An Exclusive Interview with HR Tech Though Leader Gerry Crispin: How Organizational Design Affects Real-Time Performance Management
Gerry Crispin, a thought leader of HR Tech, and one of the co-founders of the Candidate Experience (CE), co-authored eight books on the evolution of staffing and has written 100s of articles and whitepapers on similar topics. While Gerry's career in Human Resources spans more than 40 years, it is also quite broad and includes HR leadership positions at Johnson and Johnson; Associate Partner in a boutique Executive Search firm; Career Services Director at the University where he received his Engineering and 2 advanced degrees in Organizational/Industrial Behavior (Stevens Institute of Technology); and, General Manager of a major recruitment advertising firm even as he launched CareerXroads 20 years ago.
In the following interview, Felicia Moghadam, CEO and co-founder of team-performance management software Sity, digs deep for answers regarding the future of performance management and how organizational design impacts that shift:
What are the changes you’re seeing, most recently, in the area of performance?
In the last 4-5 years you've seen some significant shift in terms of criticism of old fashion ways in which performance is measured by individuals, for individuals in corporations and the extent in which that is connected to the performance of the company itself.
It started with some of the work that Bersin has done over the last few years, but there are several others too. To be honest, HBR has offered, over my entire career, so over the last 40-50 years, at various times, there’s been extraordinary cries about the problems in how we measure performance of individuals and the extent in which those measures have anything to do with the performance of the company.
The problem is no one ever did anything about it, they just bitched about them and in the last 4-5 years something’s happened. Deloitte, for example, started adding up the time it took to conduct performance reviews for individuals over the course of a year and looked at it from a company point of view. They asked themselves, “For all this effort, what are we getting out of it?” - basically, the ROI was not there.
Deloitte, for example, started adding up the time it took to conduct performance reviews for individuals over the course of a year and looked at it from a company point of view. They asked themselves, “For all this effort, what are we getting out of it?” - basically, the ROI was not there.
Corporations are beginning to say, “There’s gotta be a better way than doing things with annual reviews, and a variety of different ways to add up things over the course of a year, and then summarize them and give that information back to the candidate.
The reality is that many companies are beginning to get rid of the approach to their performance reviews and focusing specifically on what people are doing now, what that project is, and how successful that project is in coming to fruition... then using that, in the here and now, to give feedback. We’ve become much more real-time in giving feedback to employees, and employees are looking for that. They’re looking for a more continuous process for, “How am I doing?,” from not only their immediate boss, but from their peers, from their subordinates, and from the corporation itself in terms of how it makes a difference.
What other factors do you see that might be helpful in regards to talent development, or organizational design? How might that affect performance?
There’s a challenge going on right now in terms of how organizations are designed to contribute to all of this. The whole “command and control” kind of thing is starting to lose it’s power in many companies. What we’re really trying to do is to create networks of people who work together and collaborate on projects really at any level in the organization. It’s those networks of networks that help us get things done. More and more, obviously, you get things done not as an independent worker, although there’s still plenty of them, but usually as part of a team. Therefore, your contribution and your performance is shared in a variety of different ways. That’s one of the big changes that’s going on.
“Your contribution and your performance is shared in a variety of different ways. That’s one of the big changes that’s going on.”
From an organizational point of view, you need to know who is networked to accomplish what, and what other networks might you be in within the organization? People really, are part of many different teams with different composition, and keeping track of that becomes a little more complex unless you have some fairly good tools…and that’s really what we’re looking for now, is more of those applications that allow me to see your contribution to a given goal with a certain team, and potentially your contribution to a whole different goal with an entirely different kind of team and be able to give you feedback in an ongoing way so that you can see it, and then tie that into some kind of reward system. That’s really where the challenges are.
We’re looking for applications that:
People obviously want to work, and there’s a satisfaction doing that work, but there’s also a need for others to recognize your work...a need to know that it’s contributing to your ability to be promoted and to grow within an organization, and it’s important that obviously other rewards like a paycheck [chuckle] are in part connected to some of your ability to achieve. When we’re doing that well, companies are moving forward. When rewards are disconnected to all of that, people tend to lose motivation.
