In October, Peter Cappelli (Wharton School) and Anna Tavis (Columbia University) wrote a Harvard Business Review article titled “The Performance Management Revolution.” It may seem extreme to call a change in performance management a “revolution,” but from the perspective of the team leaders who must evaluate employees—and the employees who must receive those evaluations—it really isn’t. Thanks to a shorter supply of talent, talent development is becoming an important differentiator for employers. Employees are more motivated by development than they ever have been before, now that millennials are such a prominent part of the workforce. And because of increased job complexity, it’s impractical, if not impossible, to set performance goals one year in advance, so that development means “frequent, informal check-ins.”
Harvard Business Review reports that “by some estimates, more than one-third of U.S. companies…are replacing annual reviews with frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees.” These companies include Microsoft, IBM, Deloitte, Accenture, PwC, Gap and General Electric. Annual reviews, according to Cappelli and Tavis, focus on past behavior rather than current and future performance. “In contrast,” they write, “regular conversations about performance and development change the focus to building the workforce your organization needs to be competitive both today and years from now.”
Coaching can provide this continuous performance evaluation and management that employees need to thrive and grow. Closing the gap between training and on-the-job performance, coaching supports behaviors that lead to both short-term and long-term success—for the individual and the business. By focusing on employee strengths and how to use them, coaching avoids the traditional negative responses to feedback. By using technology to scale the reach of coaching, training managers can also integrate data, provide instant feedback and even decrease the likelihood of bias.
Early this year, ADP acquired The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC), expanding its talent portfolio with TMBC’s cloud-based coaching platform, StandOut. Now called ADP StandOut, the solution provides data and tools to managers that they can use to coach team members. The platform is truly a coaching platform, since it focuses on employees’ strengths and uses machine learning to individualize strategies.
StandOut is based on TMBC’s research on high-performing team leaders and the philosophy that those leaders’ ability to foster an engaging culture is critical to organizational success. That research, according to a TMBC white paper, shows that for the best team leaders, “a year is not a marathon, but is instead 52 weekly sprints.” Weekly check-ins ensure that coaching is “future-focused and specific to the work at hand.” The platform uses a list of engagement and performance questions to gather information and provide practical tips for team leaders to coach employees.
“Historically,” says Don Weinstein, chief strategy officer at ADP, “talent management has been largely subjective.” Traditional assessments tend to reflect more about the assessor than the employee. ADP StandOut uses algorithms that ADP says “eliminate rater bias.” Additionally, by using data to tailor coaching objectives to individual employees’ strengths and weaknesses, coaches and team leaders can maximize their effectiveness.
Regardless of platform, any coaching program should use data to measure the effectiveness of the program. Weinstein says that metrics such as performance improvement and even employee retention can be tied to coaching effectiveness. Technology makes it easier for training managers and coaches to establish a baseline and measure progress, which then makes it easier to change the program as needed and improve results.
Coaching no longer needs to be considered a “nice-to-have,” without measurement or accountability. Rather, it should be a useful program that produces measurable results for individuals, teams and organizations. Using technology, training organizations can develop, implement and evaluate coaching programs that make a real impact in employee development and evaluation.