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Whole Person Organizational Cultures©

Gerald R. Wagner, PhD.
July 2017

Table of Contents


It’s Time To Get Rid Of Stale Performance Management and Replace It With a Performance Engagement Culture

By Autumn Manning, CEO of YouEarnedIt

If your company manages employee performance on a yearly, monthly or even weekly basis, you can’t effectively retain or recruit the best people in today’s talent economy. In fact, your performance management process will hold your company back from developing a highly-engaged, high-performing team.

Most companies treat performance management as a function owned by HR. It’s usually an obligatory, often stale process mandated to employees and managers. But, managing performance on a regular but infrequent basis isn’t enough to inspire a high-performance team and create a coveted culture of brand ambassadors.

Study after study shows today’s workforce wants more from their jobs, managers, and overall work experience. Real-time feedback is the expectation and knowing their hard work is appreciated is critical to keeping people inspired and motivated. Employees crave a deep connection with their peers, the company they’re spending their time with, and of course, their managers. Every member of a team wants to derive meaning from their work and know they create impact.

In light of those needs, it’s obvious that stale, outdated performance management is dead. The solution? Creating a Performance Enablement Culture that empowers employees to give feedback in the moment and reinforces their appreciation, connection, meaning, and impact.

What’s The Benefit?

The words “culture” and “engagement” may sound trendy and likely to fade away with the next case study. They’re not.

If you don’t cultivate a culture that makes your employees feel appreciated, connected and important, top talent won’t even consider your company and high performing employees will quickly leave. By changing to a Performance Enablement Culture, your organization can achieve real ROI results manifested monetarily and intrinsically, including:

A workforce galvanized and connected to the right things at the right time

As the CEO of YouEarnedIt, cultivating a Performance Enablement Culture is part of my daily routine, which means communicating our mission, vision, values and goals consumes a lot of what I do each day. Things change fast and employees want to stay abreast of what’s happening and what’s important, so I view this stream of communication as a necessity from anyone in leadership. These messages are said and reinforced again in the recruiting process, onboarding process, and in our regular company stand-ups. Quarterly, I revisit this message through one-on-ones with employees across the business just to ensure everyone is aligned to what’s important. One of the biggest benefits of cultivating a Performance Enablement Culture is that each employee intrinsically knows and works toward the same vision, mission, and goals.

Significant increase in retention

When your employees know they can uniquely impact the company’s goals — and better yet, when they feel responsible for achieving them — they engage with purpose. A higher level of engagement means greater retention and less turnover. One of YouEarnedIt’s clients, Rockfish Digital, experienced this correlation after moving to a real-time, peer-to-peer recognition system. In a period of two years, turnover rates decreased by 29 percent at this 300-employee digital advertising agency. For Rockfish, this equated to a savings of about $130,000 in one year.


This point may sound the most subjective of all — but any employee or CEO can speak to the benefits of positive, productive energy in the workplace. It’s the heart of a strong culture — and it’s impossible to buy. When your employees practice the principles of a Performance Enablement Culture, they’re engaging in conversations that matter. And each of those conversations drives the energy your company needs to innovate and succeed.

So, How Do You Get There?

Cultivating a Performance Enablement Culture is possible for any company of any size. Here are some steps I recommend to build this type of culture:

Create a framework for success

A company lacks a solid foundation or framework of behavior in the absence of a compelling mission and core values that everyone owns. Core values give employees a foundation of principles and ideas they can extrapolate from to take ownership, make decisions and work autonomously.

But it’s not enough to hang your core values on a wall and walk away. They must be demonstrated from leadership down (remember that point on communication earlier?). Does every employee understand the mission and these core values? Do they live it out each day? Can they successfully communicate these tenants and what they look like in action?

Once you’ve incorporated a clear mission and core values into your day-to-day operations, your company is ready to develop a Performance Enablement Culture.

Know that the performance review is a small piece of the engagement story.

For decades, employees and managers accepted the annual performance review as the only vehicle for meaningful feedback and evaluation. But, that’s quickly becoming an anachronism. By the end of 2015, at least 30 of the Fortune 500 companies got rid of performance evaluations. And, more than half the executives questioned in a Deloitte survey believe their current performance management approach doesn’t drive engagement or performance.

