With a performance management approach that was retrospective and costing managers valuable time, Unum knew it needed a change. The company wanted to redefine the traditional performance management model with a forward-looking approach that created a stronger connection to its business strategy. Could a process of continuous coaching and improvement meet their needs? Unum’s challenge as an organization was understanding how they might help employees reach higher levels of performance.
Partnering with Unum on business innovation since 2012, Bridge Innovate designed and delivered a large-scale performance management transformation process using the best of design thinking and Agile methodologies. The journey began by helping a few leaders define Unum’s HR Talent Strategy. This effort and a needs analysis confirmed the importance of increasing manager coaching capabilities as a first step. As a result, a People Manager Effectiveness strategy was developed, which helped create a “coaching culture” at Unum.
The new coaching culture laid a strong foundation for Unum to more broadly explore the overall performance experience for all employees. Through an initial phase of building inspiration and empathy, we looked at trends and neuroscience research and conducted focus groups and interviews with Unum employees to build empathy. Armed with a greater sense of what impacts performance, employee engagement, and motivation, Unum leaders from various business units participated in a SWARM® Accelerated Design Session to create the performance experience prototype. The final stage of the process included three waves of Test Sprints where client-led teams conducted small-scale experiments testing elements for broader implementation consideration. Each step of the way, employees from across the organization were involved and invested in creating the performance experience design.
The performance experience approach to talent management was more than just an HR compliance. It combined a laser sharp focus on meeting business objectives with the goal of increasing employee performance and engagement. Additionally, testing and iterating prototype solutions prior to large-scale implementation enabled Unum to refine the performance experience along the way when the stakes were low. Also, engaging many people with different perspectives from across the organization in the transformation process had a long-term impact on sustainable success. Providing tools of ongoing coaching and development and real-time feedback allowed managers to increase their level of coaching and helped employees become more effective and drive overall business results.
Unum’s executive leadership team adopted a set of performance experience recommendations based on insights learned from the waves of Test Sprints, and was slated for company-wide roll-out the following year. Over a two-year period, Unum successfully changed its performance management approach from something that just happens to people to an experience of ownership, accountability, engagement, and empowerment for all employees. Each stage of the process built upon the next, creating steady momentum. Involving more employees along the way with each new wave of testing increased excitement, engagement, and ownership, which ultimately led to a company-wide cultural shift.