Managing Diversity in the Workplace: Building an Inclusive Organizational Culture

Best practices for managing diversity in the workplace to promote innovation, productivity, performance and profits. Tips for engaging a diverse workforce.

Diversity in the workplace is increasingly becoming a top priority for all organizational leaders. Initially, workplace diversity was merely a tick in the box with a narrow focus on just hiring professionals from different age, geographical and gender groups. The conversation has now matured significantly, with expansion not only in the scope of what diversity in the workplace entails, but also how it pans out. Let’s dive deep into the various aspects of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Understanding diversity in the workplace

In the simplest terms, workplace diversity can be understood as a workplace which gives equal voice, recognition, representation and value to individuals of different backgrounds ranging from gender, race, culture, ethnicity to sexual orientation, religion and much more. More importantly, diversity in the workplace must not only take into consideration overt differences in looks and appearances, but also the covert ones, like differences in thoughts, opinions, perspectives, experiences, etc. At the same time, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is no longer limited to hiring diverse groups, but also ensuring their equal participation in all organizational processes and decision making. 

Types of diversity in the workplace

As the understanding of diversity in the workplace has been expanding, so has the types of diverse groups which are being given equal recognition. There is no global benchmark on which types for diversity an organization has to take into account, as the backgrounds of individuals vary significantly. Here is a quick list of types of diversity that organizations consider significant today:

  • Gender
  • Culture
  • Race
  • Age
  • Socio-economic background
  • Ethnicity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Geographical background
  • Disabilities
  • Education
  • Language

This list can go on based on the unique experiences of each organization. More often than not, gender diversity in the workplace, age, geography is common to all organizations irrespective of their location and industry focus. Other forms like cultural diversity in the workplace or diversity of religion, socio-economic background, etc. are more common to developing countries like India. On the other hand, diversity of race, ethnicity, etc. are more found in organizations headquartered in western countries. 

Benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Increasingly, organizations are viewing diversity and inclusion in the workplace as a business case bringing along multiple benefits for both the employees as well as the employers. Some of the top benefits of workplace diversity include:

1. Innovation

Diversity brings along different ideas, perspectives and experiences which enables organizations to innovate and think out of the box. According to a 2018 study by Harvard Business Review, companies with higher than average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues. Therefore, diverse thoughts can lead to new revenue streams with enterprise-wide innovation.

2. Market expansion

Workplace diversity also promotes competitive advantage for organizations as they are able to cater to diverse customer needs and expectations. According to research, around 70% of diverse companies are better positioned to capture new markets. Diversity ensures that your employees understand diverse markets and are able to make inroads into them.

3. Profits

Focus on workplace diversity positively impacts the bottom line of an organization as well. According to a McKinsey study, companies in the top quartile of gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median. Additionally, a diverse team can boost productivity by 35%. Invariably, increased productivity indicates greater profits.  

4. Talent pool

Organizations that value diversity witness twin benefits when it comes to onboarding human resources. Firstly, they have access to a much larger talent pool when they are not targeting a homogeneous group of individuals. Secondly, professionals themselves believe an organization’s focus on diversity and inclusion is an important attribute when they are looking out for opportunities. According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. 

Creating a business case for diversity in the workplace: Going beyond the numbers

In addition to showcasing how a focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace could yield greater productivity, innovation and other business performance indicators, it is important to scratch beyond the surface. Here are a few practices that organizations leading the diversity and inclusion dialogue have put to play to create leadership as well as employee buy-in:

1. Identify their pain points

Organizations can converse with leaders and employees on a deeper level and understand their pain points and any instances of stereotyping, discrimination, etc. they may have faced. It may not only be limited to their professional life, but can span across. Exclusion and discrimination at times takes such subtle forms that individuals don’t even realize it is happening to them. However, when they are made aware about the same, they become advocates of inclusion. In such a situation, those in positions of power and influence tend to make a difference and get inclined towards managing diversity in the workplace.  

2. Communicate employee pulse

Unless leaders acknowledge that there is a problem and need for diversity and inclusion, getting the needle moving towards building a business case is very difficult. Therefore, it is extremely crucial to let the leaders know the pulse of the organization as a whole. Organizations must gauge how their employees value diversity and their inclination towards working for an inclusive organization. When leaders are presented with evidence from their own organization, they are bound to see the business case for D&I.


3. Negative reinforcement

It is also important to showcase the negative impact of not focusing on such efforts will create a sense of urgency and importance. Simply talking about how lack of D&I results in employee turnover and the cost of each employee turnover will be a good starting point. When leaders do a cost-benefit analysis, the cost saved on replacement of employees will outweigh the cost of D&I initiatives, creating a clear business case.  

4. Identify business challenges

Business challenges due to a lack of focus on diversity and inclusion can serve as a clear business case. For instance, if all other organizations in an industry are focusing on D&I, the organization not considering it as a business case might face reputational risks in the market. Therefore, it is very important to identify business challenges which either arise due to absence of workplace diversity efforts or which can have a potential solution with such efforts. 

