The upheaval to everyone’s lives and ways of working caused by the recent Coronavirus outbreak has prompted a lot of discussion in the online people and culture communities I’m a part of. At DD, planning for our annual reviews was already well underway when the UK went into lockdown and we all moved to a working from home model.
At the time, I don’t think anyone in the DD people leadership team gave a second thought as to whether we would continue as planned or postpone until we were back in the office. We were sure that going ahead as planned would be the right thing for our team, for a number of reasons. In hindsight, I’d like to think we made the right decision.
Open communication and regular feedback
Regular communication and feedback within our team are one of the cornerstones of how we run our business. We’re a small team with a flat management structure and our leadership team puts a lot of energy into providing opportunities for the team to have open and honest conversations about their career aspirations and provide feedback on how they feel about working at DD.
We use an online employee engagement tool that provides a regular touchpoint, which allows us to gauge the sentiment of the team on a number of key aspects, but nothing provides a more useful insight into how people are feeling about their work than having a conversation with them.
We’re lucky that our agile way of working means our teams get the opportunity to have daily conversations on how they’re feeling about the project they’re working on. We supplement this with regular, deeper conversations with each person about how they’re feeling about the work they’re doing and the team they’re working with.
Every six weeks throughout the year I’ll have a one to one conversation with every member of the team. This is a great opportunity to have an informal but structured conversation about a particular aspect of the way we’re supporting each person in their career at DD. We’ll talk in confidence about topics including career progression opportunities, company strategy, project concerns and mental wellness support. It’s a big commitment of my time, I’ll be honest, but it’s one of the things I love most about my job.
Why we decided to continue with our annual reviews during a global health crisis
The logistical transition to working from home has been relatively smooth for us. We’re a tech company so we’ve already become proficient in using many of the tools a lot of us have been relying on so heavily in recent weeks. This means our team doesn’t feel uncomfortable having in-depth conversations over video conference. I think this was one of the key reasons we felt it wouldn’t be a problem to continue to do our annual review conversations remotely.
Annual reviews can be complex, sometimes challenging conversations that require all participants to feel completely comfortable in their surroundings in order to fully engage in the discussion. Being comfortable with video conference etiquette meant everyone involved in the review conversations could completely focus on the substance of the discussion rather than feeling insecure about the format of the conversation. This might not work for all companies but the investment we’ve made in getting to know all our team members meant we were able to have the review conversations without worrying that people might be distracted by the technology we were using.
The main reason we felt like it was important to continue with our review discussions as normal was that we’ve always done them at this time of year. With all the tumult and disruption that’s been happening to people’s lives, we wanted to provide as much continuity as possible to our team’s work-life.
Although we are suffering the same constraints and pressures as most companies right now we are completely aware that this is not in any way a reflection on the hard work and commitment of our team. We feel that it is therefore only right to provide them with the same opportunities as we ordinarily would to reflect on their achievements over the past year and talk to us about their individual career and personal aspirations. This means that when we’re once again in a position to support them in their career growth we know exactly where they want their career path with us to take them. It might not seem like it now, but this crisis will come to an end at some point.
We’d like to hope that the investment we’ve made in taking the time to have these discussions now will position us well to be able to support our team’s career growth aspirations once we’re out the other side of this crisis.
A sense of continuity and purpose is essential
These are difficult times for everyone and at DD we know how lucky we are to be in a position where everyone in the team has been able to retain their jobs. Responsible employers will always aim to have the welfare of their employees at front of mind. This is not a difficult thing to do when things are going well for a business, but much harder when going through a challenging period.
Supporting our team and providing them with a sense of continuity and purpose during this time is currently one of our primary company objectives. Continuing regular company activities, such as our annual performance reviews, that provide this sense of continuity and opportunity for open dialogue is one way we’ve been able to do this.