Building a service culture in any organization requires that systems and processes reflect and support service as a key business driver. One system is performance management.
Performance management, performance appraisal, employee review – whatever name you have for it – is a common, often dreaded, and largely under-utilized process for managing an organization. Yet it can be one of the most effective tools for leading change – ensuring a service culture, or any cultural focus, can be created and sustained over time.
Performance management practices range from a sophisticated, leader driven, technology-enhanced core business process to an HR-only-driven, form-based compliance process that becomes irrelevant to the success of the business. They can be a multi-faceted, with ongoing measures of performance, or simple once a year events. They can be highly formal (often in large organizations) or casual discussions (common in smaller organizations). Regardless, this is an organizational system that can be tapped, improved or reconstituted to drive a major service culture change.
Any effective performance management process, no matter how sophisticated or simple, must answer 3 questions for employees. Defining these and connecting them to service excellence transforms the performance management system into a leadership tool to align the focus on service at all levels of the organization and keep it alive over many years.
The three questions to answer:
1. What do we need to accomplish? These are the larger goals and the specific objectives, targets, or outcomes the business must meet to succeed. This starts at the top and must cascade down through the organization so everyone’s actions are alignmed. If the CEO sets a critical goal to increase customer retention to drive revenue and profitability, one objective for the CEO may be to “conduct executive review meetings with our top 10 clients by June 1.” An aligned objective for an entry-level customer representative, supporting that same retention goal, might be to “respond to all current client enquiries within 4 hours of request.” Different objectives, and both supporting the same business goal. Traditionally companies set annual objectives for employees, but in today’s rapidly changing markets, 90-day objectives may keep the process more relevant and responsive.
2. How will our people accomplish these goals and objectives? What are the 5-6 key competencies or behaviors that employees will use to meet the business goals? How employees conduct business must also align with your values. For example, it is doesn’t work for a sales person to achieve a sales target by promising a service you do not offer, or by offering what you do provide but not embodying the service values you profess. You might reach a revenue target in the short term, but will sacrifice the service culture you need for longer-term success.
“Providing superior service” may itself be one of your values, but other common values such as continuous improvement, innovation, driving for results or teamwork must all support, not conflict, with the service culture you are seeking to create.
3.Where do we need to grow? Individual and organizational talent must continually be expanding and improving to meet new goals, to compete in changing markets and to support the values that ensure success. Where does the organization need to develop talent? Each individual must also have a plan to develop needed skills and behaviors. Related to service this may include such skills as Building Partnerships, Increasing Customer Loyalty, Proactive Communication, Collaboration or Effective Following-up.
Identify skills that will build service talent across all functional areas for better internal and external service. This is good for the business and good for the individual. Document, track and provide ongoing feedback on these plans as part of the performance management process. While this is critical for people continually stepping up service excellence, this development piece is often missing or lacking in performance management systems.
If you have a good system – use it as a leadership tool to drive the development of your service culture. If you have an old system that is out of date or stuck in the mire of compliance, then reinvigorate and streamline it to focus clearly on service culture. And if you don’t have any performance management process, create a simple plan that answers these 3 questions to align your team to focus on uplifting service.