How to measure the level of workplace diversity?

Before jumping on to how to manage diversity in the workplace and promote it, organizations must focus on measuring and tracking a few key metrics. Unless organizations have a baseline on the challenges to diversity along with the diversity of inclusion goals, their efforts and investments will not entail 100% success. The following metrics can help organizations identify gaps, prioritize initiatives and set targets to achieve their diversity goals:

1. Recruitment

The first metric to measure is the first step of the employee lifecycle. On the one hand, organizations must measure if their final recruitment process has a fair mix of diverse individuals, balanced with the application mix. For instance, if 40% of women applied, look at the mix of men and women who have actually been hired to check if it has a fair representation of women. Additionally, focus on identifying reasons for weakness of applicant diversity. For instance, if applications from a particular group are virtually missing, organizations need to revisit the job description and other parameters to rectify their recruitment strategies and processes.

2. Retention

Next in line, organizations must also evaluate their performance in retaining workplace diversity. At regular intervals, 5 years, 10 years and so on, organizations must measure their diversity mix and compare it with the previous levels to understand if the level of diversity is increasing or decreasing. 

3. Promotion

Organizations need to also track the promotions they make and compare the ones awarded to members of diverse groups vis-a-vis others. For instance, if the representation of women at the entry level is 30%, a similar proportion must be witnessed years later at the top management. If the situation is any different, then organizations need to revisit their development efforts, promotion parameters and retention strategies. 

4. Pay and benefits

This parameter to measure workplace diversity doesn’t need much explanation. Those at the same level, performing the same role with similar skills and competencies must receive similar compensation and benefits. Organizations that fair well on this metric are usually more diverse and inclusive.

In addition, metrics like representation across departments, participation in events, development opportunities, etc. are also important to gauge the true level of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

Organizations can leverage a variety of tools to measure and track these metrics and subsequently, set goals, conceptualize strategies and improve their performance. Employee inclusion surveys are an effective way to gauge employee opinion on diversity at the workplace, especially to understand their take on fairness of promotions, recognition, participation, etc. Focus group discussion with employees representing diverse groups to understand their pulse and pain points can also be highly effective. Finally, unconscious bias tests like the Implicit Association Test by Harvard can help organizations understand their position in the diversity and inclusion spectrum. 

How to promote diversity in the workplace? 

The following section will focus on how to manage diversity in the workplace and promote the same. Open communication, transparency, treating everyone with equality and personally are a few established practices, there are others equally effective, but sometimes overlooked. Based on industry benchmarks, we have curated a list of the best practices for leaders striving to promote workplace diversity: 


1. Get hiring right

Hire talent from diverse backgrounds starting with application sourcing. The job description must be inclusive and shouldn’t even subtly indicate preference for one group over another. Additionally, the criteria for selection must be objective. Many organizations emphasize on a cultural fit when it comes to hiring, the meaning of which is mostly subjective. Generally, cultural fit refers to a homogeneous group of people Therefore, the parameters for selection must be objective and comparable, supported by a diverse interview panel. Finally, organizations should limit the notion of referral hiring, where existing employees refer individuals from their networks for the role. While this is an easy way to access reliable talent, however, more often than not, this limits diversity. 

2. Policies and practices

Organizations must have a zero tolerance policy towards any form of discrimination, bullying etc. on any attribute, including diversity. Such policies must be effectively communicated with strategic practices for strong implementation. For instance, there must be a clear and easy process for grievance sharing and redressal, strict action against the perpetrator, if found guilty, etc. At the same time, supporting diverse groups by infrastructural and other efforts is also important. For instance, having feeding spaces for new mothers, promoting braille signage or ramps for those with physical disabilities can promote diverse representation. 

3. Training and mentoring

Promoting sensitization training programs, mentoring initiatives and other such efforts are likely to reduce unconscious bias and other obstacles in the way of workplace diversity. Not only will such programs help everyone value the perspectives and contributions of others, it will also inspire confidence in diverse groups to come up the curve in all parameters. Communicating in a sensitive manner, showcasing empathy, etc. are all by products of such efforts. 

4. Promote executive diversity

It is important to have diverse representation from top to bottom. Unless diverse groups see diversity at the C-suite level, they will always doubt their capabilities to rise in a particular organization. Therefore, workplace diversity must focus on creating diverse role models in leadership and executive positions with influence and decision making capabilities. 

Managing a diverse team remotely: Top 6 strategies

With a quick transition to remote work as a result of the pandemic has pushed organizations to reinvent their strategies on how to manage diversity in the workplace for a remote team. Here are the top six strategies that most forward looking organizations are adopting:

1. Facilitate team communication, preferably with video

Facilitate communication and collaboration between diverse team members by assigning group tasks and projects. Ensure that team members have access to tools like Slack, Trello, etc. for effective collaboration. In addition, virtual coffee breaks with video interaction between different employees can be a great tool.

