The Challenge and Evaluation

“We recognize that our biggest asset within the company are our employees,” says Michael E. Drandell, CEO of Goldrich Kest and who has also worked for the company since 1995. “I look to our HR function as a way to keep happy employees because happy employees are productive employees, and productive employees are better for business.”

“We spend a lot of time, energy, and effort in order to find and keep our best employees,” Mike adds. “I want to keep them engaged and keep them developing, and I want them to have advancement opportunities within the company itself.”

Mike says he gets his inspiration from Goldrich Kest’s founders Jona Goldrich and Sol Kest, who started the business in 1957. “When Jona and Sol were alive, they were walking the halls all the time. When they passed away, the second generation wanted to provide that same attention, but no one is as hands on as Jona and Sol were.”

Goldrich Kest got its start in California but it now owns properties that span the country. That kind of growth creates opportunities, but it also introduces challenges. “Management by walking around” is tough when employees are scattered across the U.S. and beyond — but for Mike, Lattice came into the picture as a specific potential solution for one of his most-disliked HR activities: the annual review.

“There’s nothing I hate more than the annual review process,” Mike says. “What do anyone want to get out of an annual review? You want to tell your employee that they’re doing great, or they’re doing horribly, or they’re doing OK. And you want to tell them what they need to do better so that they can be a strong and productive member of the company.”

Mike says that in his experience, the annual review can be counterproductive, “tying people up” and preventing them from seeing the big picture of how they create value for the company. “My personal problem with it is when people use it as a checklist of things to do. Managers will ask, ‘Hey, did you get A, B, and C done this year?’ and employees can do the same thing, saying, ‘I completed X, Y, and Z.’” This kind of discussion can easily devolve into an unproductive battle between employee and manager over minutiae that ultimately has little bearing on how the business is operating.

“I want to move to answering the question:, ‘What does good performance need to look like?” says Mike. “What do you want to do to improve, and what are you looking for me to do to help you improve?”

Using Lattice at Goldrich Kest

Mike was introduced to Lattice by a member of his people team who had seen a demo and thought it would be a perfect fit for the employee engagement and culture-based initiatives the company wanted to pursue. But most importantly it offered a tantalizing alternative to the annual review process in the form of Lattice’s 1:1 feature, which the company most recently rolled out. 

“I wanted to see the annual review go away and become less of a hassle, whether that’s quarterly or more frequently, working as a check-in and verification that everything’s going okay for the employee and their supervisor,” he says. “If something needs to improve, then we can deal with what needs to be delivered.” 

Mike also wanted to move away from numerical ratings and questionnaires – “How does everybody deserve a 5 out 5? Everyone is not an exceptional worker.” The goal was to instead move toward a more qualitative analysis of how people were doing.

That’s where Lattice 1:1s have already begun to prove its worth for the company. “The 1:1 tool just allows you to have a conversation,” Mike says. “And you can use it to keep notes about things you need to talk about with an employee. I’ll use it to drop in notes about various people; that way I can remember it for a formal review down the line. That’s always important for me.”

The Impact of Lattice

Lattice has been a unique top-down rollout at Goldrich Kest, as Mike explains, starting with the CEO. “I’m the chief executive,” he says. “I’m using it. And I promote it to my executive team and director team for them to use with their own staff.” 

While GK is early in its implementation of Lattice as it trickles down from the C-suite, Mike says that it has already been effective at driving employee engagement and finding “soft spots” in employee behavior. “If you have an employee that’s doing a pretty good job but they’re irritated about something, the ability to have a 1:1, to have individualized goals, and to have feedback allows you to drill down into that issue – and then get out the mop and bucket to clean it up,” he says, “You don’t want employees to push any negative feelings down. You want those feelings to come up and be discussed with their supervisor. You want to be able to have the conversation around the problem. You need to have the difficult conversation that allows you to address the issues that are at hand. And that’s one of the things I like most about Lattice, because it forces me to do that.”

Looking ahead, Mike says that Goldrich Kest is now tapping Lattice to roll out individualized goals across the company to complement the company-wide goals and development initiatives. It’s an important process because not all employees have an obvious path to the company’s financial success. “How do you give somebody who’s, for example, a marketing person or a construction accountant a goal that helps drive the bottom line, that helps to improve the company?” he asks. “Those are the kinds of questions that we’re really looking forward to answering.”

Takeaways

  • Traditional annual reviews are an outdated concept at Goldrich Kest. The company uses Lattice 1:1s to enable a culture of continuous feedback, keep employees motivated and managers engaged on what matters to the business.
  • Lattice is bought in from the top down at Goldrich Kest, with the CEO leading by doing.
  • Goldrich Kest is looking forward to launching Goals to motivate everyone to contribute to the bottom line, not just prioritize personal advancement.