Join industry experts at EmpowerHR 2024 to hear how HR is leading business transformation.

How Empowering Managers and Employees Makes Work Better

Description

Chief Culture and Talent Officer at Sprinklr, Diane Adams, SVP HR, Commercial Transformation & Skin Health Group at Colgate-Palmolive, Michaela Schoberova, and Founder of Inspirati Leadership Solutions, Kate Beatty, sat down with Betterworks Customer Success Manager Team Lead Ingrid Cullen to discuss their performance management programs and the effects they have on manager enablement, employee performance, and more. Watch now or read the transcript to unlock their insights.

Transcript

Jamie:
Hi, everybody. I think we’ll all agree that that was an absolutely inspiring session with Ryan. And next up, we’ve got our Making Work Better Everyday panel. Betterworks’ Principal Customer Success Manager, Ingrid Cullen, will be moderating a discussion with Diane Adams of Sprinklr, Michaela Schoberova of Colgate-Palmolive, and Kate Beatty of Inspirati Leadership Solutions.

Ingrid Cullen:
Hello, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here today. I hope you all enjoyed Ryan’s talk just now. I will do a quick introduction. I’m Ingrid. As Jamie mentioned, I’m the principal customer success manager here at Betterworks. I’ve been with Betterworks for about six years and I’ve worked with every team from small groups rolling out OKRs to global organizations transforming their performance. So we have a quick poll that we are going to launch to get some of your ideas going and then we’ll jump into our panel discussion. 

Great. So what is the biggest performance challenge you’re trying to tackle in your organization today? Just go ahead and click the first one that really comes to mind and we’ll look at that and then we’ll go around and introduce our panelists today.

Let’s go around and introduce our panelists. So Kate, maybe we’ll start with you. Tell us just a little bit about yourself.

Kate Beatty:
Thanks, Ingrid, and hello everybody. It’s a pleasure to be here today. I’m coming to you from sunny but cold Colorado. I know we’ve got a couple of people in the audience who are from Colorado, so hopefully you guys are finding enough heat to stay warm. A little bit about myself, I would just start with, I love working with leaders to help them address that kind of leadership crisis that Ryan was just telling us about. And at my heart and my soul, that’s the work that I do. 

I actually started, though, my career as an engineer, but I was on a leadership training program and I found that that was so much more exciting than the actual engineering I was doing, so I shifted into organizational psychology. I spent most of my life at the Center for Creative Leadership  doing leadership development, leadership training, and really just studying the art of the work of the leader.

I, about five years ago, joined a large manufacturing company and headed up their learning and organization development function. That’s where I met Ingrid. That’s where I became a huge fan of Betterworks. So at some point during the panel today, I’m sure I’ll share some stories from there. But now I have my own firm, it’s called Inspirati Leadership Solutions, and we partner with executives who want to learn to lead in new ways that engage and inspire people. We offer executive coaching, team development, leadership development, and talent and organization development solutions as well. So happy to be here and excited to share with you some thoughts today.

Ingrid Cullen:
Michaela, let’s hear from you.

Michaela Schoberova:
Thanks, Ingrid. And hi, everyone. A pleasure to be here. My name is Michaela Schoberova. In case you wonder where my accent is from, I’m Slovakian. I am currently the worldwide director for people organizational and leadership development at Colgate. And you all probably know Colgate-Palmolive. We are a company that’s present all around the world, very global, employees in more than 80 countries. And I hope you are using some of our brands.

I have been at Colgate for the past 20 years in various roles of business HR or generalist business-facing roles as well as in this area of expertise of performance development, talent management, leadership, and change. So it’s a pleasure to be here. We have been a partner with Betterworks for now, I think it’s going to be soon two years since we partnered with them to enable how we manage performance and make it better at Colgate. So pleasure to be here and discuss.

Ingrid Cullen:
Thank you for joining us, Michaela. And now Diane, please introduce yourself.

Diane Adams:
Great, thank you. So also excited to be here. I’m Diane Adams, and just a little bit about myself. My passion is inspiring and enabling people to live extraordinary lives personally and professionally. And I’ve just been really fortunate in my career to be part of high-growth tech companies where the CEO, the leadership teams also shared that passion and they believe that culture was a differentiator. 

