Performance Enablement NOT Performance Management With Jamie Aitken And Doug Dennerline of Betterworks

So, are you ready to revolutionize your performance management process? Jamie Aitken and Doug Dennerline from Betterworks promise to enlighten you on the transformative shift towards performance enablement. This episode unpacks the need for forward-thinking conversations, continuous goal setting and the ability to adjust objectives mid-quarter. Find out how the role of managers is evolving to create an environment where employees feel supported and are motivated to achieve their goals.

But, the conversation doesn’t stop there. Jamie and Doug provide candid insights into the changing landscape of HR, focusing on the heightened expectations employees now have from their employers. They discuss AI’s role in providing key insights to managers and delve into the power of feedback, or what they intriguingly term ‘feed forward’, for individual success. They also scrutinize traditional HR processes and recruitment strategies, offering fresh perspectives on how to save time and improve overall performance. Tune in to this engaging discussion and extend your understanding of performance management beyond the ordinary.

Listening Time: 24 minutes

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Performance Enablement NOT Performance Management With Jamie Aitken And Doug Dennerline of Betterworks

William TIncup: [00:00:00] This is William Tynka, and you are listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcast. Today, we have Jamie and Doug on from BetterWorks, and our topic today is Performance Enablement, not, that’s capital letters, bold, underline, Performance Management. So Performance Enablement, not Performance Management. Let me do some quick introductions.

Jamie, why don’t you introduce yourself first, and Doug, and then Doug, if you’ll introduce BetterWorks, that’d be great.

Jamie Aitken: Yes. Hi. Thanks, Tim. My name is Jamie Aiken. I’m the VP [00:01:00] of HR Transformation here at BetterWorks, and I’ve been in the HR space as a practitioner for the last 25 plus years. So thrilled to be joining you to talk about this revolutionary approach to performance enablement.

I love

William TIncup: it.

Doug Dennerline: Enter. And Doug Donnerlein, I’m the CEO here at BetterWorks. Been here for a little over five years now, and also the ex president of SuccessFact. So I’ve been in the business of building HR software for a while, and here at BetterWorks, we’re basically trying to rethink, re imagine the performance management process that Is 100 years old and, invented by the U.

S. Army and in universally hated. It doesn’t change and trying to invent something. We can all agree,

William TIncup: right? We can all it’s a divided America,

Doug Dennerline: but we can all agree the irony. William is that well, we all agree. 75% of large organizations still do it today. [00:02:00] And so what we’re trying to do is invent something that actually meets the needs of today’s workforce.

It’s lightweight. It’s check in oriented. It’s around, we call it enablement. It’s not about looking back at your performance. It’s about having conversations about looking forward and talking in a good agreement on goal setting with each other and the attainment towards goals. That’s what we’re focused on.

William TIncup: If I remember correctly, it’s been a while since I’ve done a demo, but if I were correct, you’re and have been more employee centric, a lot of performance management it’s really kind of company centric, which is fine. No, no hate but I remember at one point looking at y’all’s goals and going, no one else does this way, because it’s basically, it helps.

The employee set goals. And of course, it’s to the betterment of the company and all that other stuff. So I get it. But it’s still employee centric,

Doug Dennerline: right? It is. It’s, we’re trying to move the processes away from being, these old antiquated processes to something that is seen with value and the employee.

It’s not around compliance. But it’s actually, hey, my manager [00:03:00] is talking to me about my goals. They understand what I’m frustrated with. We’re agreeing on what I’m going to achieve. And then if I achieve it, they understand that I’m getting my job done. And then, helping support me to be who I want to be in the organization as I grow as an individual.

And so it’s very much moving it from this compliance thing in HR to something that actually employees sees a benefit

William TIncup: So let’s just start with enablement over, over management. So we titled the show performance enablement. So let’s go talk about the, what we got wrong with performance management, and then it’ll set us up to then talk about this next journey that we’re going to take with enablement.

And Jamie, you go first.

Jamie Aitken: Yeah, sure. And sorry, Will, William, I called you Tim at the kickoff.

William TIncup: So when I’m hanging around with Tim Sackett, it happens all the time. So I just roll with it. I’m like, Tim’s a good name. All right.

