If you’re a manager or an HR professional, you’ve probably found yourself inundated with articles discussing annual performance reviews – specifically, articles about why you should abandon them immediately. There is a new way of doing things, and it’s called continuous performance management. It incorporates real-time feedback, the allocation of short-term objectives and frequent developmental conversations for all employees.
Continuous performance management is rapidly growing in popularity. If you don’t currently utilize frequent check-ins, you’re likely beginning the transition. However, you might have noticed that while there are lots of articles discussing why continuous performance management is the right choice for your business, there is a serious lack of information regarding how you implement this serious organizational change.
Without any guidance, it is unlikely that you will be successful in your attempts, and your company will more than likely return to old-fashioned and ultimately inefficient annual performance reviews.
Below is a tried-and-tested, step-by-step guide on how to transition to continuous performance management.
1. There’s no time like the present – make the change today.
In all likelihood, your performance management system needs a serious makeover. Research has shown that 95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with their existing system. They feel it is ineffective and unhelpful in terms of driving performance, achieving goals and inspiring employees. If this is the case, there is no sense putting off the inevitable. Take steps today to transition to regular check-ins. The sooner you take action, the further you will progress, and the sooner you will start to see the benefits.
2. Talk to managers and discover who is already conducting regular performance discussions.
If you are having a hard time getting managers to have a single yearly performance review with their employees, you might feel that implementing continuous performance management is an impossible feat. After all, if they can’t get excited about one review, how are you going to get them thrilled about a minimum of 12?
An important step is to talk to managers and find out how many of them are already carrying out informal performance discussions. You might be surprised. Many companies that have introduced continuous performance management found that their managers already incorporated the use of check-ins to a certain degree. When it comes to designing your new process and transitioning to continuous performance management, HR should involve managers. Topics to discuss include how they organize the meetings, how frequently they happen and whether they have any useful talking points to get the ball rolling.
3. Get buy-in from senior leadership.
To succeed implementing a new continuous performance management system, it’s necessary to get buy-in from top management. It’s easier to get the remainder of your workforce on board when they see the higher-ups leading by example.
It’s normal to face some resistance from senior leadership when confronted with an organizational change, particularly one as big as ditching annual appraisals. Take the time to talk through the business benefits of continuous performance management, using research-based evidence.
Answer questions regarding how the new process will identify high and low-performing employees, and how promotions, raises, and bonuses will be handled. Knowing that these questions have been considered and are being handled can give leadership a level of confidence in the new system.
4. Sell the benefits to your managers.
No manager is going to be truly engaged with the new system if they don’t understand what value it is bringing them, or what it will do to improve performance. For this reason, HR needs to really explain the new system, why you are transitioning and how it will help everyone improve.
To managers, stress the benefits of a more engaged, motivated and better-performing team. They should also know that, ultimately, regular check-ins save time when compared to an arduous annual appraisal process.
5. Provide the necessary training and guidance.
To get the most out of your new performance management system, provide the appropriate training. Take the time normally spent administering annual appraisals and spend it training managers to conduct quality performance conversations and deliver meaningful feedback. Don’t simply assume this is something that comes naturally to all managers.
6. Continually communicate the changes that are about to take place.
It has been suggested that in order for a change to be fully understood by employees, it has to be repeated six to seven times. For this reason, communication planning is critical when transitioning to continuous performance management. Don’t simply rely on a one-off email announcing the change. Organize a variety of methods to communicate the transition, including newsletters, videos, face-to-face meetings, webinars and fact sheets.
7. Make use of continuous performance management software.
Technology is an incredible tool that can facilitate your transition to this new method of management. With the use of software, you can schedule and track employee one-to-one meetings, exchange real-time feedback and track SMART objectives that will be revisited regularly. With the use of performance management software, HR is also granted more visibility, meaning they can monitor performance discussions and feedback sessions while monitoring pressing performance issues. Such data is crucial when it comes to monitoring the success of your brave new performance management process.
The process of creating a mobile app is not limited to coding. It involves many stages, including idea description and clarification, communication with a software development company, cost estimation, prototyping, design, back-end and mobile development, release and marketing.