Much of my career I spent with Cisco Systems and there I had the privilege to work with Doug Dennerline who leads Betterworks. And we’ve been on this journey together for a long, long time. And today I lead what I call culture and talent, which is human resources for Sprinklr. And we’re an enterprise software company that is in the unified customer experience management space. So excited to be here and talk more about this topic.

Ingrid Cullen:
Great, thanks Kate, Michaela, Diane for those introductions. We’ll just take a quick look back at the poll to see what we heard from the audience. It looks like enabling managers is the top priority. That’s definitely something that I hear from my organizations as well that they’re really looking at focusing on that manager-employee relationship. Broader alignment of the organization’s top strategic priorities. That’s both developmental, making sure people know that they have the skills to meet the requirements, and also giving meaning to that work. People knowing what impact they’re having is so huge. And of course better performance data adopting their program, of course some others. 

So great to hear from our audience, but to kick off our discussion, we just heard from Ryan about human-centric leadership and he talked about the importance of really inspiring emotional commitment and alignment toward a shared purpose. And I know that’s something that you all feel really strongly about. So how are you applying this concept in your organizations or the organizations that you advise?

Michaela Schoberova:
So I can speak to that a little bit. There’s our overall organizational purpose that we hope is very inspiring to people. We think of ourselves as being in the health space. And our purpose is to reimagine healthier futures for all people. Lots of people around the world use our products, and their pets. We have a pet nutrition business. And the planet. We really care a lot about the sustainability of what we bring to the world. So in our approach to how we manage performance, we actually want people to think about how their objectives link to that overall purpose.

And we have also recently introduced a change into our ratings where we talk about impact. So we want people to make an impact in what they’re doing as opposed to being a high performer or different kinds of labels that could be used. And Ryan also talked about being human-centric. And we think ultimately, it’s about conversations. It’s not about ratings, it’s about how people interact and what kind of conversations they have because as humans, we naturally want to be growing and better at what we do, and that happens through conversations.

Diane Adams:
And I’m glad to build off of what Michaela said is one of the things that we’ve spent a lot of time on over the past several months is getting clearer than ever in terms of the culture that we want to create. And as a matter of fact, we’re doing a leadership program today and then we’re going worldwide. And this is the essence of it, that the culture is two parts, really. That we want to be a kind and caring culture, so you think about the human-centric piece of it, and we want to be a culture that inspires and it drives extraordinary results. 

And then to your point, Michaela, about the conversations, one of the things, and I could talk more about it later, that we have done, our quarterly conversations, we refer to them as the Employee Delight Assurance Program. There are three pieces to it. Let’s take the CEO and me. He’s going to say to me, on a scale of one to 10, how happy am I? And then we’re going to go deeper on that. So it starts with caring. The second part of that is performance. He’s going to say, how would I assess my performance for the last quarter, scale of one to 10? We’ll have that discussion for alignment and then we’ll talk about the next quarter and priorities. And the third piece of that conversation is around how did I do and assess myself on my learning goals? And then we’ll talk about the go forward. 

But I think the most important piece, and this has been game-changing for us, there was a day when attrition was way higher than we wanted, and this was a key way that we turned that because we knew we needed to start with the care before we started talking about performance and before we started talking about the learning. So the results of that were really significant.

Michaela Schoberova:
I really like the integration of the well-being in your conversations. Really nice.

Kate Beatty:
I do too, Diane, and the way in which the values that you hold and what you’re trying to drive in the culture are operationalized through that. What a great example. I’m going to come at this from a slightly different perspective. I’m going to come at it more through the lens of leadership. And I really resonated with what Ryan was saying a lot in that shared purpose and then commitment and alignment. Because even at the Center for Creative Leadership, we define leadership as the process by which we create direction, alignment, and commitment, all three of those, and different leaders do it in different ways, but finding your way to do that is what’s so critical.

I think in terms of the work I do with lots of different organizations now, what I see is leaders do a pretty good job of creating direction, but alignment and actually infusing or creating commitment in their behavior is where there might be some challenges. It’s where there are some consistent gaps. If we just take change and transformation that’s happening in organizations, they can go forward and say, here’s the change we want to make, and I know I need to train you and tell you what it is, and so let me go do that. But that doesn’t create alignment and commitment. The only way you really do that in the midst of change is by engaging people in it the way Howard Schultz did, as an example, in the videos that we saw today.