Jamie Aitken: But when I think back on the traditional performance management, the idea that. A manager and their [00:04:00] employee would meet twice a year to talk about goals, career development, and then do an assessment at the end of the year is just so wrong in today’s environment.

The whole idea is that employees expect at this point that they are having Constant conversations with their managers. Perhaps somebody who’s directing a project that they work on their peers. And so the idea that I can have conversations throughout the year with my manager, at least.

And, discuss things like what is getting in the way, like what are my challenges, how, and the manager being in a position to say what can I do to help support you achieve both professional and personal goals. That’s really a critical shift in the way we think about.

Performance management being very hierarchical, very, to, to your point earlier it’s it became frankly, as a practitioner, it became a check in the box [00:05:00] exercise that, let’s face it, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, Oh my God, I’m so excited. I’m about to go for my performance appraisal review, right?

Like it wasn’t moving the needle for the individual or frankly for the company. So that need, we needed to flip that around.

William TIncup: I love it. Doug, anything to add there?

Doug Dennerline: It really is this notion of a manager being able to be enabling someone to accomplish something. This backwards looking, giving information about how did you perform doesn’t work today.

It’s getting together. It’s discussing what you’re going to work on. Are there, are they the right things? And how as I, as a manager, can I help you accomplish those goals? Are there roadblocks I can remove? The other thing that’s really important in today’s world is the pace of change in company strategy and direction because of the rate of pace and competition.

You need to potentially change goals in the middle of a quarter. And why wait six months or a year before you focus on the appropriate things? And so I think that’s really important to think about [00:06:00] today as well.

William TIncup: Two things. One, are y’all seeing this more as a, and Jamie, this is probably for you as well, coming from both of you, but on the transformation side, is it mindset?

Is it process? Is it software? What, where do you see the change? Obviously you probably could say all, which would be fine. Yeah. But where do they need to change first in, in that, if they are transforming, hopefully they are, what is it that they have to change?

Jamie Aitken: All three, it would be the quick answer.

Yes. And we’ve been talking about continuous performance management for a few years now in HR. And I think where we got stuck was the notion that we would sit in a room with other HR practitioners develop a beautiful new process and then just throw it over the fence to the rest of the organization without any kind of enablement or support.

What I mean by that, and not just from a how do I do this now? Because that is clearly part of it. I think we have left a frontline managers. [00:07:00] managers, with a bit of a gap because we expect them to magically become adapt, adapt at this particular skill of giving feedback and having difficult conversations and being a talent developer.

But we’ve really we came up short in being able to provide them that kind of support. But there’s also a change management aspect when that gets to the behavioral piece. Because if somebody hasn’t had a lot of exposure or the ability to build competence over time around coaching and giving feedback and helping folks through their, achievement of goals and goal setting and all of those pieces.

If they haven’t had the competency do that, they’re not going to be as successful. Or they will feel awkward in doing it. So we need to have a mixture of both. And then I’ll let Doug talk specifically to the technology as well. But, obviously, I’ll leave it there

Doug Dennerline: for me, William. It’s really around change management.[00:08:00]

As I said, 75% of large organizations still do it the old way, and the reason they do is because getting to the new way is difficult, and it takes courage for an HR leader to stand up to an organization and say, the processes we’re using today are not going to get us where we need to be in three years to be competitive in the marketplace.

People aren’t going to come work for us if we’re still doing these old, antiquated processes. They’re going to go places that have, invested in employee development and Are talking to you know their employees on a regular basis and helping enable them to be better at what they do. And so for me, we shamelessly I’m bringing up the book, but the whole idea of what we wrote about with the book is it’s a roadmap from getting from where you are to where you need to be.

And then ultimately, we have built an application that helps you guide you through that change management process, but it is You know, it’s a year long process to get someone from this annual thing to something that’s quarterly with mid quarter check [00:09:00] ins. And it’s new to the employees. It’s new to the management.

It’s new to the managers. And it takes bravery. But boy, what we have seen for the companies that make it through that The changes in engagement scores go up double digits, confidence in leadership goes up double digits, understanding the business and what they’re trying to accomplish goes up in double digits as a profound change in the ultimate outcome as companies perform better.