Employees crave and deserve real-time, meaningful feedback and alignment. They want to understand your company’s plans and goals and how they can drive success.

If your performance review process does not enable this, scrap it and consider doing something different.

Athletes, artists, and students receive coaching all the time. But, coaches, teachers, and instructors don’t wait until the end of a season, semester, or concert to give feedback. They do it quickly and when it’s most relevant to build skill mastery and confidence.

A Performance Enablement Culture demands the same thinking from your managers and employees. Managers should regularly emphasize and explain each employee’s meaning and impact to the company. And every employee should reinforce the right behaviors and culture with regular displays of recognition and appreciation.

Open Book
Don’t be stubborn: ask for direction. Be willing to listen to the feedback and opinions of others; you might learn something. Ask lots of questions. Don’t hoard information: be transparent, and push it out there for others to use. Demonstrate personal vulnerability; let people get to know you.

Give managers the right tools for performance enablement and hold them accountable.

Your managers are the vehicle to creating a performance enablement culture. Equip them to do so with the right tools and hold them accountable for using the tools the right way.

Often, companies think of tools in terms of technology. While having the right tech is important to facilitate a performance enablement culture, technology doesn’t work if it’s not reinforced by action. Instead, think of tools as the information, technology, time and bandwidth your managers need to support high performance and engagement with their teams.

Once you’ve developed those resources, holding managers accountable for regularly cultivating a Performance Enablement Culture is important. Do managers know what is expected of them when it comes to team engagement and performance enablement? When you review your people leaders, do you require they hold regular one-on-ones with their team and communicate the outcomes of these?

Create Happiness
Happiness works — seek to make others (and yourself) happy. We’re smart, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Lighten up. Laugh. It’s contagious, and it makes everything better. Deliver joy. Make someone’s day better.

Facilitate regular organic feedback

To create meaningful communication, you must promote regular feedback and recognition in an authentic, organic way. Implement a tool or system for people to highlight the accomplishments of others. Research shows that we praise the work and achievements of others far less than we think. A culture that encourages real-time recognition and feedback helps each team member know their impact and motivates them to future success.

Eyes on the Prize
Compete and win as a team. Be bold and gutsy. Look to do big things. Work harder and smarter than the next guy. Think like the boss. Act like you own it. Take risks. If you fail, own it, fix it, and move on.

Create a reward system as diverse and unique as your employee base.

Once you’ve created a culture of performance enablement, you must support it with rewards your employees want. Your company may already offer a fixed set of awards, but I’d challenge you to examine if it meets employee needs or just checks the box for HR. As the workforce diversifies, your rewards structure cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution.

Often a company must be more creative in the total rewards it offers to create a culture employees desire. Whole Foods does a fantastic job of living out this idea. Each year, team members vote on priorities for the benefits package. This reward system further reinforces the value of each employee. Whole Foods offers personalized recognition awards like executive coaching or donations to an employee’s favorite cause.

Leave it Better
Strive to leave people, processes, and yourself better than you found them. Give time, help, and compassion to those in need. Go the extra 10 miles for the customer. The phrase “it’s not my job” doesn’t exist. Repeat this to yourself: progress, not perfection.

Use technology to simplify and democratize performance enablement

When creating an adaptive, accessible real-time performance enablement culture, the devil’s in the details. It’s not as easy as answering questions on a standard survey. At YouEarnedIt, we’ve built a platform that enables every employee to be the eyes and ears of good performance and strong culture. It facilitates a culture where every employee holds every other employee accountable by highlighting top performance and actions, little and big, that support our core values. As a leader, I can log into YouEarnedIt and stay connected to the accomplishments of each team member. It allows me to reinforce a Performance Enablement Culture every day.

Adapt or Die
Be willing to work in the grey; it’ll happen a lot. Anticipate change, and plan for setbacks. Solve the problem. Keep your wits about you, and maintain your cool — your reaction affects many. Move fast. Work smart.

Moving to a Performance Enablement Culture

Changing how your company enables performance and engagement is a multi-tiered process that takes buy-in from each member of your team — especially managers. But, it’s worth it. Engage your managers to evangelize this process. Ensure every employee receives real-time feedback and recognition. Deliver meaningful rewards with simple technologies or processes. By taking each of these steps, you will create a culture that values regular, organic feedback and improves your company at every level.

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