So in the world of change leadership, it’s really about bringing people in and enrolling them to be a part of that change, to participate in it to help not just define what they’re going to need to do differently, but how do we work together to be consistent with this? Because they know better, actually, than the top leader might know. It takes some humility and I think that that’s harder. It’s easy to tell people what to do. To acknowledge and admit that I may not know how this plays out in your world on a day-to-day basis is very different. And so people-centered leadership requires a level of humility and a level of vulnerability that leaders don’t always want to show. So that’s one way we work with them. 

And then the other thing I’ll just touch on briefly is this notion of empathy. We know it is a core driver of leadership effectiveness. It’s shown to help us with engagement. It’s shown by helping us through conflict resolution that builds trust. Empathy is such a core thing, but leaders are struggling to be able to show that. And there’s this mindset, almost, about it, like if I’m empathetic, I can’t be tough when I need to be. I see that so frequently and I believe that we really need to help them demonstrate both caring, as Diane talked about, and the push for results to do both. So how do they see it as a both-and versus an either-or is a lot of the coaching work I’m doing right now. So, Diane, I might steal some of what you just said.

Diane Adams:
Well, you’re making me think, Kate, because literally right before I walked in here, our conversation with our leaders was that the kind and caring and driving extraordinary results are not mutually exclusive. It’s the power of the ‘and,’ which is exactly what you’re saying. You also made me think one of my favorite quotes is, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” We can all think about our own career journey and know just how true that is.

Kate Beatty:
Yeah. I love that quote, too. I love it as well.

Ingrid Cullen:
Yeah. I think that’s a nice segue because I was going to say I love that concept as well and it resonates with some of my own experiences that when you see that real care from leadership and willingness to understand on-the-ground experience, it goes really far. And to that point, we see that managers are just so critical in what that overall employee experience is. They’re really the first connection that employees have to leadership. So how have you equipped your managers with the knowledge and tools to help their people and what impact has that had on their teams and the overall organization?

Kate Beatty:
Ingrid, I was going to reflect back on some of the work we did together. When we were implementing our “Elevate Your Performance” program, which is what we called it at the organization where Ingrid and I were working together, our first point of focus was on managers and the conversations they were having. In fact, I think we actually prioritized that over things like OKR-setting and the rolling out of OKRs. It was really about the manager. And one of our team members had this brilliant idea. She said, “Well, how about if every quarterly conversation, we offered training to the managers and that training could be around things like how do you set good OKRs so they make sure that their employees are doing that, but they’re also around things like how do you listen, how do you give effective feedback?”

And at that point in time, we were just structuring our conversations very straightforward. It was, “What do you need me to stop, start, and continue?” That was it. So it was a very simple structure and I will tell you, I think that gave us huge benefits to do that kind of training in a very thoughtful and planful way because we really focused on helping managers give their employees the gift of presence that Ryan was talking about today. We did surveys, of course, around the program and people would tell us, “Well, first off, this is the first time I’ve had a conversation with my manager in several months” and we hate to hear that. But it was true. It was out there. And so the fact that we were forcing that was a big and important thing. 

But we also got feedback about how the quality of the conversation was so valuable to people. They heard things they had never heard before on both sides. The manager was hearing things and the employees were hearing things. And so that aspect of giving them a structure and some tools was very enabling for them. I’ll talk about this probably later today as well, but we did an engagement survey at the beginning of our deployment and we did an engagement survey two years later and engagement went up seven points. And I firmly believe that this aspect of managers working differently with employees in a regular and frequent way was a big reason for that.

And then also, after COVID hit and we were all remote, we did a survey then, and it probably won’t surprise you guys, but it was refreshing to me and that was that the managers were the thing that was most beneficial to employees at that point in time. They talked a lot about the positive impact their managers were having on them. So it was very wonderful to hear how that training and the structure that we had provided to them pre-pandemic was helping with the pandemic situation because actually, employees were saying, “You know what? We’re doing okay. We’re doing okay and we’re doing okay because of our managers.” So, Michaela, I’ll turn it over to you now.

Michaela Schoberova:
This is great. As you said, Ingrid, the managers are really key to the employee experience and we are thinking about how much the manager’s role is changing. And I think that, historically, the focus was more on directing and supervising people and now it’s more about enabling, empowering people, helping them, providing them support. And so one thing that we are really focusing on is the manager’s coaching skills, so seeing managers as coaches rather than supervisors. And that goes to similar things, like Kate said, understanding the basics about how do I provide good, specific recognition? How do we appreciate, in our quarterly conversations, what people have done? But also how do I ask good questions so that we can help move forward and maybe use some feedback from recent work to get even better next time this type of work comes up?