William TIncup: It’s interesting because you’ve had the success factors experience and then, this is obviously a better, better widget, but I wouldn’t say that to them. One of the engagements, I did some consulting with a company called Bombardier in Canada, and Doug, I don’t know if you were at SuccessFactors at the time, but basically they bought SuccessFactors a year in advance, so they’re OD.

Doug Dennerline: William, you know what, you’re going to be very surprised. You know who bought that software from me? No. Her name is Jamie Aiken, she’s on the phone. Hi. You’re kidding. I hired her out of Bombardier for that was [00:10:00] alone. That

William TIncup: was such a genius. First of all, the idea was genius. The execution. I worked with app learn at the time.

So we did a bunch of stuff around getting the technology adopted, et cetera. And that was just a genius process. And I tell people that story because it’s like, The change management, just from going from, Microsoft Excel to something something better than that. There’s still a whole lot of change, communication, education, training, all of this stuff.

And to, to date, that’s the best story that I’ve ever heard of someone technology. I had no idea that y’all both did. So it’s a small world, but I had no idea because it’s just. It’s just a great, first of all, it was the uptick was there wasn’t a shock at all. It wasn’t like, Oh my God, what are we doing?

It was, there was a whole lot of communication. There’s a whole lot of training. It was just a wonderfully executed project. William,

Doug Dennerline: What I, the wild experience here is that I, I witnessed that. [00:11:00] And I got to know Jamie, who was the head of global development for Bombardier at the time.

And I said, I’m so amazed with you and what you’ve accomplished here. Would you come to work for me and be my VP of HR innovation and change and help under help other organizations, not as a salesperson, but as a practitioner. Show them what the benefit of going through this massive process change is, and what, and it’ll be okay, and we’ll be there to support you, and guess what, you’re going to be not the goat, you’re going to be the hero, and a goat in a bad way, not a goat in a good way.


William TIncup: it’s interesting is, vendors have tons of knowledge around implementations, and what works, what doesn’t, and all that stuff, and practitioners, We don’t leverage that experience enough to, to basically y’all are sitting on hundreds, if not thousands of implementations. And I think sometimes HR, they they promote battlefield, promote, they promote somebody internal and then go, they have a job and then they have to project management and implementation.[00:12:00]

Okay. Here’s a pathway to failure. It looks like this but that’s fascinating. Thank you all for telling me that story. That’s I still I’m searching for a better implementation story and I haven’t found it yet. I

Jamie Aitken: just made my week, it is really important. The change aspect is incredibly important to pay attention to and to do thoroughly because.

Otherwise, you cannot sustain a transformation. You may go live and have fireworks and a celebratory cake, but if you really want a shift in the culture and in the behaviors you need to be planning that thoroughly and not just for go live. It is a plan that extends well beyond. Go live with the technology because the technology will get you so far, but in order for sustainment, and I think that’s why both Doug and I are pretty passionate about how important change

William TIncup: management is.

Oh yeah. And it’s like you [00:13:00] said, go live is a, an inflection point. It’s wonderful that we have some type of shared goal that we navigate towards, but past that is, okay, you have new employees that start again six months from now. Now what? How are you going to train them? How are you going to on board of all that stuff?

We can have a different show about that, but I definitely wanted to make sure the audience understands the difference. The what y’all see is the major difference between management and enablement. And Doug, let’s bubble that up real quick. Just like philosophy or philosophically, excuse me.

How do you convey that to customers and prospects?

Doug Dennerline: Yeah. And again, it’s this notion of Of moving the processes away from HR and building them such they’re creating conversations between manager and employee, and then it’s manager being able to enable deploy employee in a meaningful way. And, William, I, the other thing that we’re spending an immense amount of time on as an organization is, the one probably the worst spot [00:14:00] that large organizations don’t invest in the way that they should is in first line management.

Oh, my goodness. Couldn’t agree more. You throw them out on their own. Yeah. Okay, you were that yesterday, and you’re this today, and see you later.

William TIncup: We’ve all seen it in sales in particular. You’re great at sales. Fantastic. Janet, you’re now head of sales.

Doug Dennerline: It’s what are you doing differently than you did yesterday?

