Eric Tan, Managing Director, FedEx Singapore, and Vishesh Dimri, Lead - HR Consulting, HSBC, both place importance on trust, honesty, transparency, and ownership in their approaches, as we find out in these interviews.
FedEx Singapore’s new management system drives trust & transparency
Eric Tan, Managing Director, FedEx Singapore, shares insights into this performance review approach — from its inception, to what it entails, along with what employers could consider in the intended shift to such a model.
Delivery service provider FedEx Singapore (FedEx) is a keen advocate of a culture of continued engagement and transparency at its workplace, one where open communication and trust thrive amongst its over 1,000 employees.
This is done through a series of engagement initiatives such as its ‘Open Door Policy’ and ‘Survey Feedback Action’ (SFA), says Eric Tan, Managing Director, FedEx Singapore (pictured above, left). “This allows our employees to understand the big picture and the part they play in the success of the organisation. FedEx lives up to our corporate philosophy of ‘people-service-profit’: By taking care of our people, they will provide outstanding service for our customers, which enables business growth, and we reinvest this revenue back into our people. All programmes and policies, at every organisational level, synchronise with this philosophy,” he affirms.
One way the company has been driving this is through a change in its performance management system — from a conventional performance appraisal system that utilised a comparative 10-point rating scale leveraging the bell curve methodology, to an enhanced performance review structure, which focuses on the work that employees accomplish (goals), and how it is accomplished (competencies).
Tan explains: “As a ‘people’ company, FedEx strives to continuously improve its performance management processes to drive individual, team, and organisational performance. To achieve this, we assume a holistic approach towards performance management and the employee experience. With a continuous improvement mindset, FedEx across Asia Pacific proactively anticipates process and technological enhancements so as to enable us to successfully transition into a new performance management process.
"These are all part of our concerted efforts to sustain a workplace culture where our people stand at the centre of our corporate philosophy."
What this enhanced performance review structure entails
According to Tan, this enhanced structure is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of what success looks like for the employee. It adopts an absolute rating scale to evaluate employee performance, based on the ratings of “Exceeded Expectations”, “Met Expectations”, and “Did Not Meet Expectations”.
Competencies refer to observable behaviours that an employee exhibits in their role when applying their knowledge, skills and abilities. To ensure these competencies are applicable to employees’ job roles, varying competency models for frontline employees, professionals and managers have been built for their individual application. To illustrate:
- Frontline employees are customer-centric and team-focused. Hence, the focus for them is to adapt to changes and communicate well to both internal and external customers.
- For professionals, having a business thinking mindset is imperative, so they need to build on their analytical skills and make timely decisions and recommendations.
- As for managers, it is critical for them to be equipped with the ability to lead, influence, inspire, and serve, as well as to cultivate exceptional team performance while ensuring their team members are valued and empowered in their day-to-day responsibilities.
No doubt, this change involved several key considerations, with the most impactful one being to instil a growth mindset that encourages employees to focus on future performance as opposed to reflecting on past performance.
It also came with its own set of challenges, with the main one being to manage this change as well as facilitate it. To address this, the HR team developed a collective approach to help prepare and support all employees through the transformation, ensuring a seamless process from start to end.
The employees responded “very well”, as a result. Tan notes: "We focused on employee engagement and concentrated our efforts on fostering genuine commitment between the manager and employee as we recognise the value in supporting our employees in their learning journeys as they develop and grow professionally. We believe this will, in turn, result in higher levels of productivity by our team members."
Overall, this new system goes hand-in-hand both with FedEx’s rewards framework, and career development framework. Tan highlights: “Building a performance-based work culture not only serves to boost employee morale, productivity, and performance, but also prepares the company for strategic workforce planning. It is especially pivotal for us as industry leaders to look at a blend of individual and organisational components to instil a growth culture for our people to be successful.
"Every employee is given the chance to pursue their dream in FedEx, and support is always readily available to help maximise their potential, through training and development platforms accessible to all."
Words of advice
Like Tan and his team, more leaders are shifting away from “quantitative” rating scales, to a more “qualitative” approach to appraisals. Yet, there are still leaders who prefer the former approach. And as Tan points out, there is no perfect structure to follow, as every approach comes with its unique pros and cons.
