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Understanding HR Technology series – Clear Review (Performance Management)

In the course of what I do I get the chance to come into contact with an impressive array of HR Technology products that could form a part of how enlightened people professionals are taking to reimagining the world of work. Given the avalanche of technology choices faced by our profession I want to give byte size reviews of some of those I’d recommend you look at as we all seek to make our organisations relevant places to attract and retain today’s talent.

It’s been a while but I’m returning with a product not from the over saturated Recruitment Tech market (and especially it’s “fit for bursting” sourcing subsection) but rather the vitally important Performance Management market with the folks at Clear Review.

The performance management problem we are all trying to solve

Since Adam Smith labelled the average factory worker in the 19th century ‘inherently lazy’ we’ve sought to organise and motivate people in our Taylorist economic landscape in an orderly and efficient manner. The words ‘annual appraisal’, for so long a staple diet of the traditional organisational landscape, is now recognised as 2 of the most damaging words uttered to any human being over the course of their career. The ill-timed annual intervention, either attempting to post-rationalise an associated compensation decision on one hand, or showing up how ill-equipped most of our managers in delivering balanced feedback or finally our own flight to traumatic and unfair acts of negative feedback on the other. In short, it’s a bloody mess and in need of rethinking when set against the backdrop of retention and productivity challenges in the workplace. You could say one of the worst ideas since Olaf the Viking ordered 1,000 helmuts with the horns on the inside.

Step forward Clear Review

Stuart Hearn is an impressive fella who has been grappling with maximising the use of performance management for 20 years. He knows the organisational realities and given the here and now (i.e we haven’t really adopted a sustainable, post-annual appraisal alternative) he has taken his extensive in-house experience & consultancy expertise and created a SaaS-based product called Clear Review aimed at breathing some life into the process.

So what does it do ?

Underpinning the product is a shift from a broken annual appraisal to regular and continuous performance management conversations (with the obvious value-add that these are structured around check-ins, objective-setting & development planning at any time of the year and feedback). This small (and obvious) shift is sponsored clearly by all the leading lights in the industry (including Google, PWC and Deloiite) but we have enough corporate dinosaurs to go after who have yet to pluck up the courage to make the obvious switch.

The UI and underpinning workflow is simple and pretty clear (which I like) and thankfully Stuart and the team don’t attempt to sell us the snake oil of business-wide analytics on correlated data that we (HR professionals) accept is pretty meaningless and subjective when combined. This platform seeks to create a better all round experience between line manager and employee, making interventions with peer feedback easy to deliver and in realtime (a massively important sociological solution to the burning problem annual appraisals left us with – the critical timeliness of feedback). In addition :

  • There is alignment with organisational goals that produces clear relevance to the conversations ;

  • An equal focus on development planning as much as employee assessment, which appeals to my strengths-based tendencies ;

  • The ability to ask for and get realtime feedback from peers ;

  • The actionable format of the check-ins allows for focussed discussions and not a rambling chat ;

  • Data is driven to HR and Reward for those organisations where the compensation element is driven by performance management interventions.

  • Clear productivity gains with an automated platform managed on desktop, tablet or mobile, eradicating paper trails. The automated workflows and notifications ensure that managers keep on top of it and the important things get done.

  • With an eye to the sociological again, there is also an in-built coaching video element to ensure managers can access learning on the go, to ensure they maximise all aspects of the performance management discussions.

What did I think?

Taking aside my instinctive distaste for the productivity-sapping annual appraisal, this is more than just slapping lipstick on an old pig. A shift to the benefits of regular discussion, realtime feedback, changing organisational relevance and a recognition that, like the interview process, there is a need to establish a supportive crutch for managers to maximise each intervention with realtime coaching, gets the thumbs up from me. As organisations place a demand for their own nuances to be included, it will be interesting to see what this does for the product roadmap to factor in geographical differences as well as where this integrates with a more collaborative, flatter, more agile organisational template unfolding in the world of work.

Until next time. Let smart technology help build great companies.

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