Oh, nothing. You’re not a manager. But with, the AI is real. And it is going to be profoundly impactful to HR and all the processes around HR starting, cradle to grave. But boy, we’re spending a lot of time looking for insights in our data that we give inflection point notifications to managers saying, you need to talk to Susie about, Oh, that’s cool.

Or you haven’t done this in four days with Bob and you should reach out and do this. And really give them insights on how to lead. And I think it’s a game changer.

William TIncup: Do y’all see, and if [00:15:00] there’s nothing there, there’s nothing there. But like the younger generations, or just say talent as it is today.

We’ll just say it that way. Do they need something different? Because we’re talking about enablement, we’re talking more about internal mobility, talking about training, all these other things. Are they coming to the table table stakes, expecting certain things?

Doug Dennerline: We’re trying to drive that change.

Again, I point out to people, when you’re in an interview process, Why not ask the question around when they say at the end of an interview, you have any questions for me to say, how are you going to develop me? What are the processes you use to make me successful? And we don’t ask that today. And, and I think Again, smart, millennials, Gen Z, X are coming out and they’re much more demanding of what they want out of an employer than they have ever been historically.

And Jamie, did you have anything to add?

Jamie Aitken: I just remember I’ve got a smile on my face because I remember I had a [00:16:00] team teammate who after a particular presentation, I gave him some feedback and he came back into my office two minutes later and said, I’d like to give you feedback on the quality of your feedback.

So that’s meta. Okay. Okay. All right. I honestly think there is an expectation for a lot more communication, a lot more transparency and, driving towards, better connection between people at work than there ever has been before.

William TIncup: If you’re going to give, you should be able to receive.

It’s funny because a hundred years ago I built this two by two, that basically feedback comes as either solicited or unsolicited, either positive or negative. And just ’cause I’m an odd duck, I like I like solicited negative feedback, so I’ll reach out to the people that, yeah, I re I, respect, et cetera.

And then I’ll ask ’em, okay, what did I do wrong? Let’s just go ahead and tell me what I did right. I already know what I did right. Tell me what I did wrong. And I get that. But like with somebody gives me [00:17:00] unsolicited feedback, it really literally goes in one ear and out the other.

Jamie Aitken: And there’s also this notion that is popping up a lot now, which is the notion of feed forward, right?

So it’s not just about what can I learn from maybe challenges. Or, wins from the past period of time, but also, really starting to get people focused as well on, and what can we be doing going forward to get you to the next piece of your, or next chapter in your career or the next project, right?

I think we’re getting a lot more fluid about it, which I think is It’s just going to be, more beneficial, but I hear you. Nobody wants to get unsolicited negative feedback. And if you think about the way performance management used to be constructed or

Doug Dennerline: the traditional way,

Jamie Aitken: yeah. You knew the date you were going to get,

William TIncup: this is the date of execution.

Great. Fantastic. It’s funny because when I, again giving and [00:18:00] asking for feedback, I advise a lot of startups, a lot of founders and CEOs. And so when they show me like an investment deck or some bit I’ll ask them, how do you like your feedback? Because what I’m really trying to open up is do you just want me to tell you like the things I liked?

Cool. You want me to, I, that’s fine. And it’s interesting because most of them will say unvarnished. William, that’s why you’re here. Just say what you’ve got to say. It’s okay, you want me to hit record? And I’ll go off. Y’all, I got to ask you about your book because I’ve written a couple books and they’re not easy.

There’s always an undertaking. So what’s the book title? And why’d you do it? Out of all the things that you could have done, why’d you decide to write a book? Doug, take us into it. All

Doug Dennerline: The name of the book is called Make Work Better, Revolutionizing How Great Bosses Lead, Give Feedback, and Empower Employees.

And it dawned on me that I’ve had an interesting career as well, William. I was a sales [00:19:00] leader in the networking industry. I was actually an early employee at Cisco Systems. I grew to have a team of 6, 000 there. And we used all those traditional performance processes around collaboration and nine

William TIncup: block.

And did you personal

Doug Dennerline: improvement plans? Exactly. All of that. And then now having been on the other side as a CEO building software for HR, I had this perspective of understanding, why people hate it. And so I asked Jamie to write this book with me because I’m looking at it through the eyes of the CEO who I think candidly gets.