There’s a lot of interest into how we can do this better without the kind of “command and control” operations of a very static kind of organizational design that’s been evident in most large companies in the last hundred years.
What are the biggest pain points for companies that are not doing this? How is it really affecting a company if they’re not taking these steps towards a new innovative performance strategy?
People don’t know who’s getting things done! The reality is that the typical traditional organizational structure is not how things get done anymore. People are connected and networked to each other, they’re just not that visible in many of the companies that have traditional hierarchal structures. They lose sight of what’s happening and the individual performer is sitting there going, “I’m using my networking to get all of these different kinds of things done, I’m helping other people achieve goals, and I’m not credited in any way because I’m not directly connected to them….I’m connected to them through dotted lines and through other networks so I don’t get the credit that should be accruing to me along with all the other kinds of things.”
The reality is the that typical traditional organizational structure is not how things get done anymore. People are connected and networked to each other, they’re just not that visible in many of the companies that have traditional hierarchal structures.
So, they become disengaged, engagement levels go down, they’re much more willing to begin looking at other jobs in other companies, and they get focused on, “What’s in it for them?,” because they’re not getting the level of satisfaction out of achieving and getting recognized for that achievement
They lose sight of what’s happening and the individual performer is sitting there going, “I’m using my network…..and I’m not credited in any way because I’m not directly connected to them…so I don’t get the credit.” They become disengaged, engagement levels go down, and they focus on, “What’s in it for them?” They’re not getting the satisfaction out of achieving, or getting recognized for that achievement that isn’t part of a traditional structure.
If you’re in HR, you’d like to get a pat on the back if you went out of your way to help somebody in marketing get their projects done, you’d like to at least get a pat on the back, but ideally you’d also like to see how you’re helping everyone move the company forward to achieve higher performance. You want to feel like you’re connected to all of that.
What would you suggest to an organization if they wanted to begin creating team networks?
There’s a whole bunch of technology tools that need to be thought through. In a sense there’s a solution stack and many, many companies are beginning to experiment. You almost need an innovation center in terms of how are we going to communicate differently with our employees in various ways. You need to map that journey out a bit because you’re combining policy, you’re combining systems, and you’re combining communication and technology tools. All of those things can be complex.
You need a group of folks within human resources, IT, and potentially external partners to be able to think that through. The starting point is really an aspiration to do it, a recognition that you can’t do it functionally without some kind of collaboration across all of the different silos within the corporation. You start building some councils to look at those kinds of issues, study and bench some of your competitors, or some of the companies you most admire in terms of how they’re moving and you want to take a look at what other people are beginning to do.
The reality is by the time a book is going to be written that will tell you exactly how to do it, 3-4 years have gone by and we’ve evolved into a different level. You’re really going to be learning from peers in other organizations and the best thing you can do is develop an internal, committed group to make those kinds of changes. Go out and bench, and start experimenting with different combinations of systems, policies, and tools.
Is there anything you’d like to mention that we didn’t talk about?
The thing that I look back on…when I was a young person we never had these kinds of things. I intuitively knew that the approach to performance was one-sided. It was on the hiring manager to make appointments with their subordinates and summarize in a parental way, what they’ve been doing, what they needed to do more of, less of, etc and then move on. I always thought that it was useless right from the beginning.
I always knew that when these performance reviews were supposed to come, and I would always anticipate them, I would set up an appointment with my boss or with the project manager, and I would periodically, or every couple months, I would go in and I would have a flip chart [chuckle] and I would criticize my performance. I would talk about the things that I could do better, and I would talk about the resources I would need from the organization in order to do better…i.e. the conference I wanted to go to, the individuals in other divisions who I was planning to call up and make an appointment to go see them so I could learn from them.
I always believed that I was responsible for my performance in understanding the context within the company that I was in, and to test that out. It’s not just doing it - I thought my boss would be the one to say to me, “You’re on target” or “You’re not on target.” My responsibility was to know where my performance was, not his.
As long as you have a mechanism that allows me to better take control of knowing my performance and being able to test it...then I think you’re moving in the right direction.
As long as you have a mechanism that allows me to better take control of knowing my performance and being able to test it, potentially to influence others, that my performance is at the level that I think it is, or how I get to the level that I want it to be, then I think you’re moving in the right direction.