Engaging the Disengaged

Managing the Way hosts Doctor Brian Cawley to discuss feedback and how it has been changing, including how these changes can lead to more engaged teams.

Content is summarized from the interview:

-Professor at Calvin University

-PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Akron

-Co-founder and partner of Talent Asset Advisors

-Feedback hasn't changed for a long time. This is really true of a lot of things in management. A lot of what is done today in organizations has been done the same way for 50, 70 even 100 years in some cases. This notion of this annual performance evaluation, performance review, is one of those.

-A big changes that's happened in that is decoupling of the evaluation part, the rating part of performance, and then the feedback part, which is intended to be much more development and future-looking.

- Annual meetings are created to give a numerical rating, but at some point the employee goes into a flight, fight, or freeze mode, and cannot retain any information after that.

- There's some sort of evaluative component that needs to happen, and I'm a pretty big believer about candidness, creating a culture ... If you're going to have trust and have candid conversations that an employee always knows where they stand.

-The estimate right now is about 30% of the Fortune 500 have eliminated their rating process, and that's been over about the last five years that that's happened, so it's a pretty big increase, that's a pretty big trend.

-Rank and yank was the term, and very transparent. I mean, the idea was this candidness, let's you know exactly where you stand, and if you're in the top 20% GE's going to do everything to make your employee experience great, give you the opportunities because we really want to invest in you and we don't want to lose you. The middle 70% would be those employees that are doing their job, they're contributing, they're doing what we're asking them to do to and they're fine as well. And then that bottom 10% would be employees that re not contributing the way they need to the organization, and they'd be give a year notice saying, "You got to get out of that bottom 10% or you're not going to be around next year." It worked for GE for 20 years. GE became extremely successful under that, but what happened is a lot of those managers did great work and they went off. A lot of them became CEOs of other large corporations and they said, "We're going to do things the way we did things back at GE," and tried to impose it on their organizations. And one thing we know about management is best practices is kind of a misnomer. There aren't these things that we can really take from one organization, put it in another organization and expect it to work, because it depends. It depends on the strategy, the culture, the values, all sorts of things. Time and time again this rank and yank system that got implement at dozens of the largest organizations failed, failed miserably. Stirred the pot in terms of people's dissatisfaction with performance evaluation and feedback.

-We've tried for a really long time to train managers to be better feedback providers. There's almost no evidence that it works.

-The feedback sandwich...doesn't work. People are waiting and asking, "What's that critical middle piece that I'm waiting for?" And then again, as soon as they kind of hear it they disconnect and, "I don't really remember what was said at the first, and I didn't even hear what was said at the end, and I don't really know how to improve because I'm just upset about what you said about how poorly i'm doing."

-If we're equipping them to be better feedback seekers and receivers, there's an idea that they're controlling their work life a little bit more, which would create higher levels of autonomy as well.

-Look at the things that a manager does, it's around control, it's around delegation, it's around evaluating and being a judge, when we're saying really what we need them to be is better listeners, understand things and coach more.

-Most organizations think they do have an engaged workforce, and most organizations actually don't have an engaged workforce.

-Employee engagement is a leading indicator of a lot of bad things, of a lot of lagging indicators. Things like reduced revenue, reduced profitability, higher turnover, all lagging indicators. It's already happened. Employee engagement is one of the best leading indicators for us to get on top of it before those bad things happen.

-The only common factors around effective leadership is humility.

-For you to see great increases in the employee experience and employee engagement it's going to have to be trust and psychological safety becomes more and more part of the culture.

Teams also need to get away and have time to think together and reflect together. Be able to spend just an hour to be curious about each other. -Denise Van Eck, Owner of Thought Design

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