THE ICONIC is a Sydney-based Australian fashion and lifestyle retailer. The company was founded in 2011 and provides customers access to over 1000 brands and 80,000 items.
Maria Koralis is the Director of People & Culture at THE ICONIC. She came to the company after a long career in HR to oversee Workplace Relations, and has since transitioned over to lead the people function. Maria’s focus is to ensure THE ICONIC’s people structures and strategies mature alongside the business, while protecting its youthful, vibrant culture and building a more sophisticated and universal performance and engagement structure across the company’s warehousing and operations teams.
Challenge: Moving from ad-hoc to strategic performance management to drive better conversations between managers and teams
Since its inception, THE ICONIC has strived to build a people-first culture, and since 2016, the company has been using Culture Amp to run bi-annual Engagement surveys. In early 2021, one of the surveys revealed that 50% of its workforce wanted to have more structured conversations between employees and managers.
With the company growing so fast, Maria decided that it was time to formalise the efforts THE ICONIC was already taking to reflect its size and maturity.
“Having transparent and formalised conversations is so important. This was something we needed to implement and improve on so that we could scale-up for the next phase of our growth,” says Maria.
Solution: Self-reflections are the catalyst for better performance conversations
Maria didn’t see the need for a new platform to address this challenge. Instead, she went to the team at Culture Amp for recommendations on what tools they had to match the needs of the business. Importantly, she needed a solution that was simple and incremental.
“Performance management can always be improved upon, so I wanted a simple solution to start with that formalised what we were doing. Culture Amp gave us the tools to set that up,” Maria says.
Culture Amp recommended Maria introduce the self-reflections tool, encouraging teams to set time aside for more structured performance conversations, no matter their role or location.
“We needed a tool that helped people to talk more formally and constructively about what’s going well, what’s not going well, and how they can get better support from their managers, but at the same time not get in the way of the open conversations that were already happening,” Maria says.
In just three weeks, THE ICONIC launched self-reflections across the entire company, gamifying the process and running a competition across divisions to encourage uptake. There was also strong support from the Executive Team, resulting in a 100% completion rate.
“Our CEO was instrumental in sharing her story and ensuring that employees knew that she was driving it,” Maria says.
Result: Fast, simple and scalable performance conversations
Establishing a process for meaningful conversations
In less than a month, teams across THE ICONIC were having formalised and constructive conversations with their managers about their roles and performance.
“Having great performance conversations has a flow-on effect. The culture is better. We want openness embedded in our culture, and this helps us to make sure it’s just what we do,” Maria says.
Clear insights to inform a performance road map
The introduction of self-reflections and the insights gleaned have also allowed Maria’s team to begin mapping out new programs to address performance management in greater depth. They have just completed a proposal outlining a range of new learning initiatives including leadership training and online learning modules for managers.
With THE ICONIC’s managers now so comfortable using Culture Amp, many have also taken it upon themselves to start using the 1-on-1 tool, a process Maria plans to formalise.
“Culture Amp has shown us where we can go next as far as coaching managers, having better conversations, and improving career development plans for our people,” Maria says.
Simplicity when scaling up
One of the most impactful outcomes from using Culture Amp has been the tool’s simplicity, ensuring teams are happy to take part in the process and providing Maria with clear insights to address performance management in incremental, bite-size pieces as the company expands.
“Culture Amp does not overcomplicate things. We have strong uptake of the tool because it’s not a long survey; it’s quick and easy and people engage with it. Instead of trying to solve performance management in one go, each piece we add is a step in the right direction.”
Growing a sophisticated feedback and performance culture
The next step for Maria is to move forward with formalised learning plans, goal setting and structured 1-on-1 sessions through Culture Amp that tap into the wellbeing of teams.
“We know that everyone has been trying to keep their heads above water during COVID, so it’s important we explore issues like burnout. We want to get better at capturing those conversations early and becoming more sophisticated as we grow,” Maria says.
She sees the team at Culture Amp as an extension of her own and trusted advisers in what to do next.
“I have people coming to me asking me about Culture Amp because they help us get results quickly and easily. I can tell the team at Culture Amp what we need, and they make the magic happen,” Maria says.
Want to learn more about THE ICONIC’s employee experience strategy? Check out the on-demand recording of Maria’s session at Culture First APAC to learn more about how she and her team think about employee development.