Thus, he says, it is more important to look at the direction the organisation is headed and adapt a model that works best for both the employees and the organisation at each stage. "The goal is to move all stakeholders, including employees, in a concerted manner toward our collective goal that serves people growth and business profitability."
At FedEx, this also means that apart from working closely with key stakeholders including but not limited to HR and senior management teams, the management is well supported in performance, development, and management skillsets through avid training programmes.
This encompasses effecting a mindset change by shifting from system-related work to providing resources and tools, to empower managers to conduct effective and meaningful performance & development conversations, build manager-employee relationships, and consistently engage their team members by leveraging coaching and feedback skillsets.
Reflecting on the company’s experience, Tan shares his words of encouragement for employers intending to improve their own performance management processes. "Performance is an ongoing journey, and we need to recognise the importance of continuously looking at improving the overarching employee experience by encouraging ongoing learning and communication rigorously and regularly. In any scenario – whether personal or professional – one should not stop learning, developing and upskilling to make the most of their talents and grow on the right trajectory, thereby bringing value to their teams and peers.
"Human performance is the function of many influences: accountability, feedback, motivation, skills and knowledge, rewards and recognition. These influences are interdependent and ultimately result in the desired performance."
HSBC drives manager-employee ownership of performance & development
Vishesh Dimri, Lead - HR Consulting, HSBC, shares how a focus on digital enablement, process effectiveness, and people manager capabilities helps drive open and honest conversations during feedback, foster stronger relationships, and more.
Banking and financial services firm HSBC focuses on three key pillars in driving the new way of work — digital enablement, process effectiveness, and people manager capabilities.
These pillars are what help ensure a holistic approach towards performance management and enablement for both its employees and managers, Vishesh Dimri, Lead - HR Consulting, HSBC (pictured above, right) shares.
First, as part of digital enablement, HSBC has in place an HR mobile application that allows an "easy and simple" adoption of everyday performance on a real-time basis, where employees and managers are able to capture achievements and share regular, two-way feedback via the use of technology. More than an app, it is "a demonstration of flexible and remote working, without compromising on outcomes or comfort", Dimri highlights.
With this app, employees are able to access an HR to-do list, their everyday performance & development plans, online learning resources (Learning On-the-Go), manage personal and employment information, as well as view real-time people manager dashboards, HSBC connections, and the organisation chart.
Additionally, managers are empowered to handle key approvals on-the-go, as well as manage the personal and job details for direct functional reports.
Next, process effectiveness involves the use of everyday performance principles including goal setting and regular check-ins to facilitate the achievement of career aspirations as well as maintain productivity.
"It fosters stronger relationships between managers and colleagues. Managers can support their team members in the right ways and, at the right times, towards a meaningful year-end assessment," Dimri explains.
Finally, the third pillar of people manager capability is enhanced through constant engagement, coaching, and providing content support such as training and briefings, support resources, and guides.
One of the key elements of HSBC's year-end assessment is the 'Fairness Review', which has in place the following governance processes to ensure it remains unbiased:
- seeking risk stewards’ inputs relating to non-financial performance,
- senior management reporting,
- audit checks, and
- evidence of all Fairness Review meeting discussions.
Dimri and his team also make it a point to support people managers in carrying out these reviews, through scenarios-based, bite-sized videos available via e-learning; briefing sessions; by refining the HSBC values to align with its behaviour rating scale to reflect the focus on Fairness Review, as well as via a continuous feedback tool.
Elaborating on this tool, Dimri shares that the feedback functionality enables employees to give, request and receive feedback. This can be done on a continuous basis — for example, when an employee has completed a key meeting or project milestone — or he/she can request feedback on a specific activity.
"We believe that by receiving feedback from their people manager, team members or colleagues can help each employee to better understand how he/she is progressing against his/her goals and what he/she may need to do differently to be successful in the future."
The process also helps to present evidence of employees' performance & development outcomes for their year-end assessment, wherein feedback employees receive can flow into their year-end review forms.
"With this tool, feedback can be requested and sent to multiple colleagues at the same time across a wider network. This supports teamwork, collaboration, and agile ways of working," Dimri notes.
