“Career Conversations” rather than “Performance Reviews” – A New Take

It is the end of the year and we find that many of our clients plan to complete performance reviews for their staff at year’s end: either right after the new year or on the anniversary of their employees’ date of hire. Many clients find that this can be a challenging task, so we hope these guidelines will ease and assist with this important responsibility. We recommend that our clients take the opportunity to sit with each of their managers and establish a healthy dialogue: what we like to call a “Career Conversation.” In turn, each manager then has a Career Conversation with each of his or her direct reports. Such conversations are more positive and forward-looking than the standard or typical performance reviews, which tend to look backward. This time spent with your team is valuable and creates the space to exchange feedback, assess performance, and “take the temperature” of the manager and staff. We believe this time invested in your team is not only time well-spent, but critical to the success and cohesiveness of your organization or home.

Suggested Steps:

  1. Career Conversation Leader:Determine who is going to lead the career conversation for each employee: the principal, the House or Estate Manager, or a member of the family office.  Ideally, this should be the person that the staff member directly reports to.The principal should share their candid feedback about each staff member with the manager prior to the career conversation for each staff member they are not personally meeting with. This manager then sits down with each individual on his or her team while the principal or member of the family office would sit down in turn with the manager themselves. A quality, focused conversation takes around 45 minutes for each person. These conversations emphasize job performance, job function, feedback, and, most importantly, performance improvement.
  2. Look inward – the self-assessment:We think it is a good idea for each principal, manager, or family office member who is conducting a career conversation to first perform a self-assessment. This allows a supervisor to take inventory of their own communication patterns, work performance, and goals to determine the areas they have excelled in and where they need improvement prior to doing the same for each staff member directly reporting to them.Sample self-assessment questions:How strong are my communication skills? Do I listen?  Am I concise?

    Do I make timely decisions?

    Am I on time for meetings?

    Which areas of the company/organization need more of my attention?

    How am I empowering my team?

    Am I responsive to my team (meetings, email, etc.)?

    What are my accomplishments?

    Where do I need to improve?

    We find reflecting in this way is empowering and enables a more well-rounded approach in observing others.

  3. Information gathering and preparedness:The principal should schedule a time to sit with each individual that they will have a career conversation with, then prepare for this time together, while other managers will do the same for their direct reports. Ideally, supervisors and staff will be sufficiently engaged throughout the year so that they can have a frank and informed conversation. Principals and mangers should plan to review specific correspondences or scenarios that may highlight some of the principals’ feedback.The goal of these conversations is to benefit the employer and all employees by establishing an honest and open dialogue so that both sides can walk away with valuable insights.
  4.  The Career Conversation:It is important for the person conducting each career conversation to remind the employee at the start of the meeting that this discussion is confidential. It is always important to ensure a safe place for open and honest communication.We recommend starting a career conversation with the positive feedback. Then, ask open-ended questions like the ones below to start the dialogue. When appropriate, the person conducting the conversation can describe, with tact and sensitivity, the areas in which the employee could improve. Use specific examples whenever possible. Remember, this is also an opportunity to listen intently to each person and create a safe space for them to share not only their positive comments, but their concerns and questions. Sitting and listening to the employee’s ideas, thoughts, and concerns will enable the principal or manager to assess their strengths, intentions, and abilities so they are better able to manage the staff member and the rest of the team in the best possible manner.Sample Career Conversation questions:

    Are you satisfied in your job?

    Is the job meeting your needs?

    What did you accomplish this quarter (or year)?

    What didn’t you accomplish that you wanted to?

    What, if anything, is holding you back from accomplishments (or, Do you have the resources you need to accomplish your goals?)

    What could improve your satisfaction with your position?

    When wrapping up, the principal or manager should clearly communicate how much the employee is valued, making sure to express recognition wherever possible and citing specific examples. Areas needing improvement should be clearly outlined, giving the opportunity for the staff member to improve. After the career conversation, if there are any ongoing issues that are negatively affecting his or her job performance, clear direction should be given so shared understand is established. If issues continue with this employee, then more frequent meetings may be necessary. With ongoing issues, concerned should be communicated directly, with open conversations about next steps. Remember that people perform best in a transparent environment; whether feedback is positive or negative, it is best to be sure everyone knows where they stand.

  5. Incentives:When employees are meeting and exceeding expectations, we think it is important to acknowledge and reward them. Incentivizing each individual, and the staff as a whole, is important to maintaining and boosting morale to keep everyone striving for the common goal.
  6. Looking ahead and setting goals:Involve the employee in the goal-setting process for the coming quarter or year. Talk through how the employee can help to achieve the broader goals of the organization as well as their individual goals. Setting action steps, mile-markers, and monetary incentives can be helpful.Implementing a quarterly routine schedule for these conversations will keep goals moving along, ensure any performance issues are closely managed, and foster a sense of security that the employee can inform their manager about both their own concerns and successes more frequently.Remember, trust begets success. By consistently being honest and transparent, employees will always know where they stand and principals and managers will have a better sense of the state of their staff. With this shared understanding, employees know what to expect, which builds trust. When everyone comes together for the common good of the company, organization, or household as well as to meet the common goal, and when they trust in their leader, success is inevitable.

December 14, 2016
Presented by Mahler Private Staffing