Last week we hosted our first roundtable of 2019, that was very kindly hosted by Capita Plc, where we looked at performance from a different perspective – how to make it work when your organisation has gone through pretty much every type of fundamental change!

Our case study for this was TalkTalk and we were lucky to have Jason Boyle, formerly Global Head of People and HR Director at PA Consulting Group, Astra Zeneca and TalkTalk to Chair the event. Jason set the scene by telling TalkTalk’s story and explaining the radical changes that he and his team made to evolve their approach from performance management to success management.

The Talk Talk story

Telecoms company TalkTalk is a value player in a very competitive market. To get the organisation to the position it’s in today, the business has been though an enormous amount of change: a de-merger, a restructure, a redesign, a relocation, and a rebrand included! This evolution has meant big changes to the workforce too.

Historically, the type of performance TalkTalk was measuring for wasn’t setting the business up for future success; it didn’t support agility, flexibility or personal development. Jason and his team recognised that fundamental change was needed to provide stability for employees and to “address the elephants in the room” around performance.

Making radical change to the way performance is managed

Simplification, collaboration, and crystal-clear priorities were the drivers for the changes the team instigated that included:

  • Sharing the bigger picture with everyone in the business – and making sure it is ONE picture! One plan, one team, underpinned by collaboration.
  • Moving from annual performance reviews to regular check-ins that are future-focused conversations around development rather than a backward-looking review.
  • Encouraging ‘collaboration over competition’ by focusing  conversations on supporting  people to become the best they can be.
  • Aligning reward to company metrics rather than individual performance and de-linking salary from performance.
  • Rewarding individuals through a quarterly programme of recognising super-stars who receive a cash reward and company-wide recognition for the behaviours they demonstrate.

In summary, the changes were designed to support flexible agile teams, to offer regular coaching and feedback, and a clear link to development.

Setting managers up for success

As we discussed in our post at the start of the year, managing performance works best when it’s understood as a tool for creating business success rather than seen as an HR-led annual tick-box process, often linked to a salary review. Changing our approach means thinking about performance as a philosophy, as a continuous and ongoing conversation, rather than as a remedial and backward looking once-a-year task. Making this change requires an investment in manager capability.

All too often organisations invest in leadership development without making the types of practical and tactical change that will enable managers to put their learning into practice. An important element of TalkTalk’s approach was that it enabled managers to set themselves and their teams up for success.

Supporting managers is one way of addressing the underlying issue of old and redundant performance management processes. Thinking about your own organisation are you doing the right things to set managers up for success?

  1. Sponsoring or mentorship of line managers?
  2. Giving regular feedback to make performance management continuous and more transparent?
  3. Acknowledging growing pains are part of development especially during times of change?
  4. Making performance management simple rather than over-complicating by aiming for a perfect process?

In my experience, creating a culture of honest, transparent feedback that sets line managers up for success requires some experimentation. It’s organic and holistic rather than a process. The approach needs to be agile and to be tested out to ensure it’s creating the right outcomes.

For TalkTalk, the desired outcomes set out by the team at the beginning of the process (simplification, collaboration, and crystal-clear priorities) provided a robust framework for the team to work to. If you’d like to join the discussion about success management or find out about how we’re helping organisations throw out the HR Rulebook! You can [subscribe to our newsletter] where we’ll announce future events.

Are you an HR leader? Take our complimentary Talent Diagnostic Survey which breaks down in detail how you can build, enhance and develop your Talent Management strategy. Upon completion, you’ll receive your own personal report, which we believe will give you the space to step back from your day to day activities, and look at the areas which you want to focus on, but maybe do not have the time to. The survey takes no longer than 5 minutes to complete.