So we’ve been focusing on these coaching skills starting from reminding people in the moments when they’re about to have the conversations what the good looks like, and with that, we really love the Betterworks platform because we can embed that in the process very easily. But of course, that’s not the only thing. Managers tell us that they want to get this support in the flow of work and they also want help with difficult conversations, that that’s the hard part, when they have to deliver news that’s not so easy. So we’ve been experimenting with some new ways of providing that learning, which include, for example, we have a coaching chatbot, which is basically embedded in our Google chat that the managers can sign up for, that shares with them some useful tips, some short learning content that they can use and come back to. They can find it in their chat, which is where they are, which is where they work.

And for the difficult conversations, the team’s been experimenting with a tool where you practice that conversation with an avatar as opposed to a human being directly because that creates a bit of a safer space where you can really practice and try out what you want to say differently, how you want to say it, and get some feedback. So this is ongoing work. I wouldn’t say that we’ve got it, but we are really focusing on the coaching skills of creating trust, listening well, asking good questions, helping generate more solutions, and then keeping people accountable also. So it’s the support and care, but also performance standards and accountability.

Diane Adams:
Yeah. Well, I think I get the opportunity to reinforce what both of you just said. So I think there are two ways we’re equipping our leaders to be able to deliver on the human element and the results. The first is investing in their education, their training. And I think just like you, you’ve highlighted for us, if I look at what we’re doing right now, the leading with empathy and really going deep. There’s a lot of people that don’t naturally, they don’t know what it means. So I just love these conversations around how they’re sharing with each other. What are those little things that they do intentionally that are really big things? And for example, starting a conversation with, “How are you really?” Knowing they may be really good or they may just need to tell you and you’re going to have to be good and want to know the next 10 or 15 minutes. It may be a very personal conversation. So it’s those kinds of things and leading with empathy and how you are intentional. 

The second thing is, we know around the world right now, we see a lot of attrition because people want to know we’re investing in their careers. So our goal is how can we have the best leaders to be known for developing people’s careers? So very focused there. And then the other piece is operational excellence. So it is measuring most everything, and when I think about the training, the education for leaders, and what I have always called operationalizing leadership, and I’ll just give you a couple of quick examples for that, and then measuring it. 

I saw in the chat someone had asked if I would repeat the three questions, these quarterly conversations with the first one being, how happy are you really on a scale of one to ten and your recommendations? The second one being assess your performance and then you have the right conversation. And then assess how you did on your learning goals over the previous quarter. 

To get to the metrics, and I’ll just give you an example, we must have 100% of these conversations every quarter and we measure it and we talk about no person in Sprinklr left behind. So it is measured, and I think most importantly is by every leader. You can look by organization, you can look across Sprinklr, you can look by leader, and you have your data that says, here are your top three themes and action. You’re expected to take action on this. We’ve got an operations review coming up Monday and Tuesday with our senior leaders, and that’s just one example where they show their data and they speak to it. So it’s built into the process.

Again, the operating cadence or operationalizing leadership, the expectation is to continue to get better and better. And I think the last thing I’d say is you were just talking about the coaching element. If we see there’s a leader struggling, they could have low scores relative to the Employee Delight Assurance Program, or they could have high attrition. But that’s when we lean in to coach and do more one-on-one to understand what’s really going on.

And I will say one more thing on the operationalizing leadership is the expectation, and again, we measure all of this, is every leader, for example, has a weekly team meeting. They have to have a weekly 1:1. You have to do three heartbeat calls. That’s a 15-minute call three to four times a week just to stay close to your team given so many people are remote, and the town halls, listening forums, skip levels. So there are just a number of expectations with leaders relative to communications, and it’s all about building trust, which gets back to the human element we’re talking about.

Ingrid Cullen:
Absolutely. Yeah, those are all really good insights. Shifting gears a little bit, there’s some uncertainty in the economy, and it feels like we’ve been in a period of flux for the past two and a half years, and sometimes leaders can be fearful and want to pull in on what they know, go back to top-down control methods. And so what advice do you give leaders if they’re facing these fears or going back to those methods?

