Blog News and Knowledge from CR Systems

  • Is your Feedback System a Trick or a Treat for your Organisation?

    trick-or-treat-with-organisational-feedbacksOrganisations that use 360 degree feedback as both an employee development tool and a performance appraisal tool may think they will enjoy all the benefits of a closed loop, efficient system that measures, informs and helps to develop all layers of the business, however they should think again.

    As a development tool, 360 degree feedback focuses on competencies and behaviours and is designed to breed a culture of continuous improvement. Appraisals on the other hand are a measurement of overall contribution and productivity and are directly linked to salary increases, bonuses and other rewards.


  • Is there a Talent Crisis in the Workplace?

    Talent CrisisAlthough the word crisis might seem hyperbolic, evidence points to a worrying state of affairs in many organisations. Oxford Economics published a revelatory survey on workforce in 2020, which found that companies are failing to manage and harness the talent of their employees effectively. Oxford Economics and SAP quizzed more than 2,700 and an equal number of employees in 27 countries. It found that many companies simply do not have the structure, culture, strategy, solutions or resources to develop the talent of their staff and get the best out of them.

  • The importance of measuring behaviour at Board level

    The importance of measuring behaviour at Board level
    The issue of inappropriate board behaviour leading to the spectacular downfall of businesses large and small has been a regular feature of the business landscape since time immemorial. Those that make the headlines become the catalysts for the next merry go round of public indignation, press repudiation and political machination. There have been several deep and serious public enquiries within our lifetimes: Cadbury Report in 1992, Turnbull Report in 1999, Higgs Review in 2003 to name a few.

  • We care about your Data!

    We care about your dataThis is a summary of our GDPR journey and the most significant learning points we had with data protection. For those of you who just like to skip to the end, here’s a quick list. It is predicated on the assumption that like us, you already believe you are doing a good job in terms of both the letter and spirit of data protection.


  • The Difficulties of Measuring Workplace Performance

    Measuring-Performance-FinalPerformance in the workplace is tough to assess. Too often, bosses hold onto vague judgements about how “hard working” or “enthusiastic” an employee is, or how good they are at “leadership”.In this warped world of subjective judgement, anecdotes make the evidence. Start scraping away at strongly held beliefs that bosses have about staff and often their reasons for thinking about people in a certain way is tenuous: “the person is busily beavering away when I pass their desk in the office” is somehow evidence of their conscientiousness. “They were very quiet during the last couple of team meetings” is incontrovertible proof that they lack energy. Perhaps we do this out of habit. After all, when we meet new people in a social environment our instincts and early interactions with them help us make a decision about the kind of person they are.

    Performance assessments in the workplace should be strictly evidence-based. This throws up several challenges. What aspects of performance are measurable? How can they be measured? What are the difficulties in measuring these things? And how can these pitfalls be avoided? Here are four fundamental difficulties when it comes to measuring performance.

    Difficulty 1: Finding things to measure

    Performance assessments should include factors that can be assessed quantitatively. This could include productivity increases, revenue or units produced or sold. However, the emphasis on easy-to-measure factors shouldn’t be taken too far. It’s easy to measure attendance but if a team’s absentee rate is generally OK then one could question how useful it is to spend valuable time measuring this.

    Difficulty 2: Trying to measure things that are difficult to measure

    Assessing quality

    Quality is very difficult to assess because it is easy to slip into subjectivity. However, it is possible to get around this pitfall by framing quality in quantitative terms. For example, you could calculate what percentage of work done has to be redone, or what percentage of work has a successful outcome. In sales, what percentage of leads does a salesman successfully convert into closed deals?

    Assessing creativity

    It is true that some factors, like creativity, are very hard to measure. The most common response is to try and measure creativity in terms of output. However, some scholars have tried to also assess the process of creativity, for example, by employing Williams’ Taxonomy of creative thinking skills.

    Difficulty 3: Using the ratings scale

    Ratings scales, which for example assess a performance factor on a scale of 1 to 5, have a number of advantages. They are standardised, structured and easy to use. However, they have many shortcomings. Firstly, if the assessor is not subjective, neither is the assessment. Appraisers that are non-confrontational or busy can end up awarding too many middle of the road ratings. Harsh appraisers can award too many ratings at the lower end of the scale, and overly generous appraisers can end up doing the opposite. The ratings scale then becomes little more than a manifestation of the assessor’s prejudices in numbers. Secondly, being forced to use something as rigid as a ratings scale can reinforce the “halo” and “horns” effect, with assessors marking employees they see as “good” highly and being unfairly harsh with employees they think of as “slackers”.