The power of when HR and an informed CEO about knowing how important people are to their company and the processes people live in. And I look at it through the CEO’s eyes, and I’ve asked Jamie to look at it through the HR leaders side and show the power of when those two people understand the power they have together.

Is very meaningful in the books all about giving you a road map [00:20:00] on making this transformation to something that meets the needs of what happens in today in a large organization around performance.

Jamie Aitken: And in the book, we specifically spell out, what should you as an HR leader be looking for in an organization?

And also from a CEO perspective, what should you be looking out for as a, for your HR partner? Because I think it’s really important, Doug referenced in the job interview process with an employee, but I would say, and we mentioned this in the book, as an HR leader, if you find that, as a CHRO, you’re going to be reporting into the CFO, keep walking.

Yeah, because it’s very telling to see how… Or operations, yeah. Yeah,

William TIncup: exactly. It’s, what I love about what y’all are talking about is there are very few HR tech work tech plays, if you will, that are actually great at HR. You could probably on 10 fingers, you’re probably count them.

And it’s horrifying to me because it’s, I speak to [00:21:00] HR every day and I’m like, there’s suppliers, there’s vendors, partners, et cetera. And they’re not great at HR. You’d at least want them to be good at the one thing they’re trying to get you to be


Doug Dennerline: at. Yeah, that William that is really true, and but what I’m what I look for in it and I’m, good or bad news when I was at Cisco I was there, for almost 12 years.

I have always got the new HR business partner they hired from the outside and they would break them in on me and myself team and. I saw them. I saw good ones and I saw poor ones. And what I loved about a good one was they weren’t just, tactical HR trying to get us not being sued and making sure we had our 15% and our 70%.

And, they were like, Doug, here’s where we need to be in three years as an organization, the skills that people need to have. And by the way, these two people on your team are not going to get you there. And most of them want to be that

William TIncup: way. The irony is, you do have a segment of the population, the HR population that loves compliance.

They just want to do, [00:22:00] payroll benefits. They love that stuff. They’re the plumbing of HR and it’s great. But there are some of them that just can’t get to the strategic because all that tactical stuff is in their way.

Doug Dennerline: Or they’re not. The CEO o or the right doesn’t respect the function.

A hundred percent. When I’m, when it’s done well, oh my gosh, it’s it’s probably your most important relationship on your leadership team as a C e O and a company today, and not your C F O, not your gc. It’s somebody that’s going to have an impact on the direction, the people, the skills that you’re needed, that you need to get where you’re trying to go.

William TIncup: And the book, when did you, when did the, when did

Doug Dennerline: you publish? May 23rd. Is that right, Jamie?

William TIncup: Oh my goodness. This is fresh, about a month ago. And so how are you promoting it? What are you going to do? Are you going to drop ship it to folks? Are you sending, giving it to all your salespeople?

Like what’s the. What do you, now that you’ve got it, it’s going to be on Amazon. I know all that, but what are you going to do with the book?

Doug Dennerline: No we bought plenty of books that we can hand to customers that, that want to learn [00:23:00] how we feel as an organization and why we are, who we are and what we’re, where we’re going and what we’re building and a roadmap on, just knowing how to get there without even using BetterWorks.

William TIncup: It’s a, it’s a tell for Doug. What’s interesting is they, if they don’t want to read that book, that’s probably not a good prospect

Doug Dennerline: for you.

William TIncup: If you’re too busy or if you just don’t think the change, whatever you can’t hit, you don’t want to read that book.

Doug Dennerline: Yeah, we probably shouldn’t talk. All right. Exactly. William. Too funny. It’s all these, part of the problem is that. Half the time we get HR people that come to us saying, I want to build my process in your application and I’m like, don’t bother.

Again, what you want to, what you want to do is learn short meeting patients.

William TIncup: That’s one of those where you’re like, Hey, let’s get 35 minutes back in our day. Yeah, good. Y’all, I could talk to you forever. And again, congratulations on the wonderful work that you did. I didn’t know that.

I’m so glad to know it now. I know who is behind it, which is fantastic. And thanks for [00:24:00] coming on the show. Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us. Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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