Michaela Schoberova:
This definitely is a natural human tendency, when you feel anxious, to try to narrow down and control more. And we’ve been trying to work on this through our leadership principles and our leadership behaviors where we ask leaders to really not micromanage and control, but be very clear, provide a lot of clarity on why they’re asking people to do something and what do they really want to achieve at the end? So what is the outcome? Why are we doing this and what are some guardrails for the work? And then really letting people figure out the steps that they have to take, because they are closer to what the work is. So this is what we’ve been trying to do. It’s not easy work, but our managers, our leaders are trying to be more clear and to give more space for the how, even in the challenging times. Maybe even more because we really need everyone’s voice and everyone’s engagement to deal with these challenges.

Diane Adams:
And I think for us, similar to what we talked about in terms of the communications. First, ensure that they’re really listening through all the ways that I just talked about. What we have found, listening forums that you would think of as skip levels are really powerful as well as the attrition data, the EDAP data, the confidential survey data. So showing them data, but I’ve also learned they really, really sometimes, no matter what we say, they need to hear it for themselves, which is why I think this communications cadence and what’s expected so they’re hearing directly makes a difference. And then the third thing, and I know we all know it, is just showcasing across the company, starting to really highlight these leaders that are getting phenomenal results and just showing how they’re really leaning into their people. The power of the ‘and,’ and you really can do both with the kind and caring and the results. So a lot of highlighting are leaders and some successes there.

Kate Beatty:
Those are great ideas that both of you offered. I will say that this has been one of the most disheartening things I’ve heard and experienced lately. I was reading a Wall Street Journal article just last month at some point and they were talking about performance reviews and how forced distributions are coming back and they’re coming back because we need to identify those underperformers and exit them. So it’s sounding very much 1980s-ish. And my whole demeanor when I was reading that article just really sank. So I’ve been spending some time reflecting on this. And I think first off, we have to acknowledge that our leadership teams are under tremendous stress with what’s going on with supply chain issues and inflation and how hard it is to get talent, how hard it is to perform now, and the standards that they’re being held accountable to. First off, we have to acknowledge that there’s a reality that they’re living that is more difficult today than it has perhaps been in years prior.

And so Michaela, to your point, it’s a natural tendency, isn’t it? Let me control more. Let me start doing things like monitoring when my employees are in the office or not, or when performance reviews are done or have we fit our force distribution? So it’s a natural tendency, and it’s rooted in two things. One, fear, and the second is a mistrust I think in themselves about their ability to engage versus ability to control. And I think they trust their ability to control more than they trust their ability to engage. And I think that’s the root that we’ve got to get to in all of this because I just read this morning, 32%, this is a Gallup survey, 32% of people report feeling engaged in 2022. 32%. Come on, we can do better than that. So the core question I have for leaders who are attending towards this right now is what will give you more output for the effort? All the monitoring and control mechanisms that you’re putting in place to perhaps find the few, because I believe it’s only a few, who are taking advantage of remote work or taking advantage of situations now. Or putting work into really engaging people and getting that engagement score up to 90, 95%. Which one is going to give you more output? And I think it’s the latter. I really do. And so we just have to help them see and trust that they have that ability and walk with them in that journey.

Michaela Schoberova:
We often design for our processes or our HR people programs with the worst-case scenarios in mind. And do they really enable the best that we can get from people if we do it that way?

Diane Adams:
Yeah. And you really reinforce, and I’m thinking about us that are in the HR space, is meeting our people where they are. You said that it was disappointing or disillusioning to hear that some of the leaders want to revert back to what might’ve worked for them before. And you know what? That was my aha, because you think, how can we do that? How can we reach in trying to control when we’ve had record results during the pandemic, but recognizing where they start from to begin with and how we’ve got to help them work through and what’s going on with them, I think it’s a great reminder to us in this field to meet them where they are.

Kate Beatty:
It’s our empathy as well, isn’t it?

Diane Adams:
Exactly. That’s a really good point because I thought, okay, wow, I better remind myself about when this happens.

Michaela Schoberova:
Yeah. We all can get better at this, right? In the stressful situations.

Kate Beatty:
And that’s the fun of it. This human-centered leadership. There’s no tenure in this world. You’re never going to hit it perfectly. It’s always learning and growing. All of us included.

Ingrid Cullen:
Kind of a related question on changing behavior and getting those changes to really stick. These new programs, you can have all the best approaches in the world, but it’s really only successful if it’s actually adopted by the people it’s intended for. And so how have you driven that actual engagement from employees to managers to leadership in the processes that you’ve done?