    Difficulty 4: Making Performance assessment too one-way

    It’s natural to think of performance assessment as a top-down thing. However, self-assessment should be an important part of the endeavour. After all, how a person thinks about their performance is intrinsically linked to how they perform. There is no point completing a 100% accurate performance appraisal and then shoving it under the subject’s nose, expecting them to take it in. Bring them into the conversation, incorporate their own insights into the final product, and the employee is much more likely to pay heed to what it actually says.

    Peer assessment can be valuable too – often peers have more interaction with the subject than the assessor and can offer useful insights into behaviour patterns.

  • 3 Common Mistakes with Performance Management Processes

    performance-managementPerformance management is a task dreaded by many and performed well by few. The good news is that there are a selection of very common pitfalls. If you identify these and conscientiously avoid them, then you are already ahead of the game. Here are three common errors and how to avoid them:

    Mistake 1: Seeing performance management process as an annual event

    Do you know where the tradition of annual appraisement comes from? They are a hangover from the era of big, top down corporations and ruthless yearly meetings that could end your career. ( Bosses would tell employees whether they had met their targets, hand out bonuses to top performers, and fire the weakest links. It’s worth pointing this out if only to demonstrate the sheer ridiculousness of the idea that one meeting a year is a good way to do staff appraisals. Nonetheless, many of us continue to make this fundamental error.

    HR Daily Advisor 2014 Performance Management Survey found that over 40% of respondents were not following up with employees after their assessment. Performance management is a continuous process, and should be a constant priority. Ask yourself this: can your company afford to have staff making the same mistake over and over for a whole year- until their annual appraisal meeting comes around?

    Solutions: make performance management a continuous process, and hold several informal assessment meetings with employees throughout the year. These should still be structured conversations and touch on the same areas as an annual assessment, although in less depth. You can also try and keep things fresh and relevant by focusing on recent performance and progress in the context of current projects. Some HR experts recommend that bosses keep a performance diary on their staff and staff keep their own performance diary about themselves. This way, there are no time gaps in the performance process, and it’s more difficult for achievements or failures to slip the net.

    Mistake 2: The assessment process is too one-way

    It’s not very pleasant for an employee to be ushered into a room and have their boss go through a laundry list of their ostensible faults. If getting better out of them is the aim then this approach is likely to backfire. People find it difficult to hear criticism. A study by PsychTests found that two thirds of people dwell on their failures, 41% have argued with someone because they felt unfairly criticised, and 34% feel less motivated to work after they have been criticised. Treat criticism like a minefield and tread with care.

    Solutions: according to the American Management Association, a 360 degree system that includes peer reviews and self reviews is best. Inviting employees to read out their self review first can be a good way to start the meeting, so that they won’t be on the defensive as soon as the meeting begins.

    Mistake 3: The feedback is too vague

    Firstly, performance assessment should be based on actual outcomes – tangible achievements and failures – rather than character traits. Too often, bosses obsess over whether an individual is enthusiastic or hardworking enough, or has strong enough leadership or teamwork skills. The problem is these concepts are subjective, and impossible to assess fairly unless you are literally observing the subjects all of the time. When managers tend to rate performance objectives on one part of the scale, and don’t base their ratings on proper data, this can be an indication that they are being too harsh, too soft or too indecisive when assessing individuals. This can ultimately completely distort the performance assessment too.

    Solutions: firstly, focus on whether the employee achieved concrete goals. Did they increase productivity by X%? Meet their target of bringing in £X worth of extra sales? Of course, this is much harder to do if you haven’t already been having an ongoing discussion about targets. This ties perfectly into mistake 1 – you have to see performance management as a continuous process.

    Secondly, never stop questioning whether your approach to scoring is fair and balanced. Know the signs that something has probably gone wrong. The Western Washington University’s performance manual suggests that if a manager consistently rates individuals in the middle of the rating scale, the assessment is probably not accurate. Similarly, if more than 20% of your ratings are at the higher part of the scale, it is possible that you are being too generous with your scoring. If more than 20% are at the bottom end you may be being too harsh.

    In conclusion, performance management is tricky. Approach this field with care and apply the three C’s: show Continuity, Collaborate with your employees and don’t stop Criticising your objectivity.

  • Why Use a Fully Administered 360 Degree Feedback Service?

    fully-administered-360-feedbackUsing an administered 360 degree feedback service has the potential to create a positive shift within any organization. A 360 feedback system is basically a resource for organizations and businesses to measure the competence of the organization as well as its employees. The system is designed to provide feedback for employees from their peers and managers in a completely confidential fashion. A group of employees and managers will anonymously take surveys rating the employee for specific performance objectives and also leave written comments. While organizations may have the option to implement a system like this on their own, there are many benefits to using a fully administered 360-degree feedback service.

