From The Ground Up: Building The Uptake Progress Model

At Uptake, we’ve found that effective employee development is an iterative, hands-on process, not a once- or twice-a-year, check-a-box task.

When you think of performance management, what comes to mind?

An archaeological dig of the last 365 days of your work? A continual discussion with your manager about your progress and goals?

Performance management means something different to everyone, and unfortunately traditional performance management gets a bad wrap. Reviews can take from weeks to months to complete and then the novella ends up sitting in a drawer to be summoned if HR needs justification for some action. It’s a protective rather than proactive process that hasn’t driven interactions or conversations between team members and their managers. In some cases, it’s become a substitute for actively managing employees’ success.

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At Uptake, we’ve found that effective employee development is an iterative, hands-on process, not a once- or twice-a-year, check-a-box task. For that reason, we implemented a process that enables frank conversation, frequent feedback and full transparency. We call it the Uptake Progress Model. It’s broken up into four simple parts: celebrate values + set priorities + promote growth + check in regularly.

No fancy matrices or complicated forms here. Our goal for the model is to create an authentic experience where people feel empowered and want to stick around.

While still in its early stages of development, we’re getting great feedback from our team with nearly 75 percent of Uptakers reporting it’s an improvement to our previous process and 68 percent believing it demonstrates that their leader cares about them as individuals and supports their success at Uptake. What we love about this model is that it has enough structure and logic but not so much that it overshadows the rich, natural conversations between Uptakers and their managers. After all, these conversations are where the real development and progress happens.

Let’s take a look at the four parts of the model to understand our approach a little better.

Celebrate Values

Our values are part and parcel to who we are and our work with our partners. They are: Clarity, Curiosity, Flexibility, Industry and Trust.

When our managers initiate the process with their direct reports, they start with an open conversation about what these values mean to one another and the company. Then they go into a discussion about whether they fall into one of three different assessments for each value: owning, having or needing it. Collaboratively, they give examples of how the direct report lives out each value and where they could make improvements in owning values. For example, a manager might give a few examples of when their direct report could’ve articulated ideas more clearly, so they’ll discuss what’s needed in order to make strides in this value.

Set Priorities

Prior to a biannual meeting, managers compile a list of two to three priorities for the team member to focus and deliver on. These priorities align with the team’s objectives and key results and are clear, realistic and measurable. It’s important that the manager and employee not only agree on these priorities but define what success looks like, so there is no confusion around the end goal.

Promote Growth

Discussing values and how team members are tracking to goals is the meat of the discussion, but we place serious emphasis on the Uptaker’s growth. During the biannual meeting, we make sure to discuss career paths, long-term growth and internal talent sourcing.

To get a great understanding of what growth looks like for this team members, we ask a few simple questions: What are you good at? What do you love to do? What are you doing to be better in your current role? As the team member answers these, their manager is actively finding opportunities to align the employee’s answers with Uptake’s long-term success.

Check in Regularly

Check-in meetings are informal and frequent meetings between manager and employee, providing opportunities to revisit priorities established in the biannual meeting and provide ongoing feedback. This part of the process is where the most fruitful conversations occur between managers and their reports.

Regular check-in meetings with a loose framework work well because progress on tasks, tracking to goals and feedback is covered, but there is enough room to let meaningful progress—like knocking heads together to solve a tough problem—come up organically.

Improving as We Go

Just as effective employee development is iterative, the model is also iterative. We’re finding ways to make the process better as we grow. With these four steps, the proper tools in place to enhance meaningful interactions and surveys to collect feedback on how we’re serving our employees with this model, we’re making strides in becoming a more engaged workplace that’s committed to each team member’s growth.

Interested in learning what we’re all about? Check out our openings and see if there’s a role that might be a good fit for you.

Gentzy Franz is the Director of People at Uptake.