Off-the-peg performance management tools might seem like a quick-fix, but Alex Blyth reports on one company which discovered the benefits of going it alone.
"You don't really get a second shot at performance management," said Penny Wallace, director of learning and development at pub chain, Spirit Group. "When we acquired 1,413 pubs from Scottish & Newcastle Retail in March 2004, we knew we had just one chance to introduce a single performance management tool that would bring together two organisations that had traditionally taken very different approaches to the issue."
There was already a team working on the issue of performance management and this gave them a clear focus over the summer of 2004 as they developed a tool called Spirit Explorer. The company did not even consider off-the-peg solutions. Wallace said: "In my experience they always involve extra hidden costs. We wanted full control over the development of a tool that was specifically tailored to our needs."
The company trialled Spirit Explorer with randomly selected groups of employees. Project manager, Nick Bird said: "Apart from anything else, we wanted to overcome the cynicism prevalent amongst some more long-serving members of staff by showing them that we were listening to their views and acting on them."
Phase one was launched in August 2004 and involved 19 coaches working with 300 pub managers and central support staff over a nine-week period. Each one-to-one session was made up of two components. The first part was a review of performance against pre-agreed key performance indicators.
Bird was keen to stress that this involved more than just presenting managers with a set of figures. "We also looked at behaviour, and did everything possible to ensure that the review became the start of an open discussion," he said.
The second part focused on the future. Managers agreed individual performance targets, outlined related actions, defined blockages and drivers, and then linked this into personal development and career progression. On average each session lased three to four hours, but since each was individually tailored, the length and content varied greatly.
According to Wallace, the entire process has cost the business just £55,000 so far. She even believes that, despite the length of those one-to-ones, it has required a rela