A new performance philosophy at Sony Pictures Network

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 02, 2020

How the broadcaster has re-engineered its employee evaluation process in India

The work we do has evolved so rapidly that companies are feeling the need to change the way they hire, assess and appraise talent. Just over a month ago, in November 2019, Sony Pictures Network India joined a growing band of companies that are re-engineering their performance management systems, doing away with the bell curve and recency bias and forms and static procedures. With the media and entertainment industry being disrupted badly due to new forms of content consumption coming in, the imperative for a rejig in its HR policies was necessary. Manu Wadhwa, CHRO at SPNI, which is in its 25th year of operations in India and has 24 channels and 1,200-plus employees, explains the philosophy behind the move and other talent-related initiatives.

Why did you feel the need to change your performance management system?

The traditional system was structured as a top-down, linear, bi-annual appraisal process with talent discussions happening twice annually. This system was best suitable for a time when the industry was witnessing limited to no change but has since lost its dynamism.

In order to maintain our leadership in the industry, we felt the need to be innovative, agile and updated. While embracing agility, it was essential for us to re-examine our values and the way we evaluate performance.

How did you go about implementing it?

As a precursor to the implementation of our new growth agenda, we launched the six new values of SPN and crafted a simple, relatable e-version of values which every member of SPNI can imbibe in their day-to-day life. And, to stay aligned to these values, we re-engineered our performance philosophy..

We launched Check-in for Change – a brand tag for our new agile performance management framework called Connect. Plan. Mentor (CPM). The essence of the CPM Framework is: Connect to Reflect. This is about setting clear goals and milestones and checking on it. Plan for Future. This is about agile recognition of performance development needs. And finally, Mentor for Development — regular conversations between employee and manager on performance and values as well as data and science-based talent decisions.

How are you using data and science?

Our CPM framework initiates check-ins with managers six times in a year, which leads to multi-point data on performance and provides a holistic view of performance. This, in turn, leads to insight-based decisions for employers and helps to map productivity.

Detailed individual charts enable managers to assess/monitor gaps in performance on a real-time basis and provide timely feedback and support. These give each leader a perspective on employee potential and performance round the year and help them take apt reward decisions.

Several companies are now doing away with the bell curve and going in for continuous feedback But implementation is often difficult as managers have to be trained. How have you overcome this?

For any change management schedule, the most critical aspect is to deliver appropriate training and have conversations for better understanding and higher employment engagement. We created sufficient awareness and understanding about the new system within the top management before an official launch. Functional heads were educated to get them on board before an overall launch.

We also invested in technology enabled change — through individual passports and QR codes leading to videos by CEO and CHRO along with live broadcast by leadership team. There were deep immersion sessions across the organisation as well as a personalised approach — 100 per cent leaders and employees were taken through the journey of change.

Today, the way content is consumed has changed radically. For a content production house like yours, clearly this necessitates a new talent mix. How are you addressing this?

With the shift from four major broadcasters, to a rapid proliferation of OTT platforms with different levels of engagement metrics, the competitive landscape of today has certainly changed. We have had to up the ante in terms of not just being consumer-centric in our offerings but also, as an employer, curating personalised experiences and non-linear career portfolios to appeal to diverse talent.

Given the amalgamation of industries and the fluidity of talent in these cases, we are always on the lookout for talent from across genres, and our talent teams actively recruit people outside the media & entertainment industry.

In addition, our talent mix already comprises nearly 70 per cent millennials, a nod to the rapidly changing demographics of the workforce today. Given that we are also in the era of the gig economy, we leverage on this talent workforce for many projects.

As part of our talent development, we are also upskilling our current employees by providing alternate learning experiences, reverse mentoring, expert talks, and design thinking workshops, among other initiatives.

Published on January 02, 2020

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