This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Companies like Accenture have received plenty of press lately about their decision to do away with annual performance reviews. Rather, managers will be giving regular feedback after events like the completion of an assignment. Benefits like decreased administrative burden and an increased focus on continual development throughout the year have been outlined by authors before us.
What the catchiness of getting rid of performance reviews may be missing though is the larger cultural shift behind it. Underlying it all is an emphasis on building a coaching culture in organizations - a culture that is characterized by constructive feedback and frequent developmental discussions between managers and their direct reports.
A business that has done this particularly well is BASF Canada's Crop Protection division, a group that develops and manufactures crop protection products for Canadian farmers. Thirteen years ago, BASF Canada started their Managerial Coaching program. Managers complete a one-year program that includes monthly coaching sessions with an external coach. The coaching conversations often focus on how managers can coach their direct reports to succeed in their role. At the beginning and the end of the program, managers engage in a 360 process to provide them with valuable feedback and track improvement over the course of the program. This program is only one example of how BASF Canada is committed to promoting a coaching culture.
I asked Ron Kehler, the Business Director of BASF Canada - Crop Protection, why creating a coaching culture at BASF was so important. "A coaching culture means continuous feedback and improvement in employee development," he said. "Providing coaching to people managers along with training people managers on how to coach their teams creates a consistent feedback loop for employees that accelerates their development."
Ron noted that as a result of the program he has seen more self-awareness among his employees, stronger employee-manager working relationships, and increased openness to constructive feedback beyond from just their direct manager.
Unfortunately, coaching ability isn't a given in all organizations, and some industries tend to perform better than others. For example, a recent study by DDI found that senior leaders in finance/insurance and retail organizations tended to excel at coaching and developing others, whereas those in healthcare and industrial manufacturing performed the worst (making BASF a stand-out in its sector).
Your organization may or may not still use annual performance reviews. Maybe it's too drastic to remove them or this process actually is working for your company. But, why not move the needle on the underlying reason for nixing performance reviews - creating a coaching culture?
Here are some steps you can take to build a coaching culture within your organization:
1. A coaching culture starts from the top. Think about which key players on the senior management team you need to get on board to reinforce a coaching culture. And if you are a senior manager, how can you broadcast your support of a coaching culture?
2. Invest in coaching for your senior managers. If senior managers see the benefit of a coaching culture for themselves, then this enthusiasm will trickle down. The best approach may be to train coaches within the organization – training HR representatives in coaching methods, or sending senior managers to coaching training so they can engage in peer coaching. Or, it may be worth hiring external coaches, who often have the unbiased perspective and specialized training that can benefit your senior team.
3. Encourage managers to coach their direct reports. Managers can do this formally, by scheduling monthly or quarterly check-ins to discuss recurring issues, development themes, and career progression. Or, this may happen informally. Managers can regularly give their direct reports constructive feedback, help them set goals, and carve out time to openly discuss issues on the fly.
Leann Schneider is a managing consultant at Jackson Leadership. Tim Jackson is president and owner of Jackson Leadership.