“I want to do it differently this year.”
“No, I’m sorry. We don’t have the [fill in the blank: a)time, b) money, c)manager support, d) executive support, and on and on].”
How many times have you had that conversation with your manager? (Cue the spotlights for all the Human Resource managers who don’t want to update their performance management practices.) Executive teams are really good at shutting things down quickly, too.
So what do you do? Just keep getting frustrated? I don’t think so . . . I’ve got new news, based on research. It will involve changing some old habits, so hold on.
If you want to change minds, begin by telling your audience what they will do differently once the change is underway. Wait until you’ve covered that completely, then tell them why. In example of the new performance management program, that means indicating right off how a managers’ responsibilities will improve, rather than repeating and repeating the general principle of the value of improved performance, as is typically done.
It turns out that human thoughts run down two parallel tracks at the same time. We’re feeling and thinking simultaneously although we are not conscious of this. As we go along and react to our environment, we turn the volume up on one or the other.
Feelings act as the gatekeeper for our rational thinking. Our strong automatic impulses are to tune into the familiar and comfortable and stay there. To get us to switch gears and pay attention to logic, we need to help our listeners turn down this impulsive volume to a whisper. The most effective way, research tells us, is to talk about the new way they will do things. If you do this — intentionally avoiding emotional triggers and saving the explanations for later — you will entice your listeners to focus on the changes you are introducing without unintentionally inspiring strong knee-jerk reactions.
How can you make your communications influential in this way? Here’s a black and white (very simplified) example.
Say you want to introduce “ratingless” performance management. If you call your initiative “ratingless performance management,” you’re bound to have your listeners’ feelings amping up to the tune of: “Flavor of the month,” “Another time suck from HR,” “It will never work and then we’ll have to change it back,” and so on. This creates well fortified obstacles for your change messages since what comes to our minds most easily seems to be the most true.
But if you call your initiative “streamlined performance management,” they will be more likely to start with an open mind, as long as the descriptor, “streamlined,” is true. To take the example further, you’ll have to explain — first and quickly — that what they will do in the new performance management program that is much simpler and less time consuming than in the current program. Once you’ve made the case, you can go on to explain why the change matters.
Can you take a minute to think about your own reactions to an idea (“ratingless”) vs. an action (“streamlined steps”)? If you listen closely to yourself, I think you’ll notice a difference in how you feel when you hear each one, even though this is an oversimplified example.
The same concepts apply to employee communications. Let’s use “pay for performance” for the discussion. Pay for performance is a form of change management. If you have a thriving business, you need to change or update managers’ and employees’ minds about what is important to achieve at the beginning of each year. You’ll be more likely to be successful if you plan how to turn their initial knee-jerk emotional reactions down quickly (like every employee’s and manager’s ever popular, “Here we go again”), so they can focus on what they should do differently this year.
You know you’re good, but are you a great communicator? This is Episode 4 in a series on improving employee loyalty through better, uncomplicated end-of-year compensation and performance management communications
Episode 1 = Expect More (From Yourself) This Year
Episode 2 = Value End-of-Year Implementation–How to Make It Important, Worthwhile and Useful to help you get started
Episode 3 =Tips for Improving Manager Meetings to give you new strategies
Margaret O’Hanlon, CCP brings deep expertise to discussions on employee pay, performance management, career development and communications at the Café. Her firm, re:Think Consulting, provides market pay information and designs base salary structures, incentive plans, career paths and their implementation plans. Earlier, she was a Principal at Willis Towers Watson. Margaret is a Board member of the Bay Area Compensation Association (BACA). She coauthored the popular eBook, Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communications, a toolkit that all practitioners can find at https://gumroad.com/l/everythingiscommunication.
This post originally appeared on Compensation Cafe
Author: Margaret O’Hanlon