2. Be mindful

Managing workplace diversity remotely requires business leaders and managers to be mindful and don a blanket of empathy. It is very important to understand the different set of challenges that each employee is facing given the remote scenario and personalizing the approach to team management. A cookie cutter approach of expecting everyone to work at the same time and deliver the same output together might be an overstretch. 

3. Create virtual Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

Transitioning to a virtual ERGs is the need of the hour. There are several ways to go about this. For one, organizations could simply take their existing ERGs online. At the same time, there is sufficient opportunity for organizations to lead the way for newer and smaller ERGs which were previously shunned off because of capacity constraints. With the flexibility to join sessions from home, such ERGs will see an increase in participation from both those who identify with the cause, but are shy of participating in person and allies too. 

4. Virtual team building activities

Virtual team building activities which require team participation could be leveraged by pairing up diverse minds. Finally, organizations need to step up their tech game with the right tools like Zoom to conduct virtual sessions and meetups.

5. Encourage digital training

Managing a diverse team remotely requires significant training to deal with individual and collective biases. As the workforce is going remote, organizations need to move such training to digital platforms. It might be a good idea to experiment with HR tech tools that help employees in the identification of bias and offer best practices to combat the same. Such tools can be calibrated to match the personal pace of each employee. At the same time, they can ensure complete anonymity and help employees navigate their way out of different biases. 

6. Lead by example

Team leaders need to keep their bias and comfort at bay when dealing with team members remotely. Firstly, leaders must ensure an open door policy to inspire confidence in different team members to approach them for anything without hesitation. Secondly, they should not fall back on certain favorite employees just because it is easier to collaborate with them remotely. It is important to give each team member the same treatment even when they are working from home. 

Challenges to managing diversity in the workplace

Most organizations today acknowledge the importance of diversity in the workplace. Additionally, they possess the right resources and make sizable investments towards diversity and inclusion initiatives However, not all efforts reap success. Here are the top reasons why workplace initiatives fail in organizations: 

1. Lack of Leadership Buy-In

Whenever an advocate of workplace diversity brings up the topic, there is little conversation on the way forward. Either it is outrightly dismissed, or the charge is given to an HR professional to deliberate on the next steps. Invariably, the lack of leadership involvement prevents the development of a culture that sees value in diversity and inclusion, causing such initiatives to fail. 

Mitigating the challenge: It is worth the effort to illustrate to the senior stakeholders the ROI of diversity and inclusion programs. This doesn’t simply mean quoting data points from industry reports. Rather, it involves projecting the impact of such programs with specific benefits to the organization’s priorities. 

2. Employee Resistance

Lack of leadership buy-in tends to percolate down to employee resistance. When employees feel that their leadership is not serious about a particular line of action, their commitment to the same also decreases. Especially employees that do not come under the diversity gamete see diversity training more as a mandate than something they look forward to.

Mitigating the challenge: It might be a good idea to not force everyone to attend each diversity training. While some sessions can be held organization wide which are generic in nature, others can have a sign up system. The freedom of choice is likely to boost participation and prevent such initiatives from failure. 

3. Tick in the Box Approach

For many organizations, managing diversity in the workplace comes from FoMo or the fear of missing out or just because that’s the latest trend. In such a situation, diversity & inclusion initiatives become more of a tick in the box, as opposed to genuine effort. This rarely has any real impact because it fails to deal with the unconscious bias and the whole sensitization and inclusion process, subsequently failing the strategy at large.

Mitigating the challenge: Organizations must focus on crafting a winning strategy which does not end on information dissemination, but actually focuses on behavioural changes with subtle nudges and consecutive sessions to bring about a cultural transformation.

4. Lack of Consistency

Conventionally for many organizations, diversity & inclusion initiatives were a result of an incident or an issue with a lack of a consistent approach to managing the diversity in the workplace. Efforts on a case to case basis lack authenticity and impact. 

Mitigating the challenge: It is best to have a consistent strategy to roll out the diversity and inclusion efforts instead of simply waiting for the next issue to fire up. Integrate diversity initiatives into the daily course of work and engagement activities, rather than making it yet another KRA for the employees, may be a good approach.

5. Poor Grievance Processes

The lack of an effective grievance process renders a situation where someone who is uncomfortable is unable to share the challenges they are facing. This will invariably mess with their mental wellbeing and in turn affect performance and engagement at work, leading to a failure of the initiatives.

Mitigating the challenge: Setting up an effective and robust process to manage grievances must be an integral part of any organization’s diversity strategy. Ensuring that the complainant is kept anonymous to prevent any form of domination or bullying along with a legally vetted process which ensures confidentiality will promote confidence within employees to share their grievances.

Building blocks for diversity and inclusion in the workplace

The foundation of diversity and inclusion in the workplace starts with a firm acknowledgement of the need for the same and a strategic plan of action. There is no doubt about the fact that successfully managing workplace diversity is the route to a positive employee experience. When each employee feels valued and receives a fair treatment, the engagement quotient is bound to soar high. Thus, organizations need to step up their efforts and manage a diverse team to reap benefits of innovation, belongingness and engagement. Here, organizations can leverage collaboration with platforms like SuperBeings to gauge employee pulse on diversity efforts. Such platforms can bring in consciousness and sensitivity at all levels with data-driven, real-time solutions based on industry practices to promote and manage diversity in the workplace.  

