Podcast: Workhuman’s Rosette Cataldo on Performance Management’s New Dynamics

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Mark:

Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer.

Mark:

My guest today is Rosette Cataldo, vice president of performance and talent strategy for Workhuman.

Mark:

People talk a lot today about how performance management is changing. It’s becoming more interactive, more dynamic, and it’s relying more on technology. Workhuman is immersed in these efforts and Rosette plays a leading role. We’re going to talk about what’s changing in performance and what employers should know about it on this edition of PeopleTech.

Mark:

Rosette, it’s nice to see you. Welcome.

Mark:

That’s an interesting title, vice president of performance and talent strategy. Can you tell me how you got there?

Rosette:

Sure.

Rosette:

To be frank, that title was something that we put a lot of thought into as I was joining the team at Workhuman almost five years ago. The rationale behind the title was that our clients gave us very clear directive that they were seeking a better way to drive performance and feedback in their organization, and the old traditional ways of doing it wasn’t working. And my background, I was very fortunate, is that a good eight, nine years ago, I was really on the beginning stages of working with other consulting companies and organizations that were just starting to put their toe in the water of continuous performance. And I had the privilege of working on the Marcus Buckingham team, where we were consulting to companies like Deloitte.

Rosette:

So fast word, when presented with the opportunity to join Workhuman, they were looking to really approach, for their clients, a strategic way to help form culture through performance development and performance management. And because Workhuman has been in the world of recognition, which is positive feedback, for so many years, we really wanted to marry that this is a very strategic initiative to create a culture of performance, and there’s a new way to do things. And that is where the title, and that is why I joined this job in this company.

Mark:

Continuous performance management, what’s it about? It’s-

Rosette:

Sure.

Mark:

No, go ahead. I’m sorry.

Rosette:

No, that’s a great question.

Rosette:

So, what is it all about? That’s what you’d like to know. What is this thing called continuous performance management? And I would even say that there’s a pivot going on to continuous performance development, but we can get there. It’s really organizations recognizing that the way in which they’ve been doing things has not been effective. And we have seen organizations over, if you look in the rear of view mirror, even the last five, six years come forth and say, “We need to do things differently. We’re going to blow up the annual review. We’re going to get rid of ratings or not.” And they found that really wasn’t effective. So this whole world of continuous performance management for forward thinking companies is a recognition that things didn’t work, and then an understanding and listening to the employees on what they’re seeking. And then an appetite to do things differently.

Rosette:

And the organizations and the talent leaders I get to work with every day around the world are really doubling down that they have to shift where they put the responsibility from HR and the manager and shift it to the employees to have greater ownership. And what I mean by that is often with the world of continuous performance management, historically there were three components. And I believe there are four and that’s really the work I focus on. There’s the component of feedback. The ability to receive feedback, to give feedback, to ask for feedback. The ability to have check-ins. Some type of ongoing cadence which is a meeting often with your manager. But we have a very different paradigm on that. And I can share that in a moment. And the ability to have goals. So those were always the three major tenants of continuous performance and not do it once a year, but do it on a ongoing basis.

Rosette:

But there was another piece of the puzzle that was missing and even missing back eight years ago, nine years ago, when I was consulting that I think really has changed how forward thinking companies are moving, which is to make sure that you have the spirit of recognition, the spirit of the ability to say, “I recognize the work that you’re doing. You are contributing positively”, because that creates psychological safety. That creates trust. And it has to be peer to peer because the nature of work, Mark, has changed so much. Managers aren’t always with you, especially in the world of Zoom right now. We are working with so many people not shoulder-to-shoulder, but more monitor-to-monitor.

Rosette:

And we have to look at the work that we do and really how our calendars look every day. I’m in a meeting from 8:00 to 9:00, from 9:00 to 10:00, from 11:00 to 12:00, that each and every one of those opportunities is a moment where you can grow and develop, where you can be inclusive to look to your peers to say, “Help me become a better version of Rosette.” That only works if you have a solid foundation of trust and positivity.

Rosette:

So I look at continuous performance development and management as the ability to bring an interconnectedness between those four pillars, feedback, recognition, which is positive feedback. So think of it as all the other type of feedback, positive feedback. Agile goals that you can share with anyone. And check-ins that you can have with anyone. And that’s really the more modern approach. Now it doesn’t mean that you don’t have some of the older school things like ratings, or PIPs, or some of the traditional management stuff, but they can coexist when done properly. And that’s the work I deliver every day at for Workhuman and with our clients.

Mark:

Could you tell me or give an example of how it works? I’m having a little trouble sort of envisioning it.

Rosette:

Sure.

Mark:

How do the manager an employee interact?

Rosette:

Sure. So I believe you said, “How do the manager and employees interact?” Is that what you said?

Mark:

Yeah. Or anybody else involved?

Rosette:

Okay, sure. Great, because it is the manager and the employees with each other. So, the first thing is you have to be mindful that there’s a three prong approach to this. It’s a skillset. So you need to make sure people know how to interact, right? So there’s some training and education. There’s a mindset of the organization that they give permission. And this is the type of culture they want, where they don’t make it difficult for people. And they encourage people to interact with each other with this type of spirit of growth, and the spirit of recognizing, and showing gratitude, and sharing work. And then there’s the tool set. So skill set, mindset and tool set.

