As L&D leaders, we know the challenges around making people aware of what we do in an organization and what we stand for. For many, this results in focusing efforts on building a marketing strategy to support performance.
So, how can you design a performance evaluation program that focuses on impact, engagement and employee well-being, retention, and experience?
In this interview, I speak with Angela Stopper, Chief Learning Officer at UC Berkeley, about how she is building Berkeley as a true learning organization by applying a growth mindset and upskilling employees from within through their new performance evaluation program.
Read on to hear why using a growth mindset is crucial for a world-class university like Berkeley.
Loving what you’re reading? Come and join the L&D Collective for more great learning insights, resources, and events!
As the Chief Learning Officer at the University of California, Berkeley, Angela leads her team and helps staff and campus leaders to grow.
“We help them think about how they can help the people and the staff on campus grow and think about learning and development, engagement, strategy, and succession planning,” she explains.
When Angela started at UC Berkeley five years ago, her first challenge was making sure that people knew that the team was there and what they wanted to achieve–a challenge she believes many CLOs experience.
“Outside consultants do a great job of marketing and telling organizations why they should be hired, and I think as internal consultants, we need to do that same work,” Angela says. “We need to have those same marketing strategies so people know that we're there and are as useful as external consultants you can hire.”
Looking for more expert tips? Find out how L&D leaders at Harry’s, Robert Half, Disneyland Paris and more are turning L&D into a driver of company culture.
The first task on Angela’s list was to understand the portfolio, think about what the team was offering, find the gaps, and build a marketing strategy. This included how the team could support the staff and leadership of UC Berkeley.
“We call it our Grow Strategy,” Angela explains. “We brought the team together, and our buzz phrase now is, how do you want to grow today? And people know when they think of growth, they think of us.”
“One of the big challenges was telling people that we were there, willing and ready to help them, and they could be just as successful as if they spent their money on an external course or group to help them with those same things.”
As Angela was building the team and the marketing structure, she realised that they were building and delivering programs in siloes.
One of the big challenges was telling people that we were there, willing and ready to help them, and they could be just as successful as if they spent their money on an external course or group to help them with those same things.
“The members of her team were functioning more as portfolio managers who all reported to one person instead of a team,” she says. “So, in addition to building out our Grow Strategy, I also talked with them about how we start to function as a team. How do we make sure everybody knows what everybody else is doing to make the portfolio even more robust?”
“I asked the question: how do we bring this group of individuals together to start playing off each other's strengths and helping support each other? I think those are challenges that all CLOs see when they're coming into their role, but it was certainly something that I saw as I took this role at UC Berkeley,” says Angela.
So, how did Angela and her team get their growth strategy up and running?
Angela and her team used a three-pillar approach when developing their growth strategy.
“The first thing we did was create a policy that all employees at UC Berkeley have 80 hours or ten days of professional development a year,” Angela explains. “This move cemented the notion that professional development and growth is supported by policy.”
“Second,” she says, “we encourage managers to write in new job descriptions that 5% of a person's time should be spent on professional development or continuing professional development and growth. So, it's in policy and part of your job.”
Next, Angela and the team built a portfolio of programs that outlined everything they offered that staff could take advantage of to meet that ‘grow’ expectation in policy and job descriptions.
“We have a phrase that we put at the top of our job descriptions that calls out Berkeley as a learning organization,” she says. “And we say that when you come to work here, you need to have a growth mindset because we care about you advancing and growing.”
“So, by having that grow expectation in policy, in people's job descriptions, and by having it as part of things that people can take advantage of at no cost, we have built ourselves as a true learning organization which is really exciting.”
When Angela started at Berkeley, they discussed how they could impact performance evaluation.
“We had a standard performance evaluation program where people wrote these novels once a year that basically justified their existence to have a position, and we didn’t want to have that kind of a performance evaluation program anymore.”
Moving towards a more coaching-based culture, Angela knew they needed to change how they evaluated people’s performance. They needed to build support structures around training and build communities of practice around coaching.
