3 Key Learnings From HCI’s 2018 Performance Coaching & Development Conference

Human Capital Institute’s popular performance management event in Chicago underwent a bit of a face lift this year starting with a new name: the HCI Performance Coaching & Development Conference.

“Part of the evolution within performance management has been a change in how we talk about it within the space,” said Kara Schott, SVP of Events & Content Development at HCI.

“We saw that ‘performance innovation’ was a popular way of talking about that two or three years ago, but as organizations move towards a model of continuous conversation and development, experts are framing this as performance coaching instead of performance management.”

Experts are framing this as performance coaching instead of performance management Click To Tweet

The theme this year — “Coaching managers to drive performance” — made it clear that it’s imperative for managers to have the adequate tools in order to coach their teams towards higher performance. Here are some other key takeaways from the annual event.

Pay and Performance Should Be Seen as Twins

Decoupling pay from performance was clearly top of mind for several conference goers this year. Jennifer Atkins, founder of Strategic Compensation Solutions and compensation manager at CarMax, challenged us to think of performance and compensation as twins: they share DNA and a mother, but they are distinct, different, and should not be siloed if you want a happy, healthy “family.”

The University of Virginia is one organization that has been successful in developing a “twin” mindset towards pay and performance. According to Atkins, the key to their success was 1) frequently sending pulse surveys to employees in the early stages of their new program and 2) being almost painfully transparent with employees about pay strategy.

Being brutally open about market research in relation to pay structure at the university created a few uncomfortable conversations upfront between managers and their reports. However, this new approach helped the university set the standard for transparency and direct communication in dealing with a matter that was historically contentious and did not facilitate a space to coach or have a two-way conversation.

One Size Fits One

Year after year, attendees join this conference to figure out how to ditch the traditional annual performance review. It was clear from an expansive agenda of success stories from a variety of companies that no two performance management reboots are the same. When shopping for new performance coaching solutions, you must remember that “one size fits one.”

No two performance management reboots are the same Click To Tweet

Jennifer Sharp, AVP of HR at Symetra, became the spokeswoman of that mindset at the conference. After putting in the work to formalize her company’s core values and philosophy, she and her team decided the best performance management approach would be to make changes “one conversation at a time.”

Enter the Swift check-in: As opposed to a traditional 1×1 review, Sharp described the Swift check-in as “coming up for air.” It addresses obstacles employees face as well as how managers can work with employees remove those obstacles while developing new and existing skill sets. Sharp was able to implement this new program in less than one year at her 60-year-old, 1,800-person insurance company (learn how here).

SEE ALSO: Ditching the Annual Review and Ratings – Surviving the Switch

As opposed to copying another company’s model, Sharp took the time to develop a program that was intrinsically Symetra. It paid off.

Data Should Not Replace Manager Development

Every year I attend this conference, the conversation seems to shift more towards the imminent role artificial intelligence and data analytics will play in performance management. This conversation is important to have as technology companies like Reflektive start to introduce products that will make these futuristic concepts part of daily life in the workplace.

Data will never be the only thing that drives business decisions Click To Tweet

However, it was clear from every single presentation, no matter how future-forward it leaned, that data will never be the only thing that drives business decisions. That’s where managers come in.

SEE ALSO: How to Have Effective Feedback Conversations

Jonathan Raymond, author of Good Authority and CEO of Refound, hosted a book signing at the conference. The book succinctly details the secret sauce to driving positive business results at any organization: empowering managers to have consistent 1x1s with their reports that facilitate mentorship and real-time feedback. It was an excellent takeaway that reminded us all that the real work would begin after the event.