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January 2016

Satisfaction in Review

Raise your hand if you’ve ever changed someone’s performance with a performance review. Keep it up if the change was positive and permanent. Yeah, me neither.

Written by Ron Shepard | 0 comment

Managers complain that reviews lack substance, rarely producing useful outcomes. Employees complain the process fails to illustrate the body of their work. Both sides often leave feeling deflated—unable to express what they really wish to say.

At Crystal Mountain, we’ve transformed the review process. We focus on the role of the manager in stimulating employee outcomes. Managers who regularly check in with employees on three simple measures find that they and their employees perform at a higher level. And the performance reviews write, and drive, themselves.

The traditional employee review focuses on the employee, and lists accomplishments, deficiencies (under some more palatable alias), and goals. We want to say, “This is good, keep doing it, this is bad, stop doing it, and here are some goals for the future.” What we actually say sounds more like, “You are good, keep being good (please don’t ask me for a raise),” or “You are marginal, you may begin resenting me in 5,4,3,2,1…”

A New Approach

Human resource professionals recommend that the review process occur more frequently than once a year. They say annual reviews fail to consider much beyond the six weeks prior to the review (just as employees complain). In our approach, we conduct employee reviews on a more or less ongoing basis, and measure managers’ effectiveness at the same time.

We derived this idea from a most unlikely source: the PSIA Level 1 exam.In this process, the examiner leads a clinic on day one, demonstrating a “best lesson” and offering insights for movement analysis and feedback. The examiner also works on the candidates’ skiing. On day two, the exam takes place, and the examiner is put in a position of assessing his or her own degree of success in preparing the candidates. If they do poorly, the examiner is as much to blame as they.

We use just three measures to assess the manager: the employees’ sense of their own relevance, development, and value, via reward or recognition.

We started this initiative by telling employees that it is our mission as managers to satisfy these three criteria, and that we would be checking in with them regularly to see how we are doing.

Employee Relevance

Relevance means that our employees matter, are important to the team, and that their job has meaning. What they do contributes to the needs of the company and the guest. We ask the employee, “Do you feel that you are relevant to the operation of the company, or to the enjoyment of the guest while at the resort?” We find ourselves saying this instead of, “Good job today.”

People find meaning in their jobs in personal ways, and it is a manager’s role to help employees find their relevance. Not all employees will—and employees whose roles lack discernable value may choose to leave. However, they may also be calling attention to their underutilization, and offering to take on more work or responsibility. This dovetails nicely with ...

Employee Development

Development means offering employees the opportunity to learn new skills and tasks. Are they learning or treading water? We ask, “What have you learned this year?” “What should you learn to better do your job?” and “What do you want to learn to see yourself able to advance?”

Within our organization, we have a culture of “train your own replacement.” We can’t really promote an employee if there’s no one to step into the vacated role. Are we taking the time to offer additional or challenging roles and responsibilities, in our own departments or within other areas of the company? Is the education we offer transportable, making them more valuable to the company, to our guests, or as a provider to their families? We hope so, because this leads to the third criterion, value.

Employee Value

Value. Managers hesitate to ask the question, “Do you feel valued?” They worry the response will be, “No, you should pay me more.”

We encourage our managers to help employees find their own sense of importance, but we also offer managers many ways to demonstrate they value their staff. Some feel most valued when they are publicly recognized, while others see more meaning in a personal thank-you.

Some measure their value in dollars, and experience shows that for these folks, timing is everything. The further you are from the event you wish to reward, the greater the figure must be to have effect. Sadly, the usual chain of recognition can take months.

There’s a simple solution for this. When our employees suggest a valuable innovation, we provide instant recognition, often via movie vouchers we keep on hand for these occasions. Meet or beat a vital deadline? We end the day with thank-you vouchers for the cafeteria, or a gift certificate to the spa.

Timing Is Everything

Here’s another lesson from PSIA: feedback must be timely, accurate, specific, useful, and welcome, or it will fail.

We ask our employees conversationally—sometimes weekly in busy periods—about their relevance, development, and their feeling valued, in that order. First, we wish to understand the employee’s own sense of what they do within and on behalf of the organization. We have found that an underperforming employee often does not understand their role. Second, we ask about their development, because it indicates what we can do to keep them invested in their employment. And third, ask about their perception of being valued, because it puts the cards on the table.

Sure, the money question can come up. Sometimes this causes us to discuss what factors might lead to a pay raise. For employees who are motivated mainly by income, performance incentives may make sense.

The key to all this is the investment made by the managers. They must check in regularly with staff, always pointing out the employees’ relevance to a situation, such as their role in a positive guest experience or in guest recovery.

We speak of these situations in terms of impact: not so much, “Do you see how your behavior cost us this guest?” but rather, “Can you get a sense from this experience how vital it is that we all deliver exceptional service?” Whether the trigger is positive or negative, the focus is on the relevance of the employee. We ask about the tools an employee needs, and point out evidence of growth.

Since managers are evaluated on staff development, they are more likely to illustrate examples of development as they arise. And timeliness matters.

We incorporate this approach into our hiring process, too, because it’s a good entree to the “what you can expect from us” part of the dialogue. And that, to the applicant, is of vital interest. While we as employers all spell out our expectations of our employees, we don’t always say what we commit to in return. Yet that is what candidates are most interested in.

It’s easy to apply this approach: You simply begin to measure yourself on the RDV of your staff, and watch the effect. You might be pleasantly surprised.