The Employee Experience Platform | Culture Amp
 Part 6

Reclaiming success by redefining it

Fig 1. New world, New rules

The radical evolution of high-performance.

Working through the crisis has taught us that very little is as fixed as we assume. So far, throughout our journey, we’ve been able to experiment with how we take care of ourselves, show up for others, lead, and communicate. In this stage, we look at what’s no longer serving us when it comes to defining and measuring success, individually and collectively. It’s time to let go of our old markers of achievement and build a holistic and equitable new approach to performance.


How belonging and exclusion impact performance

Culture First podcast by Culture Amp

  • 01

    Episode 11: Rajkumari Neogy

    How does exclusion impact your ability to perform at work?

    In this episode Damon speaks with Rajkumari Neogy, an epigenetic coach and executive consultant focused on the intersection of neurobiology, culture, and empathy. She is the author of “The WIT Factor: Shifting the Workplace Paradigm by Becoming Your Optimal Self.”

  • 02

    Episode 12: Srinivas Krishnamurti

    Building a fairer and more equitable performance process

    In this episode Damon speaks with Srinivas Krishnamurti, VP of Product at Culture Amp and former CEO of Zugata, about the steps we need to take to create a fairer and equitable performance management process. They discuss organizational justice, debate whether remote work can level the playing field and why your current performance process might be leaving learning opportunities on the table.

Culture First podcast by Culture Amp

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The long reads

Original content


Culture amp | 8 min read

Joanne’s story: the future of equitable performance

Joanne Lockwood photo

Performance has traditionally been based on results produced, but now that the wall between work and life has come down, there’s an opportunity to redefine what success looks like. Organizations are starting to consider new ways to evaluate individuals to take into account the whole human experience.

We spoke with Joanne Lockwood, a UK-based Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Specialist. Joanne is the founder of SEE Change Happen, a DEI consulting practice focused on helping businesses support LGBTQ+ – and more specifically Transgender – employees through building ally programs, policy changes, and inclusion strategies.


The evolving workplace

After the shelter-in-place order, Joanne saw organizations shift their HR and D&I resources to focus on keeping business running and their people safe. As a result, people teams moved away from learning and development initiatives to full triage mode.

“I had to find a way to quickly recover from a loss of income and change my mindset from self-pity to proactivity. I mourned the loss of my former business model and tried to move through that process to become a functioning human being again. I had to shift my mindset from all the feelings of loss into acceptance and pivot to action.”

Joanne understood that teams needed her offering now more than ever, but couldn’t access or afford her services in the way they could before the pandemic. Leaning into her expertise, Joanne adapted her delivery methods to work remotely and decided to use this as an opportunity to give back to her network and establish her personal brand.

“Employers in the past have always put this barrier up to say, ‘what happens outside of the workplace is not our problem.’ Now we’ve had to extend that bubble to encompass people’s personal lives.”

“Employers in the past have always put this barrier up to say, ‘what happens outside of the workplace is not our problem.’ Now we’ve had to extend that bubble to encompass people’s personal lives. I encourage companies to adopt a person-centric approach and see employees as a whole – as parents, caretakers, activists. Some individuals have to watch their young children during calls. Some LGBTQ+ employees may not be fully out at home but open at work. So this is our new challenge.”

Person-centric leadership is about taking time to listen, allowing people to talk, and creating a platform where people can be heard. It all starts at the top, and strong leaders are the ones who go that extra mile and actually speak to their teams to better understand their people.

“The challenge of the future is to bring humanity into management and leadership.”

“Companies typically hire leaders who are experts in their field, but they haven’t necessarily been trained to be counselors or mediators. HR is often expected to deal with the more human side of things, but now leaders need to be equipped for this because HR can’t talk to everybody. I encourage organizations to look at their leaders and identify training opportunities. The challenge of the future is to bring humanity into management and leadership.”

Redefining performance with a lens toward D&I

Global uncertainty and racial injustice have opened the door to reconsider what it means to be successful as an employee. Performance has been traditionally based on results, but now that the barrier between work and life has been broken, we have the opportunity to redefine what success looks like.

“Something I hear all the time in recruitment is ‘we hire for meritocracy.’ And I always challenge people by asking: Who decides what has more merit? Which element of a personality or a process has the most merit? Who does the weighting?”

