Q&A: Dean Carter of Patagonia Answers Your Questions, Part 2 - HighGround

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Q&A: Dean Carter of Patagonia Answers Your Questions, Part 2

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Last week we tackled some of the questions asked during our webinar with Deloitte’s Josh Bersin and Patagonia’s Dean Carter. Attendees had a ton of great questions for Dean specifically so we asked him to sit down and respond to them here. He also answered a few of them earlier this week. Thanks again to Dean for taking the time to share his insights and stay tuned in the next few weeks as we share more of the Q&A from the webinar.

Did you see a difference in the uptake and participation across regions? Are your team members in APJ less likely to opt in and provide constructive feedback?

Sure, but it has more to do with their comfort with feedback and using a digital product over anything else. From what we can tell, it’s not an age, gender, personality, or location difference. Of course access to the digital tools matters, so it can be harder in field or traveling roles.

Did you see any difference in how easily this could be implemented and accepted in an hourly manufacturing environment, with employees who have limited access to computers, vs. an office or store environment?

Access to the digital tools is important so we’ve started with all salaried employees and worked outward. There are still a few warehouse and retail employees with limited access to computers who are not using all our tools on HighGround. You don’t have to solve for everyone to solve for most employees. We wanted to make sure the majority of our people had access and now we’re circling back to the remaining field groups.

How did you adjust for crowd-sourced feedback being primarily positive and not as constructive as it should be?

We structure our feedback forms so they “ask the poles” and include both positive and constructive questions, allowing the giver to be constructive. But it also takes practice and time. In our research we’ve found that after giving five pieces of feedback (and even moreso after 10), people said they became comfortable giving constructive feedback. We don’t worry about it too much at the start and know it will get more balanced over time.

Have any conflict arose due to the transparency of goals? For example, were people upset with the variability regarding degree of difficulty on the goals once they were exposed?

There were some initial concerns about others seeing goals, but in practice we haven’t had issues. Ultimately we’d see it as a positive outcome if goal transparency led to better alignment and understanding of good goals. We want people to copy and learn from each other.

Do employees provide feedback to their managers?

Yes, and since we know this is uncomfortable for some people, we provide them with a simple one-page form that gives them some guidance and starting language. Like all feedback it take a few times to get comfortable, but people are doing it.

Can you provide more detail about how decisions on bonuses and base increases are audited for alignment to the individual’s performance and any disparate impact on protected groups?

We use leadership calibration sessions for these things. Our simple rule is, “If it’s a limited resource that needs to be allocated, let’s make the call in a calibration session.” We want multiple perspectives with as much data and info as possible to make great decisions about resources like compensation and bonus allocation. This also applies to costly leadership development or non-comp investments.

How did employees handle the compensation process since it seems subjective?

It’s no more subjective than it’s ever been here or anywhere else I’ve been. Final comp allocation has always required some human judgment. Goals aren’t “objective vs. subjective.” They’re “accurate and fair vs. inaccurate and unfair.” We’ve all seen systems that were too numbers driven and while they appeared more objective, they were far less fair or accurate. For example, think of a store manager whose bonus is tied to sales only and then a competitor unexpectedly opens across the street. Do we religiously trust the number/metric only or is it fairer to include some degree of human judgment in that situation? The goal is to start with some objective information – which we do in the goal-setting process. We use SMART goals with measurable results but we leave room for an appropriate degree of human judgment, starting with the direct manager and then flowing into leadership calibration meetings to finalize judgments.