This CTO Has Performance Conversations After Every Sprint

Think about the last time you finished a project. How did you feel? What did your teammates think? Did you have a strong idea of what you did well, and what you could improve for next time? Were you able to reflect on all of this and make adjustments before moving onto the next project?

One of the biggest contributors to a demotivated workforce is the fact that most employees still don’t get quality, timely feedback from their manager. But Andrew Wertkin, Chief Product and Technology Officer at BlueCat Networks, Inc., is changing that for his company. 

Required HR processes that are only due a few times a year don’t necessarily help develop my team Click To Tweet

I sat down with the technology leader of the enterprise DNS solutions provider in Toronto and learned how he succeed in getting his organization to run performance management in the same way his agile teams work.

What are your biggest HR challenges as a chief product and technology officer?

Historically, performance management has gone against the grain of the way my team does its work. We do work in two-week sprints. We’re constantly assessing what went well and what didn’t go well. That includes a lot of self-reflection of how they worked as both team members and individuals. When performance management is separated from our daily workflow, required HR processes that are only due a few times a year don’t necessarily help develop my team. We’re constantly looking for ways for our team to be more engaged, and performance management should be one of those motivators.

Performance management has also been tied to compensation in ways I had been uncomfortable with. It’s hard to have a conversation about performance with an employee if they’re actually just sitting there waiting to find out if their bonus is going to be higher or lower this year based on their performance. It’s almost too late.

I want to manage people towards as much compensation is made available to them Click To Tweet

I don’t want people to find out their bonus is lower because I didn’t think their performance was good enough. I want to manage people towards as much compensation is made available to them because we’re constantly working on improving their performance.

How do you think performance management should be run today?

We like performance management to be run in a similar way to the way we do work. That is, we want check-ins more often, and we want it to be lightweight. It shouldn’t take a ridiculous amount of time to go through. When we’re done with sprints, we assess what went well, what didn’t go well, what things we should never do again, and what things we really need to do better.

We like performance management to be run in a similar way to the way we do work Click To Tweet

That’s how we look at performance management, as well. The quicker those check-ins are, the more focused they can be on what’s necessary today. Then you can build up a history of performance management without making it this time-separated thing where there lacks continuity between point A and point B.

How has your performance management process at BlueCat evolved recently?

Before Reflektive, our people processes were almost always based on spreadsheets or custom forms in existing applications. It seemed like more of a documentation effort than performance management. The forms were outdated, complex and way too time intensive.  

With Reflektive and the way we’ve rolled out Reflektive, it has become an enabler for a process that’s meaningful to us as opposed to a tool that we need to use to do something. If those two things aren’t well-aligned, then it doesn’t matter what the software is.

What is your ultimate goal for performance management for your technical staff at BlueCat?

Traditionally, when performance management is more of a documentation effort, I find that our employees are less willing, and my management is less willing, to document or discuss critical things about employees in more traditional methods. I want our managers and peers of our employees to be comfortable talking about what’s going well, but also what’s not going well.

My ultimate goal is that people are learning and getting better at what they do Click To Tweet

My ultimate goal for performance management is that people are learning and getting better at what they do. They’re becoming better engineers, and they’re becoming better quality professionals. Whatever they do, I want them to get better at it. We’re creating a learning environment, and this performance review process has more to do with that than a more traditional HR compliance view.

What is the best part about working at BlueCat?

What I love about BlueCat is our willingness to keep pushing forward in our market, products, and how we engage with our employees. This is a company that’s constantly looking for ways to be better. It’s a place where everybody can make impact. You don’t have to wait for some large initiative.

Speak up and say, “There’s a better way to do things.” The shorter period of time between when we start something and measure whether it’s working or not, the faster we can course-correct, and our culture empowers us to do that.

How Bluecat Reimagined Performance Management for the Way We Work Today

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