    Improve Employee Performance with an Administered  360 Degree Feedback

    One of the primary benefits of using a fully administered 360-degree feedback service is that, by focusing on the competences and behaviours required by the organisation, it can improve employee performance. Employees personal goals and objectives are usually task or skill based (eg gain 4 new clients a month or improve use of Excel), however without changes in behaviour, it is very rare that changes in performance can be sustainable. At the individual level, it is all about assessing where how the employees behaviour either impedes or supports those around them. This learning and commitment to action can be used to encourage employees to reach new heights of achievement that will benefit the individual and the organization as a whole.

    Move Toward Performance Objectives

    In order to get the best use of a 360 degree feedback service, it is important to consider behavioural development and associated metrics with the same respect as performance objectives for the individual and the organisation. If you have specific, measurable performance goals in place for all of the employees at large,why not have specific measurable behaviourable objectives? It will be much easier to reach overall performance objectives for the entire organization if the behavioural development is embedded alongside the performance objectives. It is for this reason, that planning and implementing the system properly is so important and it is much easier to do this with a fully administered 360-degree feedback service.

    Time and Cost Effective 360 Degree Feedback

    A 360 degree feedback can be very helpful to an organization, but it can also be time consuming and somewhat expensive to implement independently. The organisation will need to find significant resource for the planning and managing of the process. If the impact of the 360-degree feedback system has not been considered in terms of both individual and organisational resource and maturity in giving feedback, then the results may be unreliable or skewed for a variety reasons. This is particularly important if the 360° Feedback system has significant impact in terms of budget or personnel resource.

    The use of a fully administered external service can also have further benefits beyond the obvious ones of HR resource and quality of feedback. The storage of the feedback on independent servers can give staff the confidence that their data or concerns about the process are being handled confidentially. Most fully administered systems also provide both administrative and technical support, reducing or eliminating the requirement to source from the organisation’s IT department.

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  • 360 Degree Feedback – Art or Science?

    art-science-360-feedbackThere is no doubt that 360 Feedback or multi-rater feedback suffers a mixed press. How is it that some organisations champion its use and others are sceptical of any benefit at all from the process?

    The research over the years in general points to minor gains from the use of 360 Feedback, and yet it continues to grow in use and popularity. So where is the disconnect?

    There is no doubt that part of the issue is related to what is used (the science; validity and reliability of the instrument) and part to the way it is used (the art; integration into company culture, organisation feedback fitness, communication strategy, time availability of respondents etc. etc.). In general most research tends to focus on the what. We firmly believe that in most cases the art trumps the science in terms of the negative impact it can have on the process.


  • How to Measure Engagement Continuously

    measure-engagementMens sana in corpore sano: “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. We’ve learned to think about the workplace in similar terms: a happy, efficient worker is the key to an organisation that is similarly sound. Little wonder then that so many companies now prioritise employee engagement as a fundamental factor influencing how the firm performs.

    Employee engagement is all about making sure that the people that work for a company are aligned with the organisation’s ethos and aims. And that they are continuously motivated to pursue these goals. All the time, employees should feel that they are improving their own skills, performance and sense of self. Most employees are not actually “engaged”. A Gallup State of the Global Workplace report found that just 13% of employees across the world are engaged at work.

    The flaw in measuring employee engagement once a year and then forgetting about it for another 12 months should be immediately clear. An annual survey only delivers a snapshot of the employee’s performance and satisfaction levels in the workplace. It also doesn’t push you to follow up on the person and make sure that improvements and targets suggested in the yearly meeting are actually being carried out. There is nothing more tedious than an engagement meeting that is just a repeat of the conversation you had with the person the year before. Or an engagement survey which ultimately has the subject ticking the same boxes and writing the same comments that they did 12 months previously.

    When VoloMetrix CEO Ryan Fuller used analytics to look into the attrition levels of one firm, he found that the engagement of employees steadily dropped over a 52 week period up until the time they finally decided to quit. This example powerfully makes the case for continuous engagement measurement; otherwise, by the time you realise that an employee is unengaged, it could be too late.

    So, what are some of the best ways to measure engagement continuously? Carrying out shorter variations of the annual engagement survey several times throughout the year is a popular option. Some companies ask their employees to complete short weekly or even daily rapid pulse surveys.

    The methods for tracking the general engagement “mood” of a company in real-time continue to develop. For example, Toyota has famously pioneered the Japanese NikoNiko calendar. Each day all the team members insert a happy face, neutral face or sad face under their name on the calendar, to signify their mood.

