Is feedback a right way to connect with the internal customers?
Vikram Tandon, Head – HR, HSBC India started this session by saying that continuous feedback is given to employees regularly, so that there are no surprises at the end of the year. As L&D professionals, you need to be articulate and get the message across to the stakeholders of your company that there is a need for change. If this change does not come about, then you cannot hope to be the employer of choice.
Secondly this is not a process change. It is the change in the mindset and the culture of the firm. This is the biggest challenge as L&D professionals. How do we break the mold in people’s thinking and move onto continuous feedback? Senior leadership commitment and senior leadership tone and building the capabilities of line management will set the pace. Seeking feedback continuously carries a negative consequence around it, although this is not correct. Obtaining feedback is actually having a conversation between two people.
The next step would be to analyze those conversations and find out if we could use this data to do things differently; to bring employees up to a particular standard or fill in certain gaps. What did we do at HSBC? First of all, we stopped the mid-term appraisals and the annual appraisal exercise that did not allow anyone to go to the system. We got a drama company, a theatre company to work with our entire line managers of 450 people across the entire bank. Three scenarios were used – a good conversation, a bad conversation and thirdly, how to have a periodic conversation. These street plays and skits broke the monotony and the formality of dealing with dry and difficult subjects. The management thought that it would be very easy going now for employees to have open conversations. But that was not to be. They then decided to use tool kits to make this process easy. This again was not successful. Finally, they gave a set of questions for employees to use, asking for continuous feedback. This really clicked for the management. They did not realize that people were finding it very awkward to come up with questions that they needed to ask after the mandatory “How was your weekend?” The questions that they came up with went something like “How are you progressing with your objectives or goals?”, “Key challenges that you are facing in your current role”, “How do you think we can do things differently?” etc.
This tool kit or set of questions were given to the entire organization of 4,000 employees and people knew what to expect. At the end of the first year, the management slowly realized that they had triggered a set of conversations that trigger fewer unpleasant surprises. They also realized that they need to build capabilities in approaching performances and dealing with relatively difficult conversations. There was good feedback too about learning needs for the coming year.
Hemalakshmi Raju, Head – L&D, Cipla took the stage and shared some thoughts and perspectives that she had. She said that apart from learning how to give continuous feedback, can we also look at building skills outside the classroom, can we create role models within the ecosystem, who are the managers who are doing it really well, how can we project them, and can we adapt a holistic approach to building capabilities? Can we take emotional responsibility for a person’s career?
Bringing about a culture change is very, very difficult. Do we have the leaders’ buy-in for this? Are leaders leading by example? Are they giving time for it? Are we creating an eco-system where this can flourish?
At Cipla, we have been a leading Pharma company for the last 80 years. We took a pause and wondered about our success and how we could continue to be successful and stay relevant for the next 80 years? The environment is changing drastically. What is it that we should start doing differently? We looked at some of our principals, that is our mission and vision statements, values and culture and articulated them differently. We wanted to build Cipla as a communicating and listening organization. It is not as if we were not doing it before. But the fact is that we are growing globally and there were a lot of youngsters who had come into the organization and had spent less than 3 years with us. We undertook a few initiatives, but the ones that I would like to talk about here are – firstly, we conducted an employee survey that most organizations undertake. We took immediate action on the feedback and changed some policies. The message that came across to the employees was that we are listening and that we are serious about it. We started a town hall meeting every quarter with the top management driving it. We have started the process of continuous feedback and are working on making it better with time.
Kameshwari Rao - Vice-President, People Strategy, Sapient summarized this session by saying that L&D professionals influence their leaders and management, enabling mindsets and skills and creating an environment.
(This article has been curated from the Fireside Chat session on Cracking the journey of Continuous Feedback - moderated by Kameshwari Rao, VP- People Strategy, Sapient India, and Speakers were: Vikram Tandon, Head – HR, HSBC India, Hemalakshmi Raju, Head – L&D, Cipla at the People Matters L&D League Annual Conference 2017)