Mayank Bhatnagar is the Co-Founder & COO of FinEdge.With over 20 years of professional experience across retail and corporate banking in leading companies such as Standard Chartered Bank and Wholesale Bank, he has gathered unique insights that have proven instrumental in the long-term success of FinEdge over the past decade. In this exclusive interview, we get key insights from Mayank on the importance of culture and behaviours when driving impactful employee performance at FinEdge.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
As performance management models evolve and transform with the changing business landscape, why do you think it’s an important part of HR strategy?
Back in the day, HR was a function that primarily looked at recruitment, filling up positions and occasionally delved into appraisals and promotions. But at present, it’s far more specialised and even performance-oriented. There’s also been a noticeable shift in our understanding of performance management itself, it’s no longer limited to achieving quantitative targets or operational efficiency. The emphasis is more on alignment with the organisational culture and as a result, performance models and tools have evolved to accommodate this transformation.
For the HR function, inevitably it’s become increasingly important to deploy the right performance management tools to ensure that they are strengthening a culture which each employee identifies with, that binds them together and ultimately, creates the spirit to drive performance benchmarks.
What are the key components of a successful performance management system tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities faced by emerging businesses?
Performance management is about understanding and driving a certain behaviour in an organisation that is aligned with its culture. At FinEdge, technology plays a vital role in our performance management model, as we have customised the experience for our team members similar to how we customised experiences for our clients. We are an investment management firm and we are driven to create value for our clients. The intent is to align the team with the larger vision at FinEdge.
The unique thing that we do is that we don’t rely on quantitative metrics to evaluate performance, instead, we promote certain behaviours and processes aligned with organisational objectives. We focus more on our values that drive the quality of engagement with clients. We truly believe that behaviour plays an important role and one must have extreme clarity on what is expected of them. It is easy to set quantitative benchmarks but the process becomes complex when driving intricacies of qualitative benchmarks. Once again, it is technology that helps bridge this gap. With better tech tools to empower employees, you become a partner in the performance journey of your team members,
How do you strike a balance between fostering a performance-driven culture and maintaining a positive and motivating work environment?
When the organisation and its team members are aligned to a specific purpose, then performance and motivation go hand in hand. A certain imbalance may happen when there is a disconnect between the purpose of the employees and the organisation. And so, one of the key things that we look at when measuring and managing performance is whether our people are creating value for our clients.
It all really boils down to purpose and values, the key is to strengthen that alignment. Once we ensure that there is a convergence between organisational purpose and employee purpose, motivation is the last thing we need to worry about. We can then direct most of our energy to scaling new heights.
What strategies have you found effective in promoting skill development and career advancement in these dynamic environments?
New-age organisations today are very employee-centric and to truly mine the potential opportunities for business growth and expansion, our people will remain our biggest source of strength. And so, a culture of learning becomes very important. It not only goes a long way in empowering our employees to advance their careers within FinEdge but it’s also a holistic professional development.
We want to promote having clarity on the goals and benchmarks set for our people in the interest of their growth. We also actively encourage learning on the job, mentoring, certification programmes and even sponsoring training for our employees. For instance, if anyone wants to explore a CFP (certified financial planner) course, we reimburse the entire expense once the employee clears it. We are strong proponents of upskilling because that is one of the ways to bring out the best in our people.
Lastly, at FinEdge, instead of a SaaS-based CRM (customer relationship manager), we have created our very own internal and intuitive platform for our investment managers, to provide them with the right tools and technologies and ultimately empower them to grow and excel in their performance.
Performance management often involves addressing underperformance or identifying areas for improvement. How do you approach performance-related challenges in a way that fosters employee growth and engagement?
When there are under-performance-related issues, the best indicator would be the occurrence of sudden behavioural gaps that perhaps stems from employees feeling not aligned with the culture or feeling left out of the organisational journey. Qualitative benchmarks then prove to be invaluable to identify these qualitative gaps among team members. That’s the first thing.
The second is to ensure a timely and constructive feedback mechanism. Underperformance is simply not achieving certain benchmarks and when that happens, our first and foremost plan of action is to identify the challenge area, upskill and find solutions. In a performance management system like ours which is extremely transparent and intuitive, employees are automatically prompted with a couple of guiding steps to return to the usual performance levels, which are basically above average. This is the power of technology which offers a customised performance management experience, unique to the organisational journey of the employee in focus.
But at the same time along with system prompts, we also take the initiative to give very focused feedback to our people so that they can take corrective measures. Rewards and recognition are also part of this, especially when we are appreciated by our clients for the work that we do.
Feedback and communication play a crucial role in performance management. How do you establish a robust feedback system that encourages open dialogue between managers and employees?
We are a pretty flat organisation that encourages a culture of extreme openness for each and every employee. Specific to the feedback mechanism, along with transparency, it is also important for us to acknowledge that gone are the days when feedback mechanisms were part of annual appraisal conversations. This is the age of continuous communication, continuous feedback and continuous engagement. Because when we are lagging behind on these three critical elements, one will find that the performance parameters are falling off the cliff. Appraisals are about telling your people how they did in the past year but continuous feedback and communication is about helping them improve as a professional on a daily basis and strengthening that alignment with the organisational values and purpose. Continuous feedback isn’t just about pushing our people to achieve a certain benchmark but it’s about bringing out the best in our people on a daily basis.
Additionally, there needs to be a clear rollout of expectations, and training programmes must also be customised to the specific role. Our entire internal communication and benchmark-setting are based on the purpose of FinEdge and that is what binds us together as an organisation.
As emerging businesses scale and evolve rapidly, how do you adapt performance management strategies to align with the changing needs of the organisation and its workforce?
We truly believe that change is the only constant which is why it becomes important to remain nimble and extremely sure-footed. In the current dynamic environment where technologies change at a pathbreaking pace, the intersection of people, tech and purpose is a cornerstone for continued success.
Because we are a people and tech-focused organisation dedicated to helping our clients achieve their financial goals, we stress the importance of offering the best in class digital solutions to our employees. We must keep a pulse on newer technologies and performance management practices while fine-tuning them to the unique nature of our business and personalising it to our employees’ needs and preferences. This will be fundamental to empowering them to create the best possible value addition.