Rosette:

So how this would work in the day to day is giving a very simple, light, easy to use tool where I can engage with my manager or my colleagues and say, “Hey, I have a goal that I’m working on.” It could be a simple as I’m trying to become a better presenter, or I’m trying to be more mindful in meetings. Or more prepared. Pick a topic, it could be anything. You recently had an interaction with me, Mark. We were in a meeting earlier today or yesterday. Can you share with me some feedback on what you saw and give me some thoughts on what I could do differently tomorrow? But in order for that to work, it has to be very deliberate. The organization has to give, and the leadership of the organization has to model this and give permission for the employees to interact this way.

Rosette:

And you need to make it be something where people feel as though it’s safe to give these insights. And that’s where it’s important to also have the positive feedback, because just as much as I want to ask, “Hey, Mark, what could I do differently tomorrow? What should I consider doing differently? Or what should I continue doing?” You want to also have the ability to celebrate me and say, “Hey, Rosette, I saw you deliver yesterday and you did a great job. I want to recognize you.”

Rosette:

And when you bring this together, that’s the simplest example. And when organizations do this, they start to create cultures of inclusion because you’re asking people. You’re not just sitting in your seats, you’re asking people. You’re soliciting, you’re giving them opportunity. You give them opportunity to grow. I want to develop, Mark, help me. My manager’s not on the call you were just on. Help me. Right? And one of our clients, IBM says it also creates opportunity for innovation because what it does is it keeps you outside of your mind and expands it to working with others. So through feedback, you can create cultures of innovation, growth, and inclusion.

Rosette:

Was that helpful? Does that make sense?

Mark:

Yes, it does. And it brings to mind a couple of other questions. For one thing, who drives it, this whole relationship? Is it something the managers have to drive? Or ideally, is it something the employees drive?

Rosette:

Sure. I’m going to say that the organizations that are doing it best have found a way through modeling of the managers and modeling of leadership where they empower the employees. So let me tell you what that would look like. It would look like a manager going to an employee and asking for feedback. It would look like a manager sharing a goal with an employee. It would not look like a manager creating goals for employees. It would look like the employee asking the manager or others for feedback, and then sharing it with the manager. So we always say the employee should be in the center. The employee should be empowered. But I know, through the years of experience and the support we give our clients through change management and through communications, that it’s really a combination. It’s everybody’s responsibility. But that modeling is important and the empowerment is critical.

Rosette:

So there is absolutely no harm in a manager saying, “Hey, Mark, for our next check-in, why don’t you go ask five people for feedback and come back. And let’s talk about the feedback you receive.” Because in the modern approach, feedback is meant for the employee. It’s not meant for the manager. It’s not meant to be a permanent record black, Mark. It’s meant to help you. So that’s why in many cases, we would suggest that the manager can ask about the feedback, but we shouldn’t make it mandatory that the managers see every piece of feedback the employee gets. Because if you do that, then what happens is it starts to become less of an opportunity for growth of me. And it becomes more of a way to manage me, or to be on my permanent record, or for me to feel like it’s for HR to be watching over me.

Rosette:

So is that helpful as it relates to how this comes into fruition? And it really is making people realize that it’s everyone’s responsibility to live the values and behaviors. And part of our behaviors should be that we’re here to go higher together and to elevate each other, and to recognize when work that supports our value is delivered and to help each other see opportunities for growth. And it’s not that hard when you have the North Star of simplicity and value the employee. And that’s a design philosophy that every day I talk to organizations about, and talent leaders, around the world. How do we simplify processes that you’ve over-engineered that make it feel daunting? Historically, performance management has the lowest MPS. It feels daunting, and it doesn’t feel like something I want to do. It feels like something I have to do.

Mark:

Now, how’s the whole effort stand in terms of progress? I mean, it’s relatively new, the whole idea of continuous performance management. Is it gaining ground within the corporate world? Are people embracing it, adapting it because they have to? How’s that going?

Rosette:

Sure.

Rosette:

Well, we recently did a public-facing webinar, so I can easily quote some of the data points that were in that public-facing webinar where IBM… So if you imagine an organization as large as IBM, as global as IBM, has really doubled down that in order for them to transform their culture, it’s critical that they have a continuous performance development approach. And for the last year and a half, they partnered with Workhuman in order to create that culture transformation through exactly what I shared with you, feedback, check-ins, goals, et cetera. So you see forward thinking companies that realize that performance is a culture creator. You find other companies those are not as, what I would say, growth mindset oriented, that are fearful to take the plunge because they are either concerned that employees can do this. And I’m here to tell you employees can, with the right skillset, mindset and tool set, engage with each other in a very productive way.