Suggested reading:

An Overlooked Path to Diversity and Inclusion: Active Listening

Decoding Employee Engagement with Inclusion and Diversity

Make your organisation a diverse workplace for your employees. Book a demo today to streamline your organisation's people management process.

Garima Shukla

Marketing, SuperBeings

Hello world! I am Garima and I research and write on everything we are doing to make the world of work a better place at SuperBeings

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OKRs
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Agile and OKRs: What You Need to Know to Thrive in a VUCA World

It is no longer an assumption that the traditional approach to annual goal setting and review has run its course. The VUCA world demands more quick and adaptable business models.

While the agile values and methodology was initially created for software delivery, you can apply the same to transform how you set and achieve your business goals. 

In this article, we will focus on:

  • Relevance of agile and OKRs in the VUCA world
  • Importance of leveraging agile techniques for OKRs
  • Best agile and OKR framework for growing organizations

Why you need to reimagine goal setting in the VUCA world

Traditionally, goal setting has been a very static and long-term process for organizations. Here are a few key components of traditional goal setting and performance management:

  • Annual or multi-year goals with little or no interventions at regular intervals to realign on changing priorities
  • Top-down approach — goals being set by those at the top with minimal inputs from those working on the ground
  • Only annual feedback cycles and the inability to identify or address challenges in real time
  • Lack of flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances or situations, which are uncertain and ambiguous

This form of goal setting and performance management had relevance for organizations operating in steady and stable market conditions. 

However, in today’s VUCA world, the pace of change is skyrocketing and organizations unable to tide with the same are finding it extremely difficult to survive, let alone thrive. 

Some of the reasons to reimagine goal setting for VUCA world include:

  • Increased globalization requires businesses to be agile and adapt to changes at all times
  • Focus on creating short term goals and action plans
  • Need to relook at business priorities due to changing market conditions and customer expectations 
  • Need to incorporate constant feedback from diverse stakeholders
  • Need to focus on collaborative goal setting over top down command

Relevance of agile and OKRs for growing organizations

While it may not be apparent in the first look, agile and OKRs are quite complementary and combining the two can be a great step for growing organizations. Here’s why —

  • OKRs can help you understand the end goal and envision what success will look like. 
  • On the other hand, the agile methodology can enable you to create the right roadmap with frequent experimentation to reach the OKRs successfully. 

Here are a few reasons why you should combine agile and OKRs for your organization:

  • Set shorter goals for each quarter with the flexibility to look at the results in real time
  • Agile iterations based on learning which can be communicated across teams 
  • Shorter feedback cycles which prevent investment losses that might occur if the whole project/ goal has to be reworked
  • Continuous improvement with frequent retrospectives which can enable you to reflect on what is working well
  • Focus on collaborative goal setting and performance management with team autonomy
  • Agile approach to progress tracking

How to use agile techniques for OKRs

Now that it is clear why working agile and OKRs together makes sense for growing organizations, let’s quickly explore the top ways in which you can apply agile techniques to your OKR framework to make goal setting and performance management suitable for the VUCA world. 

Agile Value 1: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Ensure collaborative OKR setting, assigning OKR champions and the right team members to execute the same
  • Facilitate clear understanding and communication of the intention and expectation behind each OKR and the responsibility for every team member

Agile Value 2: Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Focus on clear outcomes and key results instead of comprehensive literature on why something is important
  • Facilitate shorter feedback cycles to gauge challenges early on and ensure feasibility of the OKRs
  • Reduce administrative overheads and complex processes related to OKR setting and progress tracking by using a simple, integrated OKR tool

Agile Value 3: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Ensure continuous development by taking real time feedback from internal customers i.e. stakeholders in the leadership

Agile Value 4: Responding to change over following a plan

  • Facilitate dynamic planning over a static plan with quarterly OKRs
  • Ensure adaptability to change, uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Promote short cadence to gauge achievability and relevance of key results early on

Best agile and OKR framework

In this last section of agile and OKR for better goal setting and performance management, we will uncover the top framework. 

We have combined the best components of different frameworks like waterfall goals, delivery agile, scaling, full stack agile, into a single framework with 5 major components that can help you enhance the complementary potential of agile and OKR 

This approach can help you leverage the benefits of agile methodologies and OKR framework to impact all aspects of organizational structure for achievement of goals, including the culture, strategy, initiatives, tactics, etc. The framework is premised on:

1. Create value based OKRs

  • Focus on creating value based OKRs instead of activity based
  • Activity based OKRs are effective for specific projects, but for organizational goals, the focus should be on value
  • Instead of focusing only on the outcomes, have a clear understanding about how each of the outcomes can create value for the organization
  • The activities for each OKR should be a part of the agile roadmap and not the end destination

If you are struggling with combining agile and OKRs for your organizations, chances are you are focusing on activity based key results which often resemble agile steps, leading to confusion and inability to meet goals. 