Michaela Schoberova:
So we have tried to keep improving our performance enablement for a long time. I remember several attempts and I would say this latest attempt that we had, we really tried to be human-centric or people-centric and involve a lot of people in the design. So this is a classic design-thinking approach where you try to understand the pain points that people have with whatever you want to do and listen to them and try to design to that. And then when you show that empathy and listen to people, create some solutions and then come back to them and see whether that addresses the pain points or not.

So taking this iterative and very user-centric approach was our latest attempt to design something that will work, and we will have to listen again to people and we have to continually listen. So we try to be adaptive and when we hear feedback, make adjustments to what we are doing at the particular moment. So I think that that’s a really critical part of listening upfront, but then also listening throughout and making adjustments. And sometimes it’s hard to decide. Is it right now people just grappling with change and we need to stay the course on what we’ve designed, or do we need to already make the change and the adaptation? So not easy to do, but we have to try.

Diane Adams:
We always make sure our senior leaders are heavily involved because they’re really the ones that are driving the organization. And I think that just another example is the feedback that we get, like I said, across the company. Every quarter you always give, here are the top three things that we heard you say, and here’s the action plan and they see the results. So that we heard you, and here’s the action plan. I know it sounds simple, but just being consistent so that they always know that we really are listening and that we’re going to do something about it I think is really important. And I think that the other thing that goes hand-in-hand is just measuring everything so they know we’re going to come back to them and they know they’re going to get the truth, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and there’ll be an action plan put together.

Kate Beatty:
It’s my turn now to just reinforce what both of you have said. I don’t know that I have a whole lot more to contribute. Maybe what I would add, we did a lot of measurement. We did the same thing, reporting of completion of quarterly conversation rates and all. We used to publish the completion rates on a weekly basis to the executive team, so we’d get a little competition going among them, including who’s the highest at the top and who’s the lowest? And I think that had some positive impact in terms of them beginning to say more to their team, “Well guys, we got to get these done,” and reasons and conversations about why we were doing that. We also had a really wonderful executive team that was very engaged. As soon as the CEO started doing them with his team, it made a huge difference as well. So it’s the same levers that you two are talking about here, and I think it’s just your basic need to stay on top of things, be listening, be shifting, be changing, be adapting to feedback, and you get what you measure.

Diane Adams:
An internal competition. I love that you highlighted that. That really is a beautiful thing.

Kate Beatty:
Sure can be.

Ingrid Cullen:
Yeah. Just to echo that, when Kate and I were working, I remember it was around the time of the Olympics. You had a whole Olympic theme of gold, silver, and bronze, and that just made it a little bit more fun and I thought it was effective. On that topic of measuring impact, what have been some of the most impactful changes that you saw as you brought your organization through these transformations and how did you measure that impact or the progress that you made on the business?

Kate Beatty:
I’ll just jump in then on this. I think that there are some that are anecdotal and then there are also some that are more systematic measurements. The anecdotal ones in my opinion were the most powerful. I loved hearing the stories. We had an executive who said, “These quarterly conversations just saved that person’s career. Because I don’t know that I would’ve had the discussion or had it in this way, and we were able to unearth stuff that really got us moving forward in a much more productive way.” Or it was the stories from employees who said, “My manager hasn’t talked with me like this in as long as I can remember, and so all of a sudden I understand better what’s expected and they understand what my experience is and we’re creating more trust in that relationship because of this.” So it was those types of things, Ingrid, that we just saw happen time and time again that let us know we were on the right path in this.

I’ll bring up the two big measures that really stood out to me in particular, one being that huge jump in our engagement survey results. And in part, we had also launched a new strategy at the time and people were better understanding the direction of the organization, but there was so much data inherent in there that their manager was more connected and they felt more connected because of this, and I really firmly believe that these quarterly conversations were a big part of that. And then the other aspect of the COVID survey that we did. I just felt so grateful and appreciative that we had launched the Elevate Program prior to that because it gave managers exactly the tools we wanted them to have. So those were all good things. We still did ratings as well, and we would see in our performance ratings differentiation. We didn’t have to go force distribution. We gave suggested distributions and things like that, but people were differentiating. They were paying more attention and seeing more than I think they would’ve seen if we had just stuck with the standard. So those were some of the examples that we had.

