[Two Cents] Talk is not cheap, but it sure is helpful

Don’t underestimate the power of a genuine conversation, writes Kelvin Ong in this week's Two Cents column.
By: | June 25, 2018

The Two Cents column sees HRM Magazine’s Kelvin Ong offer his “#NoFilter” take on the latest HR and business happenings from around the world.



Every alternate Monday, my editorial director and I will sit down for an hour of catch-up. During these sessions, we discuss my pain points at work, the challenges I’ve been facing, any new ideas I have for our website and magazine, and even my career goals.

Sometimes we will also talk about our lives outside of work, and what we have been up to when we’re not living and breathing HR.

The goal of these conversations, really, is to keep each other in the loop of where each other is mentally and emotionally. Actually, I lie. It feels like I’m the only one sharing all the time.

Some might think twice a month is an overkill, but I thoroughly enjoy these catch-up (or coaching) sessions. They’re like free therapy consultations, without the tears.

But it seems I’m in the minority of people who view their performance management process positively.

A new study suggests that there is a massive disconnect between how employers and employees feel about the way performance management and reviews are being carried out.

It found that while nearly all bosses interviewed (94%) are confident that employees are satisfied with their company’s performance management and review processes, the reality is most employees feel the process is outdated (61%) – mostly because it’s often deemed incomplete or too generic.

Exacerbating the issue is the fact that most executives don’t make conducting performance reviews a high priority: more than half frequently reschedule or delay employee reviews because they didn’t have enough time to prepare, and end up spending an average of 15 hours of personal time preparing for a much bigger annual evaluation.

It’s surprising that in these disruptive times, there are still so many firms out there that are not taking performance management more seriously.

Keeping a finger on the pulse of everything that happens throughout your organisation is key to ensuring high productivity, but it is easier said than done.

It requires a lot of communication and sharing between employees and leaders, and it requires leadership to lead by example in order for all team managers to follow suit.

But most importantly, it requires HR to implement rules and processes, and enforce them across the board.

The other problem, as the survey found, was that employees found their feedback sessions outdated and ineffective.

This is why even an organisation like General Electric, which for years swore by rating scales, decided to remove reviews altogether.

At first, many thought the company was crazy for abolishing ratings. The question on most people’s minds was how the company would be able to pay bonuses and manage productivity if it did not dish out grades.

To get around that problem, GE began using a performance system that combines regular feedback (through a mobile app) with an annual evaluation at the end of each year.

Brocade Communications Singapore and Teledirect Telecommerce are two other organisations that have traded annual evaluations for regular coaching sessions.

“Now, self-reflection and manager-driven feedback happens throughout the year, instead of just once at the end of the year,” Emily Draycott-Jones, HR Director, Asia-Pacific, Brocade Communications, previously told HRM Magazine Asia.

One benefit of such a format is that staff feel like their feelings are being acknowledged, and that there is genuine interest in their professional growth.

I can certainly attest to that. Having bi-weekly conversations with my boss has done wonders for my emotional wellbeing. Not only do I feel like I’m being heard, but I’ve also become more aware of where I might have dropped the ball that I was otherwise unaware of, and how I can improve to be better at my job.

If companies truly want to get the best out of their people, simple chit-chat sessions are certainly a good place to start.