2. Facilitate horizontal alignment for shared OKRs

  • Encourage collaborative OKR setting with realistic timelines and short intervals
  • Make OKRs team/ department specific and acknowledge avenues for collaboration and alignment between teams on shared OKRs
  • Acknowledge OKR dependencies between teams and facilitate transparency and horizontal alignment
  • Avoid splitting OKRs for a shared goal between teams, rather create opportunities for working together

For instance, if you have an event coming up and wish to successfully execute the same, the objective will be common, with specific value based key results for each team.

Objective: Successfully execute the 7th edition of our annual event

Key Results

  • Get 1000+ unique registrations
  • Raise INR 20,00,000 in sponsorship
  • Curate 5 high impact panels
  • Get 10+ media and affiliate partners
  • Get 5000+ impressions on social media with organic promotion

If you look closely, while the objective is shared, key results are spread across sales, marketing, and even product/ services teams

3. Combine quality and quantity results

Your agile and OKR framework should enable you to get the best of both worlds when it comes to results. Agile results by nature are qualitative in nature and focus on the features that you wish to ascertain in a specific period of time. On the other hand, OKRs are driven by metrics. Thus, you can use a combination of the two for effective results:

  • Use OKRs to validate goals set using the agile methodology
  • Ensure each key result has a quantitative (data) and qualitative aspect (value)
  • Use a combination of agile and OKRs to ensure that your progress is positively impacting the organization

The combination can help you create an ideal balance between outputs and outcomes which are both critical when it comes to goal achievement and performance management. 

4. Promote use of data

  • Leverage data and evidence to create your agile based OKRs
  • Instead of creating OKR based on leadership opinion alone, validate the same with market study
  • Don’t rely completely on hypothetical representation, undertake primary and secondary research to ensure relevance and perceived achievability

Pro-tip:

Using data and not relying solely on opinions will help you set agile OKRs which don’t under or over estimate the goals. For instance, if the market data on traffic to a new website in your industry is 20,000 clicks in one week, your OKR can focus on reaching 25,000 to make it aspirational but achievable up to 80%. 

However, if you set the target at 50,000 or above, it will become too far fetched and the team might not even strive for it. On the flip side, if the target is only at 10,000, it will not encourage your employees to push the boundaries. Thus, you need to replace opinions and command OKRs with data backed experimentation.

5. Build self organizing teams

  • Provide you teams with a clear idea of what the larger vision looks like
  • Encourage them to set their own OKRs and help with a direction to achieve the same
  • Facilitate team autonomy and empower your team members with the right tools and resources like SuperBeings to not only set OKRs, but also track progress in real time and grade them at the end of the cycle. (Learn more)

Self organizing teams are important for growing organizations as they proactively take onus and ownership of achieving OKRs and lead to a greater degree of success. Step away from controlling detailed plans for each OKR and encourage the leadership to provide direction. 

Wrapping Up

To conclude, if you combine agile and OKR, you have for yourself a clear model for success which you can easily apply to goal setting and performance management. Furthermore, leveraging the right technology resources can help you stay on track and enable you to thrive in the VUCA world. 

OKRs
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How to Create a High Performance Culture Using OKR Methodology?

Like most fast growing organizations, you might also be leveraging the OKR methodology to set, implement and facilitate effective goal setting to maximize growth. If not, you should start using OKRs ASAP.

OKRs not only provide an excellent goal setting framework but also drive high performance when implemented strategically. Most importantly, with enhanced goal visibility and transparency, OKRs ensure that everyone is on the same page which is the foundation of a cohesive and high performing culture. 

In this article, we will discuss 8 ways in which you can adopt the OKR methodology to build a thriving company culture.

Use OKR methodology in 8 ways

1. Focus and clarity

A high performance and thriving company culture is based on the foundation of clarity and focus. When there are 100 things to focus on, your employees will eventually lose sight of what’s actually important and might feel burdened with non-priority tasks. This will lead to a poor employee experience and limited productivity, both situations that prevent an impactful culture.

However, when you apply the OKR methodology, you will be able to limit your focus on 3-5 top priorities which will attract attention, energy and efforts across the organization. You will then be able to create a high performance culture by dedicating all your resources to the key priorities to realize impact. 

2. Collaboration and alignment

A culture that thrives on collaboration, teamwork and alignment is one which creates maximum impact. The OKR methodology can help achieve this in an effective manner. On one hand, everyone is clear about their role in the OKR achievement, which makes collaboration seamless because everyone is on the same page and no one steps on the shoes of others. 

On the other hand, OKRs can help your employees align their responsibilities and tasks with the overall vision of the organization, motivating them to contribute to the big picture. 

To learn more about how to align teams using OKRs, read this

3. Agility and resilience

Recent times have shown that uncertainty and ambiguity will continue to mark the new normal. Thus, a culture of agility, resilience and responsiveness is critical for fast growing organizations. The OKR methodology can help achieve the same. 