These are the questions we need to be asking to help evolve performance management. No one has the answers yet, so there is an opportunity to build KPIs around emotional intelligence and soft skills in addition to work output.

“Work has changed, and it’s critical to understand soft skills as a key driver of performance.”

“I’d like to see leaders of the future match their performance KPIs with people-centric KPIs. This would adjust individual performance metrics to also measure emotional intelligence and empathy. We have to break the cycle of promoting disruptors whose opinions and values aren’t aligned with how the company sees its vision and values. We need to recognize the fact that work has changed, and it’s critical to understand soft skills as a key driver of performance.”

In this vein, it’s important to understand that personal circumstances also impact performance. Someone who is single may have the ability to work longer hours, whereas someone else who is equally as talented may have familial responsibilities after hours. It no longer makes sense to judge performance entirely on output. Organizations are tasked with finding new ways to take these factors into account and provide equal opportunities.

“Freedom of choice is a privilege. Not everyone can make a choice to uproot their livelihood for the sake of their job. But there’s strength in numbers, and as more people stand up for themselves and demand work-life balance, organizations are realizing that this is the only way to hire, motivate, and retain employees.”

People want to be valued for the quality of their work, not the number of hours they put in. This is a major culture shift and though many organizations are going to struggle with it, people are already beginning to challenge the traditional ways of working.

A new status quo

We don’t have complete control over where the future is going, but there is a clear shift in mindset and priorities that will help shape the future practices of companies.

“I’d like to see companies become cognizant of the fact that people want a new kind of status quo. It may take time, but the crisis and social unrest we’re facing have been a major catalyst in driving this forward. I hope leaders are using this time to reflect on their own vulnerability. Organizations are made up of people, and to succeed, they need to value the things that make us human.”

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Culture Amp | 7 min read

What the pandemic has taught us about equitable performance

Now that work and personal life are so undeniably intertwined, individual circumstances have become a critical factor when measuring performance. Everyone has been affected differently by the crisis and face hurdles that impact their performance. Whether it’s dependent care during the workday, access to reliable internet, feelings of burnout, or a complete shift in responsibilities, those of us experiencing challenges to productivity are finding new ways to manage their workload.

In this article, we explore what we’ve learned about performance during COVID-19, and ways to use these learnings to create a more equitable performance management process.


New workstyles in response to COVID-19

At a time when many companies shifted to a remote work model, many of us learned that the traditional measures of performance no longer accurately account for our work. Juggling the hurdles of working at home has impelled individuals to get creative with their work schedules and styles.

Spending more time “at work” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting more done. In fact, a recent study from RescueTime revealed that in 2019, workers averaged just 2 hours and 48 minutes of productive time a day. Many organizations are already seeing that their employees are just as productive if not more so in a remote environment.

In a recent article on motivating teams in a remote setting, co-founders of Vega Factor, Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi shared that “the key is resisting the temptation to make work tactical only through strict processes, rules, and procedures. While some degree of boundaries and guidelines help people move quickly, too many create a vicious spiral of demotivation. In such cases, people tend to stop problem-solving and thinking creatively, and instead, do the bare minimum.”

Productivity is just one facet of overall performance, but this shows us that a blanket approach to performance won’t serve us anymore in this new world of work. We want more understanding of our unique personal circumstances and needs. As a result, company leaders have the opportunity to redefine the traditional measures of performance to take into account a more holistic view of their people.

“If you want your teams to be engaged in their work, you have to make their work engaging.”

“If you want your teams to be engaged in their work, you have to make their work engaging,” say McGregor and Doshi. “The most powerful way to do this is to give people the opportunity to experiment and solve problems that really matter.”

Redefining performance management

There are many things we can learn from this period of crisis, which can help us create more inclusive performance standards. Beyond redesigning your performance management process, there are several ways to encourage more inclusive practices at all levels.

Start from the top

Without leadership buy-in, it will be difficult to redefine performance standards. Start by identifying the outcomes that matter in the current environment, and consider how to redefine past goals or targets. Before the pandemic, leaders may have been focused primarily on results, but now there is an opportunity to zoom out and take into account the impact of individual experience and the macro environment on people’s ability to meet their goals. Leaders are not immune to the challenges of COVID-19, so they will be better equipped to empathize with their workforce.