We had a standard performance evaluation program where people wrote these novels once a year that basically justified their existence to have a position, and we didn’t want to have that kind of a performance evaluation program anymore.
“One of the most important things we did was create a set of core competencies and said this is what it means to be an employee at the University of California. Then we ensured that our achievement criteria, which is what we started measuring people's performance, aligned with those core competencies,” she says.
So instead of only measuring what employees are doing, Angela and her team now measure performance on different criteria that include goal accomplishment and job mastery. “We also added criteria around innovation, collaboration, and belonging and inclusion because we wanted people to start thinking about ‘the how’ and ‘the what’.”
“And so, we built this wonderful program called Achieve Together,” she says, “where we have managers talk to their employees and ask them questions that lead to discovering those five achievement criteria three times a year. They write up their notes and then use that as a way to think about development.”
“We have moved from having a performance evaluation program that was just about getting your goals done, to one with the right amount of evaluation. It's also asking people to think about how they do their work so they can live the values that we feel are important as an employee at the University of California, Berkeley.”
UC Berkeley’s Achieve Together program highlights the benefits of collaborative learning. By connecting managers and staff, they can identify the core achievement criteria that will help employees upskill from within and grow within their roles.
Angela explains that measuring the impact of their performance evaluation program was a long process and began with a pilot.
“We piloted about 1,000 people, which is about a quarter of our non-represented employees,” she says. “We did that intentionally because to make change happen at an institution over 150 years old, you need a lot of time and a lot of champions.”
“And right when we were getting ready to roll out the new program, the pandemic hit,” Angela explains. “People said we can't possibly think we're going to change the way we do performance when all of this is happening. And we said that not only do we think we're going to do it, we know we have to because employees need to be managed differently.”
So, Angela and her team launched the program, paid attention to feedback, and tweaked and pivoted. “What we saw when we did our employee engagement survey was performance increase by an 8% positive increase–a statistically significant increase within our population,” she says.
What we saw when we did our employee engagement survey was performance increase by an 8% positive increase–a statistically significant increase within our population.
“In addition to the every two-year employee engagement survey, we take pulse surveys, and we talk to people about how they're feeling—those numbers are on the rise as well.”
What Angela and her team saw with the program was a positive increase in how people feel about performance evaluation as well as a culture change.
“We saw positive increases around communication,” she says. “Some of our communication numbers increased by 12% and 15%. It was a big change that impacted employee experience, retention, feeling, well-being, how people were doing the work, and how they were able to be authentic and themselves at work.”
As Angela explains, CLOs have an exciting obligation to start moving our organizations toward having a growth mindset and meeting workers where they are.
“Future-ready organizations are helping employees to be successful. Leadership teams are thinking about what organizational structures should look like and what our workforces need to be to meet our business goals for the future,” she says.
“The way we do work changed with the pandemic, and that's exciting because it allows us to think about those future-focused goals and get a seat at the table to talk about what we can do to make sure our organizations succeed.”
In Angela’s experience, people want to work at organizations with a worker focus and a learning growth mindset. “And that is exactly the work that Chief Learning Officers have been doing for all these years.”
“Grab this opportunity to take that seat at the table if you don't already have it. If you have a seat at the table, start talking to your CEO about what you and your teams can do to help make sure your organization remains relevant today, tomorrow, and well into the future.”
Grab this opportunity to take that seat at the table if you don't already have it. If you have a seat at the table, start talking to your CEO about what you and your teams can do to help make sure your organization remains relevant today, tomorrow, and well into the future.
Thanks to Angela for sharing her experience and insights with us!
For more insights and expert advice on coaching and performance evaluation, check out how Frédéric Voyer of My Job Glasses is designing career mentoring by leveraging human connections or how Laura Welch Nevarez at Flatiron Health is driving retention by developing and implementing programs that ramp up engagement.
Want more peer insights on transforming workplace learning? Sign up to become a member of the L&D Collective, and check out our other #CLOConnect interviews with top L&D leaders on driving growth and scaling culture through Collaborative Learning. Or you can subscribe (below 👇) to our weekly newsletter to receive our latest posts directly in your inbox.