OKRs are cognizant of the changing environment and have the flexibility to be adapted to the same. 

More importantly, you can leverage the OKR methodology to foster a culture that focuses on outcomes and is not fixated on the tasks to achieve the outcome at hand. 

4. Continuous engagement and reflection

One of the top challenges of building a great company culture is a siloed approach and annual reflection. This leads to surfacing of major risks and problems which result in high rates of attrition, absenteeism and lower levels of motivation, productivity, etc. 

However, the OKR methodology adopts an approach of continuous engagement and reflection. You can create a regular cadence to check OKR progress for each of your team members, even daily is effective. 

This continuous engagement and reflection can enable you to preempt risks before they surface and leverage the power of communication to address them in real-time. Invariably, a culture built on continuous engagement leads to greater impact and high levels of performance as well as employee satisfaction. 

5. Transparency 

The lack of transparency is one of the key obstacles for many fast growing organizations that seek to create a thriving company culture. A way out often seems difficult to navigate. Fortunately, the OKR methodology can help address this challenge as well. When you use OKR, especially with the support of an effective OKR tool, you can facilitate high levels of transparency. 

Everyone in the organization will not only know their role, but also will have a complete view of the level of performance for others. Such transparency can help you increase coordination of efforts and give everyone the visibility of what’s happening across the company. 

6. Non-hierarchy

You may agree that most fast growing organizations these days seek to replace a strict hierarchy with a more flat organizational structure that facilitates inclusion of diverse ideas, thoughts and opinions. However, many struggle when it comes to actually implementing this thought. 

Adopting OKRs can solve this problem.

By nature, the OKR methodology is based on a collaborative foundation where a top-down approach compliments a bottom-down approach for goal setting. 

This suggests that while the skeletal structure of the goals might be laid down by those in the top leadership, you can give all employees the freedom and autonomy to create OKRs for their teams and verticals. 

When your employees participate in setting the OKRs they have to execute, the level of ownership is much higher. Thus, you can leverage the OKR methodology to create a thriving culture built on greater ownership and a flat organizational structure. 

7. Open communication and feedback

With a focus on continuous engagement and reflection, the OKR methodology can help you facilitate open communication and feedback. Many studies have shown that a culture that facilitates regular feedback along with open channels of communication is more likely to thrive than one which does not. 

In the OKR methodology, when you constantly track your OKR progress (download our free template for tracking OKRs), you will be armed with data backed insights to offer regular feedback for your employees. Furthermore, you can also leverage the same to start meaningful conversations with your team members in case you feel that there is any kind of disconnect. Such open communication can help you create a truly inclusive culture when employees feel their voice is heard. 

8. Accountability and recognition

Finally, a company culture that thrives has two major components supporting it, accountability and recognition.

  • On one hand, only when your employees are accountable will they give in their 100% to create a high performance culture. 
  • On the other hand, if you don’t recognize the efforts of your employees frequently and in an effective manner, they are bound to feel demotivated with a lack of encouragement, leading to a poor employee experience and culture. 

The OKR methodology is an answer to both these challenges. 

  • First, being regularly reviewed, tracked and organization wide visibility makes accountability a given for fast growing organizations leveraging OKRs. Since everyone knows what the other person is responsible for, there is a development of a culture of accountability. 
  • Second, with regular tracking, monitoring individual progress becomes seamless for managers. Invariably, they can track the performance of their team members and recognize efforts in real time. This leads to a culture of recognition which is bound to see high levels of engagement, motivation and satisfaction. 

Empower your culture with the OKR methodology

Now that you know how the OKR methodology can help you in many ways to create a thriving culture, it is also true that as a fast growing organization with multi-pronged focus, leveraging OKRs is a challenging task. To address the same, you can collaborate with an integrated OKR tool like SuperBeings to automate the OKR adoption and maintenance.

With SuperBeings, you get to — 

  • Keep OKRs at the center of your business activities by aligning everyday tasks 
  • Reduce friction in goal management with zero context switching (by integrating Slack, Teams and Gchat)
  • Stay ahead of risks with a bird's eye view on key OKR status as well as compare progress over time with automated daily OKR tracking
  • Connect OKRs with Meetings tool to automate OKR check-ins and empower managers with data-backed AI driven actionable templates for meaningful conversations

Learn more about the OKR tool here. Otherwise, to see this in action, book a quick call with one of our experts. Also, get all your questions answered on the same. 

See Also

How to Run a Successful OKR Progress Review  

The complete guide to adopting OKRs (PDF)

Master OKRs in just 10 days: Free email course

Performance
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min read

How to Write Negative Employee Reviews (Examples + Templates)

With performance management becoming a critical part of organizational success, giving effective employee reviews is becoming a crucial part of a manager’s responsibilities. While regular employee performance reviews focus on illustrating the strengths and what worked for employees and the organization at large, there needs to be an equal focus on areas of development in case of poor work performance

If you look closely, writing negative employee reviews is often considered to be more difficult because the words need to be chosen very carefully. It needs to have a developmental tone rather than a critical one. 