Rethink your measures of success

Previous performance measures don’t account for the unequal impact that COVID-19 has had on employees. Your company values can guide your measures of performance during this time. Consider how you can adapt expectations to recognize skills like adaptability and resilience that have helped people to continue to deliver during this time. Avoid penalizing people who are genuinely doing their best to deliver in a challenging environment, or who may be unable to meet their goals through no fault of their own. Definitions of a high performing employee can differ greatly. Using your values as a guide can help ensure you reward the right behaviors and not just those who are less impacted at this time.

“Rather than focus on hours or metrics, focus on learning velocity, experimentation, and balancing both impact and opportunity.”

According to Vega Factor, “creating intensity without pressure was a challenge when our managers could interact with their teams in a live setting, and doing it virtually has proven even more difficult. Rather than focus on hours or metrics, focus on learning velocity, experimentation, and balancing both impact and opportunity.”

Don’t neglect the human side

Find ways to factor someone’s full story into their performance review. For example, communities of color are experiencing heightened trauma while still being expected to show up fully to work. Understand the obstacles people have to overcome to produce their work, work together to brainstorm creative solutions to challenges they face, and spend time on soft skills that demonstrate what they uniquely bring to the table. They will appreciate being treated as a whole person – not just a cog in the wheel – and managers will gain a more positive understanding of how their team members show up each day.

Consider changing the performance review process

Amidst so much change, it’s a good time to consider adapting your performance review process to better align with the new norms we’re seeing. Some companies have already made fundamental changes in their review process, such as decoupling performance reviews from salary discussions, focusing on self-reflection and goals, and running a more lightweight performance process during the crisis. Our guide can help you to determine what is best for your organization and make sure to be thoughtful about performance change management.

Provide resources to help level the playing field

If some employees face challenges that their colleagues do not (ie. dependent care or racial injustice), consider providing resources to create a more equitable work environment. Write clear guidelines with specific examples to help managers think about evaluations for people who are especially impacted by current events. Then, provide extra support and resources for employees in underrepresented groups to make sure they know how they will be evaluated.

The future of equitable performance

We’ve always had to juggle our work and personal lives, but now that we see companies being more accommodating to all facets of our lives, there’s no going back. In response to the pandemic, we’ve had to be more flexible and understanding of personal challenges and commitments. Rather than rebuild the boundary between the two, this is an opportunity to create new expectations around performance that account for both personal circumstances and quality of work.

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From The Heart of the C-Suite

An intimate conversation on how C-level executives are #WorkingThroughIt

In this Part, Didier Elzinga is in conversation with Mitesh Sheth, CEO of UK based Redington, an organization with the goal of helping 100 million people have a financially secure retirement. Mitesh and Didier speak about the evolving definition of high-performance during these times of rapid change and uncertainty. With help from Culture Amp’s Senior People Scientist, Kristina Dorniak-Wall, they explore topics like creating equitable and inclusive work environments and the duality of work and personal life being part of someone’s performance evaluation. Tune in to learn more about how culture first CEOs are redefining performance for the new world of work.


We’re all in this together – resources from our friends and partners

This is an unprecedented time. There are no business strategies or ‘hot tips for working from home’ that can change the fact that many of us are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. But we can – and have to – work through it together. These resources from our partners and friends will help us do just that.

Performance management post-COVID-19

Culture Amp

Adjusting performance management processes can impact how employees view their workplace. Learn how bias, feedback, and self-reflection can play a part in performance reviews.

“Carrying out performance management conversations within a thoughtfully adjusted performance management framework can help create a sense of stability amongst your employees.”

Read the article →

How to keep your team motivated remotely

Harvard Business Review

Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, co-founders of Vega Factor, discuss how managers can experiment with new ways of working, make work more engaging, and get into a weekly rhythm with their teams.

“The key is resisting the temptation to make work tactical only through strict processes, rules, and procedures.”

Read the article →

Top 20 resetting questions

LifeLabs Learning

LIfeLabs Learning asked 100+ execs to share questions that break people out of fight, flight, freeze. Check them out and learn how you can use them with your team.