Yes, it’s complex – but the game is certainly worth the candle!
According to GeoMobile, users spend three hours, 23 minutes a day in apps (compared to 50 minutes on mobile web and a little over two hours spent on PCs). Whether you plan to deliver the ultimate experience to your mobile customers or build an app-based business, you’re on the right track.
The App-Making Process: 3 Steps to Success
1. Idea description and requirements analysis
Contact a software development company and give a general description of your application. For example, “I need a food ordering app, like Domino’s, with the restaurant menu displayed on the home screen.”
The software development company will then prepare a ballpark cost estimate using the app you referred to as a reference. The cost of building a restaurant app depends on various factors. These include the country you outsource the development work to, the size of a development company, platform choice, the pricing model, the scope of work, etc. No software development company will give you an accurate estimate based on your general description – and that’s where the requirements elicitation process begins. Be ready to meet your Account Manager and tech lead in person/on Skype to decide on your app’s feature set – that is, the list of features that will help your customers pick a meal, place an order and make a secure payment.
Together with the vendor, you’ll choose the target platform. As a rule, it’s Android and iOS, so you’ll have to build two native apps to ensure seamless experience on multiple devices. Also, you need to decide on a pricing model. Building a food ordering app is not rocket science, so you’ll probably sign a Fixed Price (FP) contract and be able to plan software development costs in advance. Depending on the complexity of your project, the communication part may take up to several weeks. In the end, however, you’ll have a detailed technical vision listing all the functional (what your app should do) and non-functional (how the app is going to do it) requirements for your project.
If you’re going to take the Fixed Price approach, make sure the tech vision covers all the features you’d like to enable in your application. If you realize you want to add extra features to the scope in the midst of the development process, you’ll have to sign a supplementary agreement and pay for those features separately. According to your FP contract, you won’t be able to review your team’s work until the very end of the dev process.
As another option, you can sign a Time & Material (T&M) contract and be more hands-on with the project – that is, prioritize the app features on the scope, review the work at the end of each sprint (which usually last for two to four weeks) and conduct face-to-face and phone meetings with your team. The T&M model is more suitable for complex and knowledge-intensive mobile app projects dealing with cutting-edge technologies like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence or augmented reality. However, your cost will be harder to predict.
2. Mobile app design and development
The user interface (UI) part of an app is just the tip of the iceberg. The mobile app logic is enabled by a server, which is built with web development technologies like PHP, .Net, Ruby, etc.
Here the “app logic” term refers to many things, including live chat (your customers might want to message call center employees or delivery personnel directly), social features (including the integration with social networks, comments, ratings, etc.), referral/customer loyalty program elements (invitations, bonus points and discounts) and payments. Also, you’ll need a web-based admin console to update menu and pricing information, manage locations, track orders and define delivery area.
A great mobile app is a set of modules which can be developed and deployed independently. Going back to the food ordering app example, it will feature multiple modules like communication, social features, payments, delivery service and chain management.
How do you know what features will prove useful to your customers? You can only tell once you try, so you probably should start with a Minimum Viable Product (aka the very basic version of your app), conduct testing and expand its feature set based on user feedback.
Finally, there’s the design part. Your design decisions should be based on a through user research; you might even get a bit more technical about it and create simple app wireframes in Balsamiq before you address a mobile app development company to explain your idea better. Together with a user experience (UX) designer, you’ll figure out how app screens should be connected to each other to help your customers place orders in the most convenient way and make sure the design meets the App Store and Google Play requirements.
3. Mobile app marketing
Four to five months later your app will be ready to launch – and here comes the hardest part: app marketing. Although apps now consume over 90 percent of the total mobile time, most smartphone owners use just 30 apps on a regular basis. These include Facebook and Instagram, mobile games, educational apps and business tools.
Marketing the app to customers who attend your physical restaurants is one thing; what if you’re operating an online food delivery business only? Obviously, you need to create some buzz around your project before the app goes live. Be sure to allocate a sufficient marketing budget (expect around $30K-plus) to do the following:
- Think of an app feature that will help you stand out from the competition (something like Domino’s Zero Clicks will do).
