Powering performance: how people development can grow your business

Image for Kate Bastable By Kate Bastable

How do you manage employee performance within your agency? Lots of agencies fall into the trap of conducting competency or behaviour monitoring halfheartedly, as something they ‘should’ do. But done well, it can help to drive your business forward, making sure you’re getting the best out of every single one of your people. And they’re getting the best from working in your agency.

Putting some simple systems in place can help you understand what makes your people tick… and not just by ticking a box.

A behaviour framework might not sound like the most exciting thing, but it can really help you move from arbitrary performance reviews to much more illuminating conversations. This is for all your teams – operational as well as client focused. Define the competencies which tie in with your company’s overall ethos, which you would expect from all your staff. It provides clear standards of behaviour to guide how you work together, how you work with clients, and how you perform in your roles.

Then ask them to rate themselves 1-5, with 5 being the highest score. Here, you need to go into some detail about what you mean. What do the scores mean for the different levels within your business? For example, a junior might say they’re a 5 for resilience, but a more cautious senior manager might say they’re a 3. Ask for managers’ feedback on the scores, analyse where you might need to do some more training or development. And on the flip side, if someone’s coming out with 5s for everything, look at how you can promote them and start working with them on a promotion plan. A flatlining supertalent in an agency won’t stick around for long.

Reconsider the annual review

Traditional annual reviews are not something anyone enjoys, and they don’t bring much except lots of admin. You need regular performance reviews, to give regular feedback and in turn ask for feedback from your teams. Here, you can discuss goals and career development, and suggest or listen to any ideas for training.

I’d always suggest managers speak to their team on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Daily can be a ‘hello, how are you?’. Rather than just walking in and ignoring people! Weekly catch ups can be more formal in terms of what’s been achieved, or any obstacles they’ve hit.

Monthly could be reviewing objectives and performance, while quarterly catch ups could be looking again at behaviour scores using the framework. You can use the framework to guide all conversations on recruitment, performance management and internal promotions.

Even better if…

I love the ‘even better if’ concept. This uses a 3:1 feedback ratio. So if you give one area of weakness as feedback, offer up three positive areas. These reviews are about frank and honest conversations, which can impact performance, motivation and engagement. Feedback shouldn’t be all negative.

Remember, self-development is important too

Yes as an employer you need to give your people goals and challenges. But they need to take an interest in self-learning, too. In fact, it’s essential. This is where, in your regular reviews, you can look at how they can pursue new performance opportunities. The industry is constantly changing, and those working in it must learn and grow with it.

However, career progression is optional. While some people are fiercely ambitious, others will be happy where they are for a while. You can review career paths and look at upskilling, but it’s up to the individual if they choose this route.

What to review?

So many reviews, so little time! But really, setting yourself a list of areas to regularly review makes absolute commercial sense. My recommendations are to review data from:

  • Individual performance, looking at behaviour scores
  • Department performance, calculating year-on-year growth
  • Learning and development – how long from receiving training does this impact and filter into your agency? Was the training purposeful? If not, how do we adjust this in the future? You can also look at how many hours you’ve invested in training, and whether this has impacted wider department objectives.
  • Organisational performance. Is there any correlation between individual and organisational performance?

It can feel like there’s a lot to review, monitor and analyse. But moving away from the annual norm can actually help here. You’re not cramming all your reviews in at once, getting old news and feedback from six months ago. Instead you’re working with real-time performance data, which can help to drive your business forward. And give you rave reviews…

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