“In high-stress situations, teams often get stuck. Resetting questions allow you to keep the conversation open and fluid.”

View the questions →

60 effective performance review phrases

Culture Amp

This list of performance review phrases – for self-evaluation, managers, and peers – will sharpen your ability to provide useful feedback.

“It’s always helpful to keep feedback rooted in observable behavior, which has nothing to do with intent or inherent traits.”

Download the ebook →

COVID-19 and the employee experience: How leaders can seize the moment

McKinsey & Company

Organizations have the opportunity to improve employee experience by shifting their focus from health and safety needs to wellbeing, feedback, and social inclusion.

“Employee needs are evolving, calling for a more sophisticated approach as organizations enter the next phase.”

Read the article →


Working through crisis

There’s no playbook for periods of uncertainty – but we created this toolkit to help you work through it.


How Casey, a people leader at W2O is #WorkingThroughIt

Photo of Casey Cole

Casey Cole

Senior Advisor, Coaching & Performance at W2O

My mantra for this unprecedented time is ‘impact over intensity’. With so many competing demands for our time and energy, it’s impossible to keep up the breakneck pace. Instead of evaluating performance on how much we can get done, we’re recognizing how much impact our actions have on our organizational goals and on our community – inside and outside of W2O.”

How we work

Rethinking performance and motivation

In episode six of HOW WE WORK, we discussed the concept of TOMO (total motivation), and the unique challenges 2020 posed for employees and people leaders. We covered what new measures of success may look like and the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind what drives performance at work.

Neel Doshi

Author of Primed To Perform, Co-founder of Vega Factor

Lindsay McGregor

Author of Primed To Perform, CEO of Vega Factor

A conversation series hosted by Culture Amp

Inside Culture Amp

How Culture Amp is #WorkingThroughIt

We spoke with Jo Montanari, Global People Programs Director at Culture Amp, to learn how she’s thinking about the future of equitable performance.

Photo of Joe Montanari

In the face of global change and uncertainty, delivering at work is harder than ever. In times like these, the traditional performance review process leaves much to be desired. As the barrier between the personal and professional disappears in a work-from-home environment, organizations are challenged to find a way to incorporate this into their measurement of success.

Listen, communicate, iterate

The performance review process can be confusing. At Culture Amp, we strive to provide two-way communication to ensure everyone understands the process and can also provide feedback on their experience. We’re continually striving to collect and respond to feedback and provide comprehensive resources for both managers and direct reports to have more fruitful performance conversations.

Make space for individual circumstances

Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their personal circumstances in the work setting. To foster a culture of equitable opportunity and performance, it’s crucial to create a safe space for these conversations. At Culture Amp, we encourage every new employee to fill out a “user manual.” This includes an individual’s preferred working style, boundaries, and values. The manual gives our colleagues a better understanding of each person as a whole and how to best work with them. While this is just a start, it makes space for vulnerability and helps managers tailor their expectations to each individual.

“Performance management should be clear around what each person’s role is, what’s happening, and what standards people are measured against. We create that clarity in multiple ways. First, by helping everyone understand our performance dimensions for evaluations, and how we align those to decisions about compensation and rewards. We encourage direct feedback and open conversations about progression so that employees know where they need to grow and there are no surprises. It’s common for people in marginalized groups to underrate themselves, so we reach out directly to ensure they feel equipped and supported in representing themselves.”

Jo Montanari

Global People Programs Director at Culture Amp

Prioritize growth conversations

Build growth conversations into your performance process to avoid focussing solely on evaluation. At Culture Amp, we have a separate growth check-in process to help people identify development goals with their managers. Having these conversations without the looming pressure of evaluation or compensation can inspire and motivate employees and lead to more fruitful performance conversations down the line.

Redefine performance


How can we build more equitable approaches to performance?

Check in to find out how other, like-minded people are taking a Culture First approach to working through it.

Find your people →

Working through crisis toolkit

A Culture Amp toolkit for more humanity at workThere’s no playbook for periods of uncertainty – but we created this toolkit to help you work through it.


Previous: Part 5

How to connect in a disconnected world

← Go to Part 5


Next up: Part 7

Embracing a new future

Go to Part 7 →