- Build a simple WordPress promo website with an explainer video and information about your project. Then start a Google AdWords campaign to get some traffic and encourage users to subscribe for updates.
- Run a blog documenting the app making process and share news on social media.
- Start with an MVP and conduct early tests to refine your product.
- Plan a soft launch to test your business model.
Easier said than done, right? With the average cost per install (CPI) in the USA hitting $ 1.64 (iOS) and $ 1.91 (Android) last year, marketing a new app on a tight budget is a real challenge. Perhaps you can draw inspiration from Eat24 – a food delivery company that decided to advertise their services on adult websites and won big.
Steven Aldrich, chief product officer at GoDaddy, has seen firsthand how technology and remote work have changed the role and responsibilities of managers in recent years. In addition to his current position at GoDaddy, where he previously served as senior vice president of business applications, Aldrich has been in leadership roles for a number of other organizations, including Intuit, Posit Science and Outright.
We recently had the chance to ask Aldrich about the changes to the management landscape and how leaders today can get the most out of their employees.
Q: How have leaders had to adjust their management style in the last decade to get the most out of their employees?
A: In the tech industry, management styles have improved in many ways over the past decade. There has been more sharing (think Google’s Project Oxygen) and benchmarking (e.g., conducting employee surveys and comparing results within and across companies) to ensure best practices are understood by more people. The space I’ve seen the most improvement is the focus on openness of sharing information and context, bringing employees into decision-making, and a recognition of ‘agile’ being an enterprise concept, not just a development approach.
Q: In today’s technological, largely remote working environment, what are the biggest challenges leaders face?
A: Technology has brought workers far more advantages than it has disadvantages. The flexibility of being able to work anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal has given folks a tremendous opportunity to become anywhere workers and connect remote teams.
However, remote work does have its challenges. The lack of face-to-face time can cause communication mishaps, which makes it increasingly important to select the right technology to use with your co-workers. Using on-camera calls can at times feel just as personal as a face-to-face meeting, even if one employee is in Phoenix and their team is in London.
Q: What skills do leaders of today need that their predecessors might not have?
A: Leaders of today need to understand and cultivate a growth mindset. Our environment is changing so rapidly that we have to constantly say ‘I don’t know’ while being willing to go learn the answer. That’s the core concept behind growth mindset – humans have infinite capacity to learn and improve. This will help leaders adapt to new technologies and working styles.
Q: What tips do you have for managing a staff that has both in-office and remote employees?
A: At GoDaddy, we have full-time employees who are also grilled-cheese chefs, fitness instructors and brand-new parents. We encourage people to pursue their dreams, just like our small business customers do. Really giving your employees the flexibility to be anywhere workers, both in the office and from home, means you value them for their time and contributions. Just because they’re not in the room doesn’t make them less valuable. If you have meetings with folks who are on the phone and people in the room, directly address the folks on the phone to encourage them to be present and collaborate as a team.
Q: When you are working with employees you don’t see each day, how can you ensure their productivity remains at a high level?
A: Start by setting clear expectations. When you have common goals and deadlines, everyone is responsible for staying accountable for their work. It’s also important to take the time to learn each employee’s communication style. If they prefer a Slack message rather than a phone call, that may be a better way to check in on progress.
Q: Are there any tools that you would advise businesses to use to help boost productivity?
A: Every business is different, but my favorites are the Microsoft O365 product suite (sharing documents, common calendars, easy meeting setup), Zoom and Slack.
Q: How is GoDaddy helping small businesses increase their productivity?
A: One of our goals is to give our customers products backed by people that take care of the stuff that is important but not core to their business – like email, website hosting, security.
A small business owner who runs a cupcake shop shouldn’t have to worry about being an SEO or website-building expert. We’re here to be the experts on that so they can focus on what they do best – baking delicious treats. We offer 24/7 localized customer service, so our customers can call anytime, talk to a real person and get their questions answered.
