfire. That’s why technology is a good channel, people can leave their feedback privately. This gives the person the time to digest it before they show up for the chat or follow up conversation. That way nobody is caught unawares and they are both prepared to have that follow up at a time that they are both ready and in the right mindset to share and receive the feedback. Other helpful practices are to give training or tips on how to receive feedback graciously. There’s an art to it and we can’t take for granted that everyone instinctively knows that art.


Building a feedback culture isn’t an overnight journey but there are specialised methodologies you can deploy to ensure that habit builds sustainably over time. Nudging people with the right messages can really deliver you the right outcomes but be careful out there. Avoid messages such as ‘challenge yourself to get some feedback’, nobody wants that challenge (trust us we tried it in our early days, it got zero engagement). Replace it with some behavioural science nudges that motivate us to help each other and share feedback generously. There’s lots more to share but for now good luck with your feedback journeys. As the data will show the outcome is so very much worth it!

If you want to find out how Our Tandem can help build and improve your feedback culture, book a chat with a member of our team today!

Get Inspired!

Book a Demo