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Case Study: How NRG Is Creating a Culture of Feedback That Attracts and Retains Talent

Marcy Martin, NRG’s Sr. Director of Strategic Talent. To understand what was needed, Martin listened to employees and managers, who often said they “dreaded” completing annual reviews and being assigned formal numerical ratings. 

“Based on feedback from employees and managers, we decided to move into an ongoing feedback-based model,” she says, “but where do you start?” Martin notes that the new process would be more efficient and allow for real-time coaching and improvement across the organization. But to drive adoption of the new ongoing process, they had to keep performance management top of mind year-round for employees and managers—and that required savvy change management driven by a new, more effective way to communicate. 

Communicating to Support an Informal Feedback Process 

Martin knew that change would not happen overnight. “It would take work to ensure a smooth transition into new process, to reach and train employees across a variety of roles and job sites,” she says. “We had to tailor our training to a variety of different climates—and do it quickly, in just 5 months!” 

Using GuideSpark Communicate Cloud, NRG’s yearlong campaign kicked-off in January 2018— alongside the launch of the company’s new performance management tool. “GuideSpark was our vehicle for getting people excited about the new process, for giving tips and places to go for support without having to read an HR memo or a user guide.” To reach as many employees as possible, they took a multi-channel approach including email, their weekly newsletter, and digital signage. 

“So far, our campaign has included over 50 messages,” Martin reports, emphasizing how their goal is greater than simply informing employees of the performance management process changes. “We want people to learn how to give, ask for, and receive feedback on an ongoing basis.” To that end, the campaign itself is ongoing. Additionally, to help meet employees’ differing preferences for learning and engaging, each message has directed employees to an interactive digital experience where they can view content featured in the message as well as additional videos, infographics, and documents. “There is also a clear call-to-action to make it easy for employees to put what they learned into action,” Martin adds. 

Catching Attention and Making an Impact 

Martin says that more than half of employees have engaged with the communications within the first six months of their campaign—a 5x increase compared to previous communications. “When we would do trainings and webinars in the past, we simply didn’t have this level of success,” she explains, noting that they would typically see just ten percent of employees engage with such efforts. 

Martin is looking forward to continued employee engagement with the new process. “I’m always asking myself: how can we keep people here at NRG?” Martin says. “One of the best ways to make employees feel valued and happy in their jobs doesn’t cost a thing--it’s all about authentic communication. And making sure that managers and employees are regularly exchanging feedback is enabled by putting the right performance management principles and tools in place.” And these efforts, Martin expects, will lead to retention, happy employees, and great engagement scores. “This campaign isn’t a one-and-done exercise,” Martin stresses. “We need to keep the content fresh and top of mind, so we’ll continue to run this campaign and keep messages in front of employees, including new hires, into the future.” 

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