Looking Forward to Performance Conversations: An OpaConnect® Success Story

One of OpaConnect®’s clients, Kids’ Country, effused they finally look forward to performance conversations. OpaConnect® is a progressive performance management platform that brings company conversations to life while everyone in the organization feels connected to the overall mission.

Kids’ Country has been engaging their employees on OpaConnect® for a year now. Executive Director, Stacy Litteral, shared their success and dramatic results with us.  They have learned how much an organization can be transformed by implementing OpaConnect®.

Kids’ Country is a nonprofit organization that provides enriching programs for kids and families that are both educational and fun. The organization’s spirit, leadership style and culture at Kids’ Country calls for an open,  transparent and empowered work environment. Stacy and her team turned to OpaConnect® for a strategic performance management solution, and the results have been “a dream come true.”

Your Product is Your People

“In a service-based business, your product is your people,” Stacy says. Quality of service translates to the quality of your people. Kids’ Country has boosted engagement since using OpaConnect®, offering what Stacy describes as “a way to give regular and consistent feedback in a supported way.”

“Staff are more engaged, happier and fulfilled. They now clearly understand their impact and their worth. Those are happier employees that in turn have happier programs for happier kids. With 200 staff at 15 locations, it’s a challenge to get everyone on the same train going in the same direction, and OpaConnect® has made a huge impact on that.”

TRUST – a Golden Ticket for Strong Company Culture

For Stacy, transparency = trust. The culture of trust at Kids’ Country is built on mutual respect and open communication. “It’s important to me that all levels of the organization understand where and why decisions are made, and that’s how we build trust,” she says.

In an operational culture of collaboration and accountability, everybody’s voice and feedback matters. “It’s not uncommon for a teacher assistant in a first job to come up with an idea that ends up on my desk and gets adopted. We’re proud that we value every voice and every good idea.”

Building that trust is really important, and the best way to do that is through transparency where everyone has a voice and voices are shared,  A key point made by Stacy for those organizations with millennial staff:  “Young workers appreciate the collaborative two-way dialogue. Our younger staff are loving OpaConnect®.

Performance Conversations to Look Forward To

At Kids’ Country they look forward to performance conversations. Their culture of transparency has demystified the performance evaluation process. Compared to the old paper process, Stacy explains, “It’s efficient, it’s fun, it’s a time for people to boast about what they’re doing. Feedback is given with an eye on helping that person improve and identifying opportunities for growth on an ongoing basis. As a supervisor, I find myself asking ‘how can I support you in achieving this goal?’”

OpaConnect® eliminates number rating and uses simple references, of “Behind, On Track or Ahead”.   It’s a perfect solution for the Kids’ Country culture, where Stacy says “for us, behind doesn’t necessarily mean you’re failing, it just means you’re not there yet. We use this tool to drive professional growth and development, not to drive discipline.”


The Kids’ Country strategic plan focuses on retention, employee morale and engagement. “Recruiting and retaining quality staff is a challenge in any company.” says Stacy. To help with retention, they’re implementing a pay-for-performance model this fiscal year – something that was a 5-year goal just a year ago. The paperless efficiency of OpaConnect® provided the systematic performance tracking that made that possible.

“I think that this tool is going to drastically reduce our turnover. Moving to a pay-for-performance structure, with regular conversations and informal feedback – those are going to affect our employee morale. It already has, and I only see it getting better. And that’s money: not having to recruit, rehire and retrain is money savings.”

Options4Growth & OpaConnect®





3 Key Management Practices Stand Above the Rest in These Changing Times

Prominent CEOs are standing up against racism, and the country is taking notice. This was the start of a blog that our CEO, Kirsti Tcherkoyan, wrote in September of 2017.   This message is still important, but in the age of #MeToo, and tumultuous political times, employees are speaking out against inappropriate behavior in a public display for everyone to see.   Leaders need to be vigilant, more than any other time in our history, about the culture they are creating.

In the news, we see examples of employee’s finding their voice and banding together in ways not seen before. New clients are coming to us with stories about female employees demanding a different color lab coat (not pink) so they don’t stand out from the men, or employees creating a social media page to complain about the company they work for.   The most recent example is an organization that holds national conferences, managed by volunteers.  They became aware of sexual harassment complaints involving their volunteers.   As a way to address these complaints, (because as we know our “volunteers”, need to be treated like our “employees”), they distributed an email address for people to submit complaints, and they have been inundated with allegations.   Organizations are scrambling, trying to figure out the best way to respond to these new situations and avoid possible adverse action or union initiations.

The narrative changes but the theme is the same: each time it comes down to people.  How are we, as an organization engaging people?   Are   employees feeling aligned to the mission, and what we are trying to accomplish?  Are people fully engaged?  Do they feel good about working for the organization?

Here’s how you should embrace this new environment and in the end see your organization flourish.  First and foremost, your employees should feel proud of the company they work for.   You can model this by embracing 3 critical practices:  transparency, feedback and meaningful conversations.

