Our road towards Commitment 8 – rethinking performance management

3 November 2017
Faye Ekong

by Faye Ekong

Action Against Hunger USA

In this blog, Faye Ekong, Director for Human Resources, Learning & Development at Action Against Hunger USA, shares her organisation’s experience in setting up a new and more efficient way of doing performance management.

CHS Commitment 8 states that “communities and people affected by crisis receive the assistance they require from competent and well managed staff and volunteers.” One of the elements that underpins this is the area of performance management.

In line with CHS commitment 8, as an organisation, we had been looking for a new and more efficient way of doing performance management. Our previous system consisted of the classical once-a-year performance evaluation discussion between line managers and their staff. It was frequently seen as a tick-the-box, form-filling exercise which did little to develop our managers nor their staff.

We spent just over a year looking, researching and speaking to other organisations from the non-profit and for-profit sectors, as well as academia.We evaluated many options, but none seemed to fit our context and organisational model.

As Action Against Hunger USA we work in ten different countries respectively located in the Caribbean, West Africa, East Africa, Asia and the USA. Our diverse and multicultural workforce comprises over 2,000 staff. The nature of our work means our workforce has different employment periods, ranging from short-term deployments of one to three months to multi-annual and permanent contracts. We had many requirements for our performance management approach.  We wanted a new and improved system that would measure up to our requirements list.

To meet our geographical, cultural, and staffing requirements, the new system had to be:

1.  User-friendly, intuitive, culturally appropriate and sensitive
2.  Applicable to short- and long-term staff
3.  Relevant for all our staff no matter the country or department in which they work

Furthermore, we were looking for a way to manage performance that would:

1.  Add to our employee value proposition for new and prospective staff
2.  Support our supervisors in becoming stronger people managers
3.  Generate self-awareness, dialogue, reflection and collaboration at individual, team and organizational levels

And, lastly, we wanted something that staff could take with them and use in their careers even as they left the organisation and something that would contribute to professionalising performance management in the non-profit sector.

In summary, it seemed like we were looking for the “unicorn” of performance management. Incredibly though, we found it! In 2016 we began working with an organisation called Employee Performance Solution. We started looking at staff performance using the Employee Performance Continuum and implemented a monthly ten-minute conversation between line managers and staff.

The philosophy behind the ten-minute conversation is that for staff and managers to be successful in their roles they need regular feedback and opportunities to discuss how they are doing, what is working well and where more progress or support is needed.The monthly conversation is based on a set of guiding questions for both managers and their staff and is designed to enable two-way listening and a continuous learning dynamic.

Over the past two years, we created an organisation-wide motto and logo of “talk, learn, grow,” we held sensitisation sessions, conducted training, hosted webinars, developed communication materials, sent out email reminders and revamped our onboarding program.

Results to date

Close to two years later and much-dedicated work from multiple levels, we can say the difference is noticeable. The ten-minute conversation is now becoming part of our organisational DNA, with some teams reporting that over 90% of their staff are engaging in the monthly conversation.

Supervisors are more confident in managing their teams and are open to new insights on how they can become even better managers. All staff are empowered to schedule their performance conversation with their line managers and appreciate they have a dedicated time each month to check in with their supervisor to give and receive feedback.   Conversations are increasingly geared towards mutual learning, development and continuous improvement. New hires are impressed by the Action Against Hunger USA approach, as it is not something they have experienced before.

Recently, we have also encouraged staff to hold the ten-minute conversations with their peers from within and outside their departments to create a culture of feedback, collaboration, and collective consciousness.Overall, rolling out this performance management approach has played a key role in ensuring staff are supported to do their job effectively and are treated fairly and equitable. We are looking forward to seeing the positive long-term transformation of people management in Action Against Hunger USA.