Rosette:

And also, sometimes organizations are unable to pivot from the tools that they have in place historically, that literally chain them to an old school methodology and mindset. So for instance, you want to create an agile environment where employees can connect with each other in a very simple light way. If you rely solely upon your older school methodology may be presented to you in your HRIS system, you may have a heck of a time trying to achieve that. So it’s growing, Mark. Organizations are excited about this. They’re looking at leaders like IBM to do things like they’ve been doing, which is be very outspoken about the results they’re getting. IBM quoted in that webinar that they did, that they received a 5X increase in feedback when pivoting to an integrated approach to continuous performance, that I shared with you what the pillars are. And the latest data show that now a 10X increase. That’s compelling, That’s compelling. So I know we’ll see more. We are actively working with major global organizations to pivot and to adopt and to roll out globally. And we will have more.

Mark:

It does sound like something that managers probably need to have a mindset shift if they’re going to really make this work. Is that true?

Rosette:

I believe the entire organization needs to have a mindset shift, but I do agree with you. I believe the managers need to think about interactions that they have as ways to, of course, still manage, but to also coach. And that coaching isn’t just a hat the manager wears, but coaching can be shared with anybody in the organization. That’s really one of the major pillars here, is the shift in mindset that if you become a growth oriented organization and you empower your employees, the manager’s responsibility, I don’t want to say is lessened, but it’s shared. So that means the interaction I have where my manager’s now just not so much worrying about coaching Rosette, but can change the dialogue in a check-in to be. “So Rosette, tell me about some of the coaching you’ve received from others. Tell me about some of the feedback you’ve received from others. Who have you shared your goal with recently in pursuit of you achieving this?” That changes the tenure in the discussion the manager is having. So it’s not just their voice that the employee’s hearing, but they’re leveraging all the voices.

Rosette:

And then you give visibility to all of these great performance insights. So the manager can use them to coach. That’s part of the other piece of the technology is it creates visibility where before things were not visible. So the manager has more insights. And do you know what that does? It removes bias. Because if my manager tells me in January, “Rosette, you talk too fast when you’re speaking to clients.” And then in February, he says to me, “Rosette, you’re talking too fast.” And then I hear a third time from that same voice, do you know what it feels like? He’s beating me up. What does he have against me? And I’m keeping this very simple, but I think you’ll pick up the point I’m trying to make. But if I hear from one colleague, “Hey, Rosette, you tend to speak quickly. You may want to slow down. You lose your point when you talk so fast.” And then if I hear it from another colleague, “Hey, Rosette, maybe a little less coffee next time. You spoke really quickly when you were talking to the client.”

Rosette:

When you start to hear things from multiple voices, the recipient starts to put a little bit more weight on it that there may be some validity. When you hear something from only one voice, it starts to feel that there may be some bias, and there could be. And organizations are trying to do everything they can to remove bias in any place within the four walls of work. So just by opening up these channels of communication in a productive way, you are starting to weave in things like inclusion and removing bias. And it makes it more impactful to the person who’s receiving or giving.

Mark:

And what is technology’s role in this?

Rosette:

Sure, sure.

Rosette:

Technology is an enabler. It’s not the Holy Grail. What I mean by that is that you can create the most beautiful technology, but it truly has to meet employees in a simple way where they work. And they have to have, as I shared earlier, the modeling, and the permission, and the mindset, and the skills to be able to leverage it in a very simple way. So one of the words… And this was a newer word to me, but IBM should shared it with me. And it meant a lot when they shared it. They said it has to be consumer-grade. They chose Workhuman because it was a consumer-grade approach to a historically HR-centric process.

Rosette:

And when you start to pivot and create consumer-grade or human-grade interfaces that make it really easy to do the things I just shared, feedback, check-ins, goals, recognition, it starts to feel less daunting and more a tool that’s here for me and to support me than a tool that’s built for the organization. So technology’s critical. It has to be simplified and meet the employee where it is. It has to be created with the employee in mind, not with what I would say HR and data collection in mind. But we have lots of data and HR can get all the data they want.

Rosette:

And then in the tool, you have to make sure that you have all the easy to use features and tips so that you’re helping them build their skillset. That to me is the trifecta of how this works. And even with the most elegant piece of technology, if it’s complicated or it resides in a system that doesn’t feel built for the employee, it’s not going to get adopted. And that’s what I’ve seen in my career historically. The two flaws have been who used older methodology designed technology to try to bring you into this new paradigm of continuous performance, or you neglected the importance of the human side, which is the psychological safety and the trust that needs to be built between colleagues in order to make this work. If you can get those things aligned, you are far ahead in achieving what I would call this new paradigm, this modernization of performance management.

Mark:

Rosette, thank you. Thanks for coming to talk today. This was really great.

Rosette:

Oh, was I helpful? Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity. And thank you so much for your time.

Mark:

My guest today has been Rosette Cataldo, vice president of performance and talent strategy for Workhuman. And this has been PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. We’re a publication of recruiting daily. We’re also a part of Evergreen Podcasts. To see all of their programs, visit www.evergreenpodcasts.com. And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us atwww.hcmtechnologyreport.com.

Mark:

I’m Mark Feffer.

Image: iStock

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