If you have a startup and are looking for money to grow, you might be on the hunt for an angel investor. These investors, sometimes called informal or seed investors, often support businesses in their early stages, backing unproven but promising companies with the investor’s own money. They are likely to provide mentorship and advice along with funding for startup founders.
But just because these relationships are more personal does not mean they are casual. Angel investors are careful about where they invest their money because of the potential for it to be lost if a company never takes off.
Many in the Business.com community are asking if their startup is ready for an angel investor. We at Business.com investigated to find the definitive answer. If you want to attract angel funding, your startup needs to have these six things.
1. A disruptive innovation
Brian Cairns, CEO at ProStrategix Consulting, developed two iterations of his health startup, Phytology Labs, before he approached investors. The reason? He knew that the idea needed to be more of a disruption to the current market to successfully attract outside interest.
“Although our first prototype was effective … I knew we needed to be differentiated at the benefit level,” said Cairns. “We [needed] to have something meaningful that no one else could claim.”
If your idea is too similar to other products or services that are already on the market, or if you’re not disrupting an existing industry model, you might not be ready to approach angel investors.
2. Shared risk
Zach Hendrix, the co-founder of lawn care startup GreenPal, knew his company wouldn’t be ready for investors until he was taking on an equal level of risk. “I never felt like I could confidently spend their money like I was spending my own,” said Hendrix. “I think it was this honest and earnest approach the made raising angel funding a snap for us.”
Sharing the risk and investing in your own company increases your motivation to succeed, which makes investors feel more secure. “When a CEO [or] founder is at personal risk, and their success is directly tied to the success of their company, they are more apt to persist, to innovate and to adopt a run-through-brick-walls mentality,” said Jeremy Halpern, a partner at Nutter and an angel investor for many startups in the food and beverage industry.
By investing your own resources in your startup, you demonstrate to investors that you believe in both your product and your own ability, both of which are key to gaining their trust.
3. A business that can scale
A business can be promising but still never attract investors if it can’t expand to other markets. To create a startup that’s ready for seed investment, make sure you have designed a business that can scale up.
For Bobbie Carlton, the CEO and founder of Innovation Women, the online public speakers’ bureau was not her first successful business. “I had founded and bootstrapped two other companies before I started Innovation Women,” said Carlton. “They are good companies but are not designed to scale.”
Innovation Women, by contrast, attracted outside attention partly because it had so much room for growth. Carlton’s angel investor, Pradeep Aradhya, said that he was interested in an innovative business that was “extensible and diversifiable to large future market.”
Innovation Women fit that criteria by having the potential to expand on an international scale.
4. A realistic business plan
Before you seek out investors, you need a business plan based in reality and numbers that show your startup’s value.
“You can tell if a startup is not ready for investors if its plans are not based in data or market realities … or [the business] lacks clear financial projections and plan,” said Halpern.
Your business plan should go beyond predictions for your business. You need to demonstrate an understanding of your industry and the market that you will be working in if you want to show your potential for growth and appeal to investors.
5. Signs of success
While a startup does not always need to have reached the stage of profitability to attract seed investors, you do need to show that you are likely to become profitable. This means achieving some success in your market without outside funding.
Mark Kahn, a venture capital attorney at PAG Law who has worked with entrepreneurs and investors at all funding stages, has watched many startups grow. He has found that the most successful ones have some in-market proof of concept before they approach investors.
“Ideas are a dime a dozen, but what investors want to see is … ability to execute,” said Kahn. “That means showing them, at a bare minimum, an ability to execute on your idea to clearly demonstrate some form of early market demand without significant funding.”
Cairns agreed, saying that unsubstantiated claims are a sure sign that a startup is not yet ready for outside investment. “Angels don’t expect 100 percent validation, but you need to come with some credible proof that the concept works,” he said.
6. A strong team of founders
While an innovative idea and a strong business model are essential for startup success, on their own they won’t attract investors. “Investors invest in people, not ideas,” said Carlton.
Because angel funding comes so early in a startup’s life, investors need to believe in the people behind the business as much as they believe in the business itself. To convince investors to take a risk on you, you must demonstrate that your team has the experience, passion and commitment to propel your business to success.
