How to sustain a high-performing work culture

Start by keeping it simple, says head of HR at THE ICONIC

How to sustain a high-performing work culture

Keeping things simple can go a long way in cementing a solid performance-driven workplace culture. Maria Koralis, head of HR – Operations & Workplace Relations at THE ICONIC, an e-commerce, lifestyle retailer based in Australia, believes that making the talent management process straightforward for everyone involved, from managers to employees, can pay dividends for leaders in more ways than one. It can help ease managers’ jobs, keep employees engaged and happy, and benefit the business in the long run. “I’m really passionate about performance management because when done well, it leads to high performing cultures,” Koralis said at a recent virtual event, Culture First APAC.

READ MORE: How to build a high-performing team

During her session at the event, which was organised by Culture Amp, she shared how her team revamped their performance management system to suit the needs of their 900-strong workforce. After running a regular employee survey, they found that about 50% of employees felt that the company lacked a consistent approach to managing performance and growth. She admitted that in the past, the process was done on an ad-hoc basis. Hence, upon receiving the data, they quickly did an overhaul of the system and worked on streamlining it.

They stuck with their current management platform, because everyone was comfortable with it, but made simple tweaks to enable more genuine and consistent exchanges between managers and their team members. “We wanted employees and managers to have a chance to have more of an employee-driven conversation, to reflect on how they were achieving and performing,” she said. “So, the first thing we did was ask our leaders to organise a conversation with their team members. And of course, we wanted to make it simple for both the leaders and employees to access [the system] and complete.”

To do that, they once again turned to data from the initial employee survey, and put up just three questions for discussion:

  • What are you most proud of? And what has gone really well for you?
  • What has not gone so well? Reflect on why.
  • What support will you need from your people leader to help you grow your skills and knowledge?

Employees shared their reflections for each question before having a proper conversation with their managers. “The key to the whole process was to keep it simple,” she said. “We know how busy managers are today, so we wanted to make the process very streamlined and simple.” After rolling out the enhanced process, her team made sure that there was consistency across the business. They also facilitated Q&A sessions to support managers through the change. The process redesign and rollout were done in record time, about three weeks. Despite this, everyone quickly warmed up to the new approach, with employees and managers showing a strong willingness to engage in regular and meaningful conversations on performance.

READ MORE: HR analysis: The future of performance management

The entire experience taught Koralis three key learnings:

  1. You need to understand what the data is telling you and you need to listen to what your people are saying.
  2. You need to create a deliberate opportunity for leaders and team members to have a conversation.
  3. Most importantly, keep it simple.

“I truly believe that a lot of our [underperformance] cases can be avoided by providing our leaders with the right systems, tools and frameworks to actually help our people grow,” she said. “There is nothing human about keeping someone who is not performing on their job, knowing that they turn up to work with no psychological safety or belief in their own ability. And that might impact their earning capacity for the next 10 to 20 years, if they feel that they are second guessing their ability to lead. So, there is truly a human element to managing performance and underperformance.”

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