What are negative employee reviews?

As the term suggests, negative employee reviews are reviews delivered to employees who have underperformed and need to be pulled up to the expected levels. It involves a variety of components which include:

  • Problem statement i.e. an illustration of poor performance, how it has been manifested and its impact on the overall organizational success
  • A clear understanding of the level of performance which is expected
  • A potential way or action items to correct the poor performance and improve

To get actionable ideas of how to deal with poor performance issues at work, read this

Writing and delivering negative employee reviews is very important for any organization that seeks to maintain a high level of employee performance. It is critical to ensure that:

  • Poor performers are aware of their level of underperformance and have a clear picture of what’s expected from them
  • Those who are underperforming get an opportunity to improve or face the consequences of consistently performing poorly
  • Underperformers are given the right support and guidance to improve their work and efforts to meet the expectations

Why should you be cautious of your words?

When you are writing negative employee performance reviews, you need to be extremely cautious of the words you choose. Using the right words will help the receiver acknowledge and work on the suggested points, while using words that are too harsh or critical can lead to adverse consequences. There are a few reasons which make the choice of words extremely important. 

  • The right words can help negative employee reviews focus on the developmental aspects and the impact of poor performance on the organization, rather than criticizing the person in general
  • They can help ensure that the job and the performance are the focus of the employee reviews and not the character or the personality of the person
  • Being cautious also ensures that the negative employee reviews don’t have a negative impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of the employee and are taken in a constructive spirit.

The same review when offered with the right words can be more powerful and have a larger influence. 

For instance a statement like ‘you interfere too much in the work of others’ can be seen as a personal attack and may yield a defensive response from the receiver. 

However if you frame it in a different manner like ‘if you give others greater autonomy and freedom to work in their own way, you will be able to inspire greater creativity and innovation’, you will be able to put your message across and also help your employees understand how it will make a difference. 

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Tips for writing negative employee reviews 

In addition to being cautious of the words you use, there are a few other tips which you must keep in mind while writing negative performance reviews, including:

1. Keep it crisp and structured

While giving negative reviews is difficult, don’t beat around the bush and get straight to the point. However, instead of directly saying what isn’t going well, try adopting the sandwich approach. Start with a positive comment, add areas of improvement and end it with some suggestions and action items. 

Example: Tina has an excellent eye for detail and is very dedicated to her work. However, she often misses the deadlines which has led to a delay in 30% of her projects resulting in poor client experience. It would help her performance greatly, if she is able to prioritize her work better and keep an organized calendar for timely delivery. She can consider using the latest project management tools to facilitate better prioritization. 

2. Don’t get personal

Second, negative employee reviews should focus on the job or the role and not the person specifically. Steer away from using words or phrases which may end up combining performance and personality of the person. Your review should be specific towards performance challenges and not generalize that performance challenge is a personality trait.

Example: Instead of saying, “you are not punctual”, you can say that “I have seen you arrive late for meetings frequently, leaving shorter time for discussions. It would be best if you could be more punctual to respect others' time and make the most effective use of the same.”

3. Focus on progress

When you are writing negative performance reviews, you must focus on the progress and how a change in behavior and attitude can help them in the long run. Simply mentioning what went wrong and the associated process might lead to demotivation. 

Example: Some of your work has had grammatical errors in the past, maybe because you were trying to complete a lot at once. I am sure if you prioritize some tasks and create an action plan, your work quality will be better. 

4. Offer facts

Don’t simply give negative employee reviews about the problem area, but back it up with facts and data points. This will help you illustrate a pattern and establish that your review is not based on a single incident. Also, it will make your review more credible and authentic and not just a few words strung together. This will also help you in being very specific.  

Example: It has been observed that 40% of your customers claim that you don’t have adequate knowledge of your product, leading to a poor experience. 

5. Give examples

There might be some performance parameters which are difficult to add quantitative data points to. In such cases, you can offer specific examples of underperformance, especially if it has been repetitive. It is ideal to have at least 2-3 instances of poor performance to make your point stronger. 

Example: It has been noticed that in the aspiration to get your work perfect, you end up delaying projects. It was observed in project X with client A, project Y with client B as well as when the internal submission for Z was due. 

Pro-tip: Use our free Performance Review Phrases template to get 50+ examples of writing a negative review positively

How to deliver a poor performance review?

Once you write the negative employee reviews, you exactly know what you want to say to your employees. However, the way you deliver it also has a big impact on how it is received. To make the process simple, we have compiled a list of some of the best practices to help you deliver a poor performance review in the best way possible:

1. Connect in person

If you are delivering a negative performance review, it is best to do it in person, or if your team is remote, over a video call. If you deliver it over an email, you cannot be sure of the tone and context in which your words will be read. 

It might backfire by being read as more critical than developmental as per the intent. Furthermore, when you are delivering the negative reviews face to face, you can also use your gestures and body language to facilitate authenticity and empathy. 

