New Mindset Requires New Learning

When insurance firm MetLife Inc. embarked on a multiyear strategy to transform its business, one of its first courses of action was to look at how the company’s talent processes could build the best global workforce to enable the transformation.

In particular, the company looked at how its performance development process could support a high-performance culture. As a result, MetLife implemented several changes. Goals became more aligned to strategy and the company introduced a four-point rating scale with associated bonus targets, designed to recognize and reward differentiated performance. The new approach also placed equal emphasis on how individuals achieved behavioral results as part of the overall performance assessment.

Most critical of all were MetLife’s efforts to support managers to embed the new approach and build their capabilities and mindset as talent managers. Many managers had been through performance management framework changes previously, so there was a danger that they wouldn’t fully appreciate the significance of these changes in enabling the company’s vision.

The solution: MetLife managers around the world attended in-person and virtual development workshops, designed to give them tools and tactics to execute consistent, calibrated performance ratings.

The session delved into common rating dilemmas managers had faced — such as how to manage someone who has given an overinflated self-rating or how to deal with a persistent poor performer. The session highlighted the psychological biases that managers fall into when rating and gave them tools to deliver performance messages in a rational and empathetic way.

“Our efforts to build manager capability are seeing tremendous results,” said David Henderson, the company’s chief talent officer. “We assessed managers’ competencies in areas like their ability to have effective career and performance conversations and give feedback both before and after they attended the workshops, and saw significant uplifts across all these measures.”

More than 6,000 managers — close to 100 percent of MetLife’s manager population — attended the workshops. As a result, MetLife says it has seen a 17 percent increase in career conversation capability, a 17 percent increase in performance conversation capability and 23 percent increase in manager competency when giving performance review feedback.

Sebastian Bailey is president of Mind Gym Inc., a performance management firm. He can be reached at