    Quizzes, surveys or calendars that rely on the input of the subjects themselves have limitations, however. Although they provide a good insight into how engaged employees think they are, the extent to which they are useful at revealing how engaged employees actually are is questionable.

    Fortunately, analytics has the potential to resolve this problem. In the era of big data, we can collect and process an unprecedented range of new data. Crucially, these not only grant new insight into engagement levels, but can also be measured continuously over time. They include the willingness of an employee to carry out discretionary extra work outside of office hours to get larger tasks done; their attendance at informal, optional meetings; and their connections with colleagues outside of their immediate team.

    In an article for Forbes, HR expert Josh Bersin touches on the future direction of this field. He describes how he recently visited a firm “who build their own internal ’employee sensing’ system that shows how well employees like each other, their level of trust, and who they collaborate with in a real-time basis.” What should we take away from this cutting edge example? The future of measuring engagement will be a combination of frequent surveys and big data. It will also become ever more sophisticated as time goes on.

  • What is Big Data?


    What is Big Data?

    Big data. It’s the most important buzz phrase in tech right now. The term does exactly what it says on the tin; big data just means lots and lots of complex data. So much of it in fact that conventional data processing or analysis applications are rendered totally inadequate.

    Zeal for big data and the advanced analytics required to process it is yet to make a particularly dramatic impact on the HR industry. In fact, many HR practitioners are downright sceptical: a recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey found that 55% of respondents were unconvinced that big data analytics could make a significant difference to the world of HR. However, a big data revolution in HR could soon be on the way.

    Big data revolution in HR

    Firstly, HR practitioners will feel increasingly compelled to use big data analytics in order to do their job better. The HR industry in particular suffers from reliance on poor quality, inconsistent structured data. The sector is starting to recognise that big data processing methods could give HR practitioners unprecedented access to more accurate data, as well as new forms of semi-structured and unstructured social data.

    Secondly, as big data becomes central to the business operations of more corporations, those working in the HR industry will find themselves under greater pressure to hire analytical whizzes who can operate institutions’ big data strategies. If hiring “people people” has been a HR trend in the last decade, then hiring “numbers people” with advanced software training and formidable statistical and analytical acumen could be the next big thing. Harvard Business Review touched on this idea when it recently described the data scientist as “the sexiest job of the 21st century”.

    So where is the revolution?

    The revolution is unlikely to happen overnight, however. According to recent Bersin by Deloitte research, companies need five to eight years to become truly data-driven. It takes years to invest in the right equipment, bring in the right people, iron out big data strategies, and find a formula that works.

    Firms such as KPMG are strongly in favour of leveraging big data and advanced analytics in the HR industry. In a recent report, the firm went as far as to argue that CEOs need to lead on this and make their HR departments more accountable in terms of how they are implementing big data solutions, otherwise they could get left behind.

    Advocates highlight that big data and predictive modelling can grant the HR industry insights into future workforce skills and qualifications requirements. It can help boost employee productivity and retention rates. It can provide a space for collaboration and pooling of intelligence. Big data can also grant insights into how the expectations of the market are shifting- and, thus, how the sort of people that firms hire must change too
    However, some challenge the idea that big data and advanced analytics will transform the HR industry. Adam Jelic, a Partner and Talent & Change Public Sector Leader at IBM, wrote in a blogpost on the IBM website in May that analytics merely “create opportunities”. It is up to the leaders and employees at companies to “implement effective and lasting change,” he adds.

    In particular, Jelic argues that skepticism about big data is not the biggest challenge that HR faces currently. In fact, he seems to believe that chief human resource officers are not valued or influential enough. Jelic cites the IBM study, New Expectations for a New Era: Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO) Insights from the Global C-Suite Study, which outlines that companies tend not to see human relations as an “equitable stakeholder in a company’s planning and development.” Jelic contends that in order to make sure that analytics makes a positive difference in the HR industry, CHROs need “a bigger seat at the table.”

    Is it the most important?

    In conclusion, the jury is still out on whether big data will be the most important HR trend in coming years. However, there is little doubt that big data in theory grants HR practitioners access to unprecedented levels of new information. Even if the HR departments in many companies forego taking advantage of big data and analytics, the mere fact that they are in existence means that discussion of their potential is unlikely to go away. Nonetheless, we should not lose sight of the spirit of Jelic’s argument, which is that people, not data, creates change. 360 feedback is all about measuring and collecting data about people’s behaviour. Its enduring relevance proves that there will always be a need to leverage “small data” too.