2. Steer away from yelling

No matter how poor the performance has been, when you are delivering negative employee reviews, you should stay away from yelling or using foul language. Since the focus is on facilitating development for your employee, yelling will only defeat the purpose, making the employee demotivated and pushing them towards even lower levels of confidence and motivation. Furthermore, it will negatively impact your organization from an employer brand perspective. It can also create a negative impact on the wellbeing of your employees. 

3. Add anecdotes 

While delivering the review, you may want to add some personal stories or anecdotes if you have yourself been through something on those lines. This will help you connect better with your employees and make them trust you more. Furthermore, it can enable you to illustrate how they can turn poor performance into something better with a live example in front of them. 

4. Make it a dialogue

Your negative review shouldn’t be a monologue where you deliver what you have written with the employee absorbing it as a passive recipient. Instead, make it a dialogue by putting forward questions to understand the reasons behind poor performance and how you and the organization as a whole can help turn the table. Hearing their side of the story is extremely important before deciding on the next steps. 

4. Create a safe environment

When you are delivering negative employee reviews, you need to create a safe environment. It should not be harsh and the employee should feel comfortable in receiving what you have to offer. Also, make sure you deliver the review privately and not publicly shame your employee. They should see it as a developmental conversation in a safe environment, where they can also voice their opinions. 

5. Make it regular

Finally, negative employee reviews need to be regular and not come as a surprise to your employees at the end of the year. Regular reviews will give your employees enough room to improve their performance. Furthermore, it will give them a clear picture of what to expect when the year closes. 

To learn how SuperBeings can help you have guided conversations around negative performance review with AI recommendations based on performance and goals history as well as maintain a steady cadence to maximize the impact of such conversations, see this

Offer suggestions and follow up

After you have delivered the negative reviews to employees, the natural next step is to create a plan for improvement to help your employees reach the level of performance you expect out of them. This is a critical part of the performance management and talent development process for employees who have been consistently underperforming. Here are a few ways you can help your employees improve their performance.

1. Create action items collaboratively

If you have reached this level of negative employee reviews, you and your employee would be on the same page about their level of performance. Thus, it is best to create a list of action items that can help them improve their performance. To create the next steps, you must:

  • Ensure the steps are specific and not generic which only state the objective
  • Create steps which are aspirational, but achievable at the same time
  • Ascertain that there is an intended result for each decided step
  • Collaborate and brainstorm with your employee to create action items which are agreed upon by both
  • Align timelines and other factors to achieve success

2. Document the next steps

Next, your focus should not only be on planning the action items, but documenting them as well, because once they are out of sight, they’ll be out of mind. Furthermore, documenting them will help you remember the agreed steps and track progress every now and then. 

Clearly document what needs to be achieved, by when and how. It can be a good idea to encourage your team members to constantly document their experience as well to help discuss what has been working well and what needs to improve. 

3. Draft a Performance Improvement Plan (PiP) if needed

Depending on the performance issue, you may want to introduce a performance improvement plan for your employee. It is a formal tool to address performance challenges which outlines specific goals and expectations along with clear actions that need to be undertaken over a duration of 30-90 days.

For more details on PIP, check out A guide to implementing a performance improvement plan (PIP)

4. Set up a cadence

You also must set up a cadence to discuss performance improvements or challenges once the next steps are agreed upon. Unless you connect regularly to discuss the status, you might find yourself at square one at the end of the next performance review period as well. 

Depending on what needs to be achieved, you can set a weekly, fortnightly or monthly cadence to connect with your poor performers. While it may be seen as a regular review, it will also act as a reinforcer for them to ensure there is some improvement everytime the cadence to meet comes up. 

5. Define metrics

When you are determining the next steps, it is important to identify the associated metrics as well. For instance, if you want your employee to become more detail oriented, your metric can focus on reduction in errors by a specific percentage over a specific duration of time. 

The metrics will help you measure whether or not there has been an improvement in the performance as desired or not. At the same time, the metrics will help your employee move towards a specific goal. 

6. Follow up

While you have a set cadence, you may also want to check-in or follow up from time to time to make your employee comfortable enough to reach out to you in between your cadence for connecting. The follow ups can be over emails or calls or simple messages to check if everything is on track and to offer them any support whichever is needed. Especially in the beginning, you may need to check from time to time in case there’s any additional support that the employee needs to work on the action items. 

7. Evaluate progress

Finally, to ensure that your negative employee reviews translate to impact, you must focus on evaluating progress. Use the metrics you defined to gauge the level of progress and document it whenever you evaluate the same. This will help you establish a trend over time. 

Furthermore, if you feel the progress is below expectations, try to understand the rationale behind the same to check if putting the employee on a performance improvement plan will make more sense. 

Wrapping Up

By now, you must have gained a clear understanding of how to write, deliver and follow up on negative employee performance reviews constructively. If you are keen to learn how best to connect negative performance issues with regular 1:1 meetings with your team members with technology, book a quick demo with one of our executives. We would love to show you around :)

See Also

How to use Start Stop Continue feedback framework for high performance

10 performance review tips for managers that actually work

How to use employee coaching to unlock performance

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