May 10, 2017 in My thoughts, Events (live blogging), CIPD L&D Show 2017

#cipdLDshow – Moving from appraisals to coaching and continuous feedback

Chris Britton & Francine Larkin (both L&D Managers, River Island):

Francine starts by polling the room to get an idea of where people are up to with their approaches to performance appraisals. It looks like 95% of people are still using ‘traditional’ approaches, 5% have done something different, and around 60% are considering making a change.

1.8 Million hours/year are spent on performance appraisals, 95% of managers are dissatisfied and 90% of HR people question the accuracy.

There is lots of talk about moving away from traditional approaches to performance management, with key themes of:

  • Promoting accountability, ownership and feedback
  • Giving staff more regular support
  • Providing meaningful, timely feedback all year round
  • Positioning managers as coaches, not evaluators

River Island started to examine their performance appraisal process, paying particular attention to:

  • Driving accountability
  • Supporting development
  • Providing regular feedback (which adds impact)

River Island also had forced ranking and it felt inauthentic to be moving people up or down to artificially make their performance fit a normal distribution. In addition, their completion rate was only 7%.

When they got to basics on letting people know what they expected of them, they realised that they only needed to get three main things right:

  • know what is expected of them
  • know what department goals are
  • know what business priorities are

RI career development and performance process.:

  • Make sure feedback is happening quickly and making sure they catch people doing the right things, not just catch people doing the wrong things
  • Appropriateness of 1:1 discussions – have the conversation that needs to be had, which doesn’t have to be a lengthy formal discussion
  • Career development – Making sure that the responsibility for career development is owned by the employee, not the manager.

They replaced process with an approach to ‘Model the way for managers’ (which complements their suite of ‘Model the way for…’ L&D offerings) and aimed to equip managers with the capability and confidence to manage performance. Model the Way modules addressed:

  • Personal effectiveness (how do you get the best of yourself)
  • Career Development meetings
  • Effective 1:1’s
  • In the moment feedback

River Island also wanted to find a better way to measure the process and they shifted from completion rate to looking at the changes in their ‘Be Heard’ (employee) survey. Overall employee engagement has risen by 2% to 81% in the year following these changes. They’ve also seen an improvement in management measures around being heard and engaging in dialogue.

RI tips:

  • keep it simple (and don’t replace one clunky process with another)
  • it has to be business-owned and HR-supported
  • support your managers


Heather Davidson (GE)

Ge have rebranded feedback to call it insights as the word ‘feedback’ seems to have loads of negative connotations for people. Their approach to insights is very simple:

If you see a specific observable behaviour that is impactful and effective and you want to see more of it, then that is an insight that you might share with them. (Things to continue)

And, conversely, if you see a specific, observable behaviour that has a negative impact then that is also an insight that you might share with them. (Things to consider)

And then we’re straight into a highly interactive exercise, giving feedback to somebody that we’ve never met before.

GE now have PD@GE (Performance Development @ GE) which has continuous 360 degree insights on both the ‘what’ (performance) and the ‘how’ (beliefs) that combine together to produce impact.

GE have come a long way as their old approach was a heavily process-driven approach called EMS which was all about differentiating people and  setting them apart. It was an annual process which a historical focus. PD@GE is a radical shift to a continuous process.

EMS was a very management-driven approach where they now have an approach which is owned by the employee. Employees schedule the touch point meetings and are reasonable for requesting insights.

GE used to be focused on their tangible assets but are now shifting to be a digital organisation with a focus on asset productivity. This same approach to using data to drive improvements has big parallels with their approach to people.

There is no learning without failure, and we are in a very interesting time of disruption. PD@GE needs to help people to ‘think beyond’ and push through self-imposed barriers.

GE are focused on three building blocks: (1) their beliefs (2) FastWorks (very similar to agile/lean startup approaches (3) Performance Development (to help people give their best).

Heather is on Twitter at: @BeAwesomein5



This was live-blogged during a session at the CIPD Learning & Development Show 2017 – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of the highlights for me but my own bias, views – and the odd typo – might well creep in. I’ve also curated the story of the session as told through the tweets of the attendees (you might need to tap ‘load more tweets’ to see the full story):


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