“I like working with founders who are subject matter experts and who are most likely to accelerate their company’s growth,” said Halpern. “Other key traits in a founding team are honesty, clear communication, maniacal diligence and the right blend of irrational exuberance with not buying their own hype.”
How to find the right angel investors
Once you feel ready to seek out angel investors, it’s important not to rush things. Take time to develop a solid pitch before approaching investors so you stand out for the right reasons.
“As trite as it sounds, startups that have done their homework and know their pitch backwards and forwards stand out to me the most,” said Halpern. “These CEOs [and] founders understand their business, the market and are able to sell the investment opportunity.”
While you’re pitching, don’t make it all about yourself. Instead, Halpern advised, focus on the relationship you want to develop with your angel investor. “An often overlooked part of the process is building a trust-based relationship with the investor during this wooing phase,” Halpern said. “In fact, it is important to build such a relationship and to establish goal alignment, before getting to any sort of deal making.”
Carlton agreed, adding that when it comes to angel funding, it’s not enough just to find someone willing to invest. “I don’t think we were really ready until we connected with the right [person],” she said, adding that Aradhya was an ideal investor because he believed so strongly in the mission of her startup.
“I didn’t want to spend all my time shopping around for funding. I’d rather spend my time looking for customers and partners,” said Carlton. “Once I found a simpatico source of funding and, more importantly, advice and guidance, I focused there.”
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of directing traffic from free and organic results on search engines to your website. SEO can be classified in following three categories:
- Generated Traffic Quality: SEO attracts quality visitors to your website.
- Quality of Traffic: Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) will bring quality traffic to your website.
- Organic Results: Free traffic that makes up a significant portion of many SERPs.
Here are some of the SEO trends we foresee for 2018:
1. Voice search features will be used more often.
Almost 20 percent of all mobile online searches are conducted by voice activation. This number is projected to reach 50 percent by 2020. Accordingly, internet search algorithms prioritize voice-activated questions over those entered on the keyboard.
2. Google and web analytics will gain prominence.
Google continues to collaborate with user-friendly websites to provide an engaging experience. This is where Google and web analytics converge. If your website shows a heavy bounce rate, this might indicate a need to improve your website. Web analytics will help you monitor your incoming traffic and if it declines, you may need to improve how you position your website.
3. Helpful, optimized content will continue to be the most valued website feature.
Content that gives users what they need, provides what they want and solves their problems is the most desirable and valuable. Your content should be systematically optimized for search engines. Keywords should be placed properly:
- Tags: Title tag, meta description tag, H1-H4 tag
- Image names and alt tags
4. Conversion rates will help inform design improvements.
For monitoring conversion rates, you will need to attach UTM tracking codes to each of your major links and carefully monitor everything in Google Analytics. One of the indicators is the Heat Map, which allows you to identify opportunities to improve your site design.
5. Websites will continue to become more mobile-friendly.
Google plans to introduce their mobile-first index. The plan is currently shrouded in secrecy, but will play a critical role in ranking websites. To make your website more mobile-friendly, invest in a website with responsive design which will help it load more efficiently.
6. Brand building will inspire audience trust.
Brand building is an essential part of any long-term SEO strategy. To earn your customers’ trust, you need to offer them a positive experience. Monitor your brand reputation so that harmful reviews or negative comments can be addressed quickly.
7. Google continues to develop context designing.
Google has been analyzing its search quality evaluator guidelines with the goal of differentiating between the searches of both desktop and mobile users. Therefore, the most effective mobile websites are designed and developed based on the behavior and habits of its users. A flexible website framework may respond better to new guidelines and be better prepared to mitigate the potentially adverse effects of these Google updates.
Here are some tips to help you adapt to these trends:
- To help search engines interpret and organize the information on your web pages, consider marking up your website with Schema.org markup.
- Prioritize keeping on top of off-page SEO.
- Establish an engaging web presence.
- Use a web crawler tool to check for issues.
- Last, but not least, improve your site speed.