Michaela Schoberova:
Yeah. I would say it’s very similar for us. With any kind of human program, what you start with is adoption. And we made a mistake many years ago that we wanted to do away with all the compliance-driven nature of this, and so we stopped measuring or enforcing that, and that was a mistake we had to come back to look at, how is the adoption? Are these conversations actually happening? And so we’re doing that now and we are watching whether that adoption is climbing up. So we are not forcing it like Kate was saying, but we are nudging and encouraging and seeing whether adoption is growing, whether it’s the quarterly conversations, whether it’s feedback-giving, recognition-giving, using the platform, etc. And yeah, then there’s the engagement data. We also look at that and we ask some questions around conversations, performance development growth, and also direct manager behaviors. We have a manager effectiveness index.

But I agree that the biggest power is in the qualitative data like whether people are asking good questions, for example. In meetings, directing versus enabling, all of those are things that we want to see. So some of it is observed and a lot of it is measurable. We’ve also introduced something that we call upward feedback, and we want to give managers the option to have some feedback around how they’re doing on a more regular basis than our engagement surveys. So we’re going to be watching how those coaching skills are improving as well through the upward feedback. So there’ll be some measures.

Diane Adams:
Yeah. I think the only thing I can add to that is just reinforce communications. So I’m thinking as I’m listening to the two of you talk is I just look at the communications cadence and that looks like twice a quarter, you have all your senior leaders together, you have a quarterly leadership forum. There is a town hall every month, an all-hands every quarter, and I could go on. The point is when you think about driving these programs, these key programs as well as the results, so again, going back to measuring everything, these programs are reinforced. You highlight the leaders, the people that are excelling, and there’s also the data. I mentioned this earlier, but I just love that to the leader level, it is very openly shared where you can go and see attrition data, you can see the happiness scores, you can see pulse. Everything that goes to Kate’s point earlier about internal competition, it’s just very, very transparent, which means everybody wants to take their game to another level. So it’s communications and the data and the actions, the more you can invest there, the payoff is just huge.

Michaela Schoberova:
I love this, the transparency and we’re actually trying to get even better at this. And you mentioned communication, this is something that I didn’t talk about, but this year, we actually rebranded our program and we are calling it #EvenBetter. And so the idea is about, how does everyone just get, on an ongoing basis, even better at what they do with the help of others around them? And so this gives us a platform to talk about it in a way that is non-threatening because let’s be honest, performance management is not exactly something that people love when they hear it. So we try to, again, make it future-focused and positive through the communications using this brand of even better.

Diane Adams:
Yeah. I love that.

Ingrid Cullen:
Yeah, I love it. Having that more personal touch on the communication, I see it make such a big difference. I also separately mentioned the anecdotes that really illuminate the data, and from my own experience when I’m working with teams that are rolling out these new programs, I’m seeing one tip of the iceberg. Over time, I can see just a cultural shift in the way people are working together, the way that they’re talking about their job, the way that they’re talking about people that they work with, and the whole process in the organization. And even when I have just my one little slice of visibility into an organization, I can really see when that underlying culture shifts which to me, that’s one of the most exciting parts about what I do. 

Well, we have a few more minutes, so I’m going to shift to take some questions from the audience and we have a few good ones here, but audience members, if you want to submit anything for the Q&A, now’s the time. So this first question is about how you influence the business to make these types of changes.

Michaela Schoberova:
We were lucky this time around that this wasn’t an HR-driven change. It was actually a business-driven change because we had a new business strategy, new leadership, lots of changes in our external environment. So it was part of this business transformation to elevate our performance to get better at how we do things and to reenergize this culture of giving feedback and getting better at things. So that really played to our advantage and we got the business leaders really engaged in that. We’ve tried to revamp or reenergize performance in the past in the absence of that kind of environment and it wasn’t as successful. So trying to find what the business is going for and what are the changes that are happening and how can you link the change in approaching performance and people’s engagement to it?

Diane Adams:
Yeah. I think in addition to showing the data, the other thing I’m always trying to ask myself, let’s say, with the executive team, is what is the best way that they learn? So I’ll give you an example. So there’s a lot of sharing and try to be very intentional around the sharing, whether it’s articles or organizations they really respect. So I do a lot of sharing. The other thing is, I read a long time ago, I don’t have to be the one to influence. We just have to get them to the right place. And so thinking about who are those people that they might respect? I’ll give you a quick example. Let’s say, as head of sales, you’re trying to influence them relative to this. And again, I’m making up that example because our head of sales is phenomenal at this, getting the human and the results right. Having said that, it’s like how can you connect them with someone who has done this role, phenomenal reputation, and does it incredibly well? So I try to make a lot of connections externally as well to influence based on companies they respect or people that they respect as well.

