Documenting the Dialogue

This article accompanies The Endless Conversation.

Monday, December 7, 2015
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By definition, performance conversations are informal discussions held whenever managers and employees see fit. But with no formal requirements for how often such dialogues should take place, how can organizations ensure they are actually occurring?

"The biggest thing companies need to focus on is how they are going to track [and prove] that these things are actually happening," says Kris Duggan, CEO of BetterWorks. "If managers aren't doing them, it's actually worse than it was before the company made the switch."

Technology can be a "key enabler" for documenting informal conversations, according to Dominique Jones, vice president of human resources for Halogen Software Inc.

Combined Insurance/ACE Group relies on its talent-management platform to not only provide a repository for what's discussed during a performance conversation, but to empower HR to pull reports at any time showing whether managers are holding -- and documenting -- "continuous conversation," says Melanie Lundberg, assistant vice president of talent acquisition. Those notes can then be pulled into the year-end-review document, making the formal annual conversation more accurate and less work for the manager.

New York-based PwC doesn't ask managers to document their real-time developmental dialogues with employees. Rather, the multinational professional-services network relies on surveys to assess whether ongoing conversations are occurring across the organization. While Lauren Sandor, PwC's managing director of human capital performance, admits she is "not going to claim victory yet," 80 percent of her company's survey respondents say in-the-moment feedback is occurring on a regular basis. According to Sandor, the fact that conversations are not formally tracked is one of the reasons the new approach has been widely embraced.

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"Having it not documented makes a big difference because people feel freer to talk about it," she says. "They know it's constructive feedback that's coming from a place of development and it doesn't have to be a ding [on] their record because it doesn't get written down."

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