A Grade Above: By Focusing on Communication, a Performance Management Campaign Helps Employees Measure Up

Article excerpt

It's no secret that in many companies the employee review process can be a disheartening challenge, both for employees and their supervisors. To prevent such performance reviews from becoming a mere formality that left employees feeling "graded," Scotiabank Group Mexico decided in mid-2009 to develop a program that put communication between employees and supervisors at the forefront of the review process. The Conversa campaign featured the slogan "Agreements made together" ("Acuerdos en conjunto"), and outlined a series of steps that emphasized improving communication during the review process and making coaching an integral part of achieving business objectives.

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Scotiabank Group, which serves 19 million customers in more than 55 countries worldwide, uses the performance management model, a formal supervisor-employee review process, to support and evaluate employee performance. The process provides an opportunity, through dialogue and stressing certain actions, to establish what is important for the employee and for the company as a whole, clarifying expectations, establishing joint commitment between both parties, and discussing development opportunities and the skills or knowledge needed to achieve optimal results. Performance management is linked to the measurement of individual goals and helps to determine the employee's annual bonus (based on the performance part of each employee's variable compensation package).

In use since 2003, Scotiabank's performance management model consists of four stages--establishing goals, the development plan, mid-year evaluation and annual evaluation--all of which are important in maintaining regular supervisor-employee feedback that helps employees understand what the company expects from them and what they need to do to achieve their goals. The process starts in October and ends in September.

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Originally, emphasis was placed on the operational and technical details of each stage: use of the format, the meaning of the ratings, the role of those involved and the timing of each stage. Over the years, however, the process became more of a formality, rather than an opportunity to provide feedback: The meeting between employee and supervisor typically focused on a review of the stated objectives achieved and a grade on the employee's performance, which was not always agreed upon by both parties, and there was little coaching to help employees reach the stated goals. Rarely were goals set together or employee development discussed. The result was that supervisors did not know how to comment on certain performance areas and employees felt they were being graded.

Objectives

Scotiabank Group Mexico's human resources and internal communication teams set a goal to improve communication between supervisors and employees so that coaching would become an integral part of achieving business and performance objectives. The best method of measuring these efforts was determined to be the internal survey on work climate that Scotiabank conducts every year, called ViewPoint. The company wanted to achieve results that were better than the standard for financial services companies.

Scotiabank focused on the following indicators--all statements included in the ViewPoint survey--to measure the program's success. Employees were asked to rate these statements on a scale that considered five possible options: "strongly agree," "agree," "neither agree nor disagree," "disagree" and "strongly disagree." The statements were:

* I see a clear link between my work and the objectives of Scotiabank Group.

* There is open and honest two-way communication at Scotiabank Group.

* I feel free to share my concerns directly with the leaders of my department.

* My ideas and suggestions have been taken into consideration.

* I am encouraged to suggest better ways to do my job. …