Top tips for employers
Having benefitted from this revised performance management process, the leader shares his learnings and words of advice to employers looking to improve their own processes in this area.
First, he shares, managers must focus on everyday performance & development by having simple conversations throughout the year supporting performance, development, and wellbeing.
"A two-way open and honest conversation is the key to successful performance management, developing trusting relationships, and supporting career aspirations."
Next, he notes the importance of recognition in driving successful performance management. "Recognising our people not only for a job well done, but also for effort and even for taking up a challenging or difficult task. In HSBC Singapore, we have 'At Our Best Recognition', an online tool for employees to celebrate colleagues who bring HSBC values to life. The programme helps to promote a better understanding of values in everyday practice and enables a consistent and equal way of recognising people globally."
Last, he also adds that having enabling tools to help support the performance & development conversation is critical. At HSBC Singapore, this involves a continuous performance tool that helps employees to stay connected with their manager and colleagues, anytime, and anywhere, playing an even more critical role with the "majority of the workforce working from home.
This tool lets employees take ownership by:
- Creating and tracking key activities, including regular conversations with managers, at their convenience; and sharing daily key activities with managers and documenting progress.
- Facilitating regular feedback such as conversations that can be initiated by the employee, manager, or colleague to request, give, or receive feedback to recognise positive performance and behaviour or support future improvements.
- Raising a topic for discussion — for example: discuss the strengths & development plan and focus on wellbeing development.
- Capturing achievements — celebrate success and share experiences.
4 key steps to implement a performance management strategy that supports your business objectives
From the Human Capital Implementation Toolkit, we share a snapshot on how employers can work towards a performance management strategy that cultivates the right environment that connects employees with the organisation and motivates them to excel.
Step 1: Set a strategic performance management philosophy
HR plays a strategic role in ensuring that company goals can be met through Human Capital programmes.
- Establish strategic organisational goals with senior leadership, detailing the key thrusts, KPIs and targets needed in the short, medium and long term to support their vision.
Step 2: Cascade and communicate goals
Provide a clear line of sight to create a more engaged and motivated workforce.
- Cascade corporate goals through business units down to individual employees, enabling them to understand how their actions influence the success of the organisation.
- Communicate strategic objectives and how each performance measure supports those objectives.
- Develop training/development plans for employees to achieve the capabilities to reach these goals.
Step 3: Manage performance
Supporting managers as the main link between employee performance and business outcomes.
- Cultivate a strong pay-for-performance culture.
- Communicate the wage structure so employees understand how it impacts them and how to change their behaviours.
- Design discretionary monetary or non-monetary recognition schemes.
- Empower managers to recognise and reward beyond targets and goals.
Reinforce desired behaviours
- Address the past year’s performance gaps and set new goals for the next year.
- Reinforce desired behaviours by recognising, rewarding and cultivating them. Identify role models within the organisation to be champions of certain desired behaviours.
Step 4: Evaluate and reward performance
Managers’ ability to evaluate and reward performance, and optimise touchpoints for growth and learning will be key to the success of this step.
- Track performance against targets and schedule periodic performance reviews.
- Seek timely and multiple sources of performance feedback, e.g., managers, peers, customers, etc. to provide a fair and holistic assessment.
Equip and train managers to
- Drive and evaluate performance.
- Coach poor performers.
- Conduct performance conversations.
Conduct performance conversations regularly at meaningful points
- These allow managers to manage employee expectations, identify performance gaps, address performance concerns, discuss future growth plans, and enable employees to voice their opinions.
While systems and practices are essential, a key differentiator for an effective performance management practice is the alignment between culture, values and systems. This involves establishing an organisational culture that provides steadfast support to employees in their personal learning and development that views every touchpoint as a growth opportunity.
The performance management process should not be solely centred on employees’ past contributions but perform as future-focused stay conversations that support and engage employees in ways to grow, learn and improve.
FedEx Singapore and HSBC are Human Capital Partners in the Human Capital Partnership Programme.
The Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Programme is a tripartite initiative that brings together a community of exemplary employers in Singapore who have progressive employment practices in their organisations and are committed to developing their human capital.
Photos: Provided (L-R Eric Tan, MD, FedEx Singapore, and Vishesh Dimri, Lead - HR Consulting, HSBC)