Kate Beatty:
Those are all great things. And like you, Michaela, I had a little bit of an advantage I think in this because we were effectively a startup at the time we were implementing. We were 20,000 employees and four and a half billion in revenue, but we had just gone under private equity. And so there was a whole new executive team and we were able to, I guess, strike early in that. So there are core questions that an executive team is dealing with at that time. What are our goals? Oh, well, let’s use OKRs. So there were things that we could plug into that were the issues or the challenges or the problems that they themselves were asking at that point in time.

And it changed over time. So really deeply listening for what are the challenges that they’re experiencing and how might we shift or change or how might something new connect into that was, I think, the only strategy that we used that might’ve been a little bit different than what I was hearing from the two of you in this because of the nature of what we were going through. A great example was we had great OKRs, but they hadn’t yet figured out the process of really deploying them amongst themselves and aligning amongst themselves. So our next iteration and setting the next year’s OKRs, that’s what we were focusing on. So you just grew with the business in that way and the maturation of that team and its leadership.

Ingrid Cullen:
I think those are all really good points. Our next question is really about working in a cross-cultural situation. So, “How do you enact change at a local level without the right buy-in from global management? Our company is based in Denmark and I feel like there’s a cultural misunderstanding on their end on the pain points facing the employees we have in the Americas.”

Diane Adams:
Well, having had this in the past, because I do know we all much prefer for this to start at the top. What I found worked was going to those leaders that were way respected in the organization and pulling them in and saying, “You know what? I need your help.” And so basically finding the right champions, creating that small team that I knew could enact the transformation that we wanted and I also knew that the executive team would listen to it.

Michaela Schoberova:
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. We face this all the time. We have about 17,000 employees that participate in this performance program and they’re all over the place. And we face this a lot. For example, upward feedback in some cultures works super nicely and everyone’s fine with it, and in others, it’s quite counter-cultural. So we try to appeal in our global program to the things that are largely universal, like the need to get better at things and to have conversations about that. I think it’s probably universal. But engage champions, like you were saying, Diane, in the design from all around the world as well as in implementing. And then be patient that something like giving upward feedback is going to take some time in some cultures to adopt. And that’s why we are not forcing it. Employees are free to provide upward feedback. If they don’t feel comfortable, they don’t have to. And we see whether, again, the adoption is growing with time. So I think some patience is required and some channels of communication or people involved that represent different cultures and different places around the world.

Kate Beatty:
Patience is so important. I’m really glad you said that because it does take time to get people used to this. I don’t know that I have much to add. We had a global team that did a lot of the design and rollout and we were really fortunate. I think our executive team is very accessible. So members of the team who were based in EMEA would go talk with the EMEA leader and then members of the team who are based in APAC would go talk with the APAC leadership and the HR team. So it felt like there were tentacles everywhere in the design and the deployment itself so it didn’t feel quite so, “Let’s do it in one small group and then just roll this out.” Don’t you love the rollouts that come from the central body? And I think you said this, Michaela, the more you can have that representation throughout the process, the better.

Ingrid Cullen:
Yeah and actually, Kate, I’ll build on what you said, and we’re almost at time, but to your point about having the tentacles everywhere, when we were doing this implementation, we started with the HR organization because it was truly global as opposed to different departments that were more focused on regional businesses. Choosing to start with certain shared services that really did work as global functions helped us build a foundation where we had a lot of inputs from all over the world and from different cultures and how different things might be perceived, what might work well in different contexts.

Kate Beatty:
Great add, Ingrid. Thanks for that.

Ingrid Cullen:
Well, we are coming up on time and so I do want to thank our participants. It’s been really lovely hearing from all of you. And thank you to our audience for your questions and participation as well. We are going to now move into a brief break and then our next session with Jamie Aiken titled “How to Enable Great Performance,” she will share some key best practices for transforming to a people-centric performance enablement process. So thank you all very much for joining us and we’ll reconvene shortly.

Michaela Schoberova:
Thanks for having us. Bye.

Kate Beatty:
Thank you all.