In the last 30 years, the archetypal workplace has undergone a considerable transformation. From open plan co-working, to flexible ‘choose your own hours’ scheduling, the office of today is a far cry from the stuffy, rigidity of the past. You can even rent a car space on the street as an office now!
Whilst a lot has undoubtedly changed for the better, there are still some antiquated aspects of business that are no longer fit for purpose in a modern, progressive, and ever-changing workplace. One such process, according to Atlassian’s head of talent Bek Chee, is the dreaded performance review, which was once described to her by a colleague as the ‘annual ambush’.
In a bid to shake-up an outdated system that all too often rewards the ‘brilliant jerks’, Atlassian decided to make some pretty revolutionary changes to the way it evaluates and rewards its employees for their workplace performance. The goal was to overhaul the traditional review system and develop a new framework that would evaluate employees based on their full contribution to the team and not just their individual impact. This evaluation would then be tied to employee bonuses, ensuring better outcomes for employees and customers alike (and not just the company’s bottom line).
In an interview with Business Insider, Chee outlined that because traditional performance reviews have remained largely unchanged in the last 30 years, they “Don’t necessarily reward the behaviour we’re seeking to reward.”
“We want to be able to evaluate a whole person and encourage them to bring their full self to work and not just focus on skills themselves, but really focus on the way they do their work,” Chee said.
After a successful 12-month probationary period, Atlassian recently announced that the changes will now be implemented permanently, citing significant company and employee benefits. Which we think begs the question: If the banking and financial services industry were to become more ‘values’ driven, and seek to numerically reward employees for not just what they achieve but also how they achieve it, would we too see positive changes to the outcomes for our customers, employees and importantly, our culture?
You bet we would.
If you always do what you’ve always done…
For decades, there’s been a disconnect between outcomes that the finance industry claims to pursue, versus the outcomes that it fosters. As was illustrated so perfectly during the Hayne Royal Commission, when a business chooses to reward and incentivise employees to simply reach revenue targets, whilst simultaneously failing to enforce any form of penalty for unethical or deviant behaviour, they ultimately create an environment that will be in service to one aspect only…
Customers! We’re totally joking, it’s not customers, it’s profits.
Jokes aside, it is certainly a customer centric image our banking institutions insist on projecting. One that proves time and again to be resoundingly hollow. For years we’ve listened to the same sales pitches and cheesy slogans, only to see the same unethical behaviour borne from the same sales-driven culture, and why? Because as the saying goes: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.
By challenging traditional models of employee performance evaluation and remuneration to ensure that it rewards those who are upholding the business’s core values, Atlassian are effectively becoming stewards of their own company culture, something that the finance industry has long (and publicly) struggled with.
“We really want to enforce the way that values get lived, the way that people impact the team and the way that they also contribute within their role” says Chee.
“Within values, we see this as a very binary thing. You're either living the values… the majority of the time and other people can observe the behaviours, or not.”
We couldn’t agree more.
The way we define ‘success’ needs to change
During the Royal Commission, evidence was given that a large mortgage broking group had failed to detect the fraudulent behaviour of four of its brokers, and upon learning of such behaviour, had then failed to sufficiently report the known misconduct to affected customers and regulatory bodies.
Four months later, that same broker group featured on an industry list of the ‘Top 25 Brokerages’ in the country.
It came in at number one.
While at first this seems almost farcical, things tend to become clearer when you take a closer look at the criteria being used to assess what exactly it is that makes a brokerage successful or at least worthy of a mention on a list ranking the industry’s best. From what we can see, the criteria were focused on assessing one outcome only: revenue.
How can we reasonably expect to eradicate the dishonourable parts of our culture, when as an industry, we continue to prize and reward profit alone? Can a business truly be deemed ‘successful’ if it engaged in fraudulent, unethical activity to achieve this success and in doing so, putting their clients in potentially risky financial situations?
For us, the answer is, obviously, a resounding and unequivocal no.
Similarly, many other finance industry award programs deliver accolades based predominantly on business metrics and profitability. In some cases, these are the only criteria being taken into account. Which seems incredibly counterproductive, particularly if the aim is to increase credibility and consumer trust in an industry that is time and again accused (and rightly so) of putting profits before people.
At Pure Finance, we believe the value of our business lies in much more than just our revenue. We believe it’s in our commitment to an ethical and sustainable business model and our ability to be innovative with the services we provide. We believe it’s in our commitment to improving our social impact through Pure Community, as well as championing meaningful change in the areas of equality and diversity within the financial services industry. We also believe it’s in our drive to provide outcomes for the people who the banking system doesn’t effectively help and to ensure that the financial solutions we deliver are better for our customers, better for our community and better for our world.
It is by our achievement in these areas that we measure our success, rather than by the amount of loans we write, or our year on year growth. Not only does it deliver undoubtedly better outcomes for our customers, but it means our employees are also encouraged to (in the words of Atlassian) ‘bring their full selves to work’ and at all times, uphold the values of our business within all facets of their work.
It’s win win really.
To hear this kind of rhetoric from a company like Atlassian (at $50 billion they are now worth more than Telstra) and to see them take such targeted action to affect real change within their organisation, is nothing short of inspiring. And it is to this commitment to action, and not just talk, that the banking and finance sector should pay particular attention. In the aftermath of the Hayne Royal Commission, it could not be clearer that sales-driven remuneration, and continuing to reward the brilliant jerks, has failed us dismally. For things to really (and we mean really) change, the entire industry must relinquish its love affair with profit alone and start to place a higher value on its purpose.
After all, it costs us nothing to do what is right, and if the remediation costs of the big four have taught us anything, it’s that it is actually really expensive to be assholes.
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