Transparency – Everyone knows what everyone else is working on

In addition to living and breathing values throughout the organization, set a tone of transparency that helps the company succeed. Hold all management team members accountable not only for delivery of their goals, but for an empowered work environment. Make sure everyone in the organization – both individuals and work teams – are clear on their own responsibilities and goals. Share successes together, recognize each other together, and create a cohesive team via transparency and mutual respect.

Ongoing Regular Feedback

People thrive in a business environment where they understand the value of their contribution. Give everyone a voice and let them know their feedback matters. People are inspired simply by knowing that they do make a difference – it creates a feedback loop of confidence. They know where they fit into the big picture.

Not Just Feedback but Meaningful Communication

Ensure that feedback is gathered and communicated in a way that is meaningful. That means you have to be able to clarify when communication is not aligned. Communication is not effective if it is one way. Both managers and employees must feel comfortable to give feedback, engage in open dialogue and clarify their position when appropriate. Make it clear at all levels of management that respectful behavior has to be part of that conversation, an integral component of company culture. If behavior is not addressed, it will always be the elephant in the room.

A company with a transparent, communicative culture – plus the tools and practices to keep their goals front-and-center every day – is well on its way to fostering a great working environment within a great place to work.

Jill Pappenheimer is President of Options4Growth and Co-founder of OpaConnect®, the first strategic performance management platform that connects people to each other, their teams, and the mission that drives them forward.

Are you Perpetuating Gender Bias with your Performance Review Process?

Working toward gender equality is a slow grind. Gender Bias is systemic; for change to truly happen, discussions need to be front and center in business every day. Businesses need to look deep into existing processes to see where gender bias is institutionalized. Performance reviews and processes are one of those areas where the status quo of inequity becomes perpetuated.

Performance Reviews and Gender Bias

We can start to address gender bias by looking at normal business practices. Harvard Business Review published an illuminating article that identifies clear patterns of gender bias in annual performance reviews. Its author, Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio, reached a number of important conclusions about the current state of annual reviews:

  • Traditional review methods are out-of-date
  • Objective feedback tends to be equally fair to men and women
  • Subjective feedback can lead to gender bias, favoring men over women
  • Feedback for women tends to be more vague than feedback for men
  • Double-standards in performance review language consistently favor male employees
  • Women often do not receive full credit for their work compared to the credit that men get for similar work
  • Eliminating bias hinges upon using objective data
  • Performance tracking tools that capture real-time feedback help minimize bias

Gender bias in performance reviews causes a chain reaction, leading to fewer promotions at every level. The numbers validate this pattern. Here’s a breakout of workforce demographics by gender, clearly demonstrating that women are passed over for promotions at every level:

Percentage of Women in the Corporate Hierarchy:

  • 21% – “C-Suite” (CEO, COO, CFO etc.)
  • 22% – Senior Vice President
  • 29% – Vice President
  • 34% – Director / Sr. Manager
  • 37% – Manager / Supervisor
  • 48% – Entry Level

Addressing this inequity starts with how companies evaluate talent as an integral part of doing business.

Understanding Your Workforce

Unfortunately, businesses don’t pay attention to their own people the same way they pay attention to their customers. Marketers, for example, use complex tools and metrics to better understand their customers; company leadership needs to do the same thing with its own people. The better a business understands its customers, the better it can serve them. The better a business understands its employees, the better it can eliminate gender bias.

Where do companies fall short, then, in understanding their employees to the same degree that they understand their customers? In order to neutralize gender bias in performance reviews, evaluation methods and tools need to be gender-neutral.

Fixing Gender Bias in Performance Reviews

To level the playing field in performance reviews, Cecchi-Dimeglio identified changes that are easy to implement and produce concrete results:

Use objective criteria, minimizing personality-based feedback

  • Broaden the group of people providing feedback, including supervisors, colleagues and clients
  • Increase the frequency of feedback
  • Use automated, real-time communication tools to snapshot performance over time
  • Use gender-neutral language in feedback forms and fields
  • Design forms and fields to encourage constructive feedback

These ideas also contribute to a company culture that’s built around employee satisfaction. Businesses can reinforce teamwork with opportunities for colleagues to celebrate each other. They can encourage employee engagement by providing clarity to workers on how they contribute to company goals.

Using the right tools helps identify leadership skills, even at the entry level – and creates gender-neutral pathways to promotion. Our breakthrough software platform OpaConnect does more than meet the need for regular objective feedback – it keeps the entire company focused and on track, and helps recognize leadership skills at every level. We designed OpaConnect to be a best-in-class solution for performance management. If you’re dedicated to success and workplace satisfaction, you can learn more about OpaConnect here.

We’re proud of our women-led company. We’ve seen the powerful leadership that comes naturally to women: as entrepreneurs, as executives, as board members, and business leaders. We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve seen, and we’re committed to empowering working women at every level. We believe in women, and we believe in doing the hard work to achieve equity in the workplace.

Jill Pappenheimer, President