Those of you of a certain vintage will remember the Matriculation exam – or ‘Matric’ for short. It was an exam that ran immediately after the Leaving Cert and gave people an additional doorway into university. Typically, people did a lot better as a result of the feedback.

In Aspira, we use a different version of the Matric to ensure there is a solid and effective system of feedback in place with our staff. It also provides an avenue to improve performance based on lessons learned.

Our ‘Matric’ technique is a relatively informal discussion between each staff member with his/her manager, typically twice a year. We have six questions that we use to set the agenda for that discussion. The questions ensure a wide-ranging dialogue that gives both staff member and manager the opportunity to address any issues.

By challenging their answer, it ensures that the person takes ownership of their answer, or at least it provokes a discussion where sometimes the answer may change.

Questions

he discussion takes the format of these six questions, using the MATRIC mnemonic.

  • Meaningful?
    – Do you have a meaningful job that makes a real contribution to this organisation?
  • Awareness?
    – Are you aware of the behaviours that we expect from you?
  • Training?
    – Has relevant training been made available to you to help you improve?
  • Real-Time Feedback?
    – Are you getting regular, real-time feedback from your boss and your colleagues, both to identify things you did well and to highlight ways you could do things better?
  • Individual Respect?
    – In our work environment, are you treated with appropriate sensitivity to your own circumstances?
  • Career Plan?
    – Do you have an exciting and realistic career plan that you are doing something about?

The employee is asked to state ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each question. If there is any grey area, the rules are that it’s a ‘no’. The manager’s goal is to agree an action plan that can eventually lead to six ‘yes’ answers.

Challenge

My personal approach when leading one of these discussions is usually to just argue the opposite to whatever the staff member says. I do this just to avoid the ‘lazy’ approach of giving six ‘yes’ answers and having a 30-second dialogue.

By challenging their answer, it ensures that the person takes ownership of their answer, or at least it provokes a discussion where sometimes the answer may change.

The most common negative answer I get is: “No – I don’t have a career plan”. I always encourage people to think about what they’d like to do in five or ten years’ time. Not because I can make it happen tomorrow, but maybe I’ll be faced with a decision as to who I should assign to a finance project.

If I know one person wants to be a finance director and the other wants to become a quality specialist, it helps me choose the best person for the role.

The next most common ‘no’ is to the real-time feedback question. So we often get into a two-way feedback discussion, where I share my views and invite feedback on how I’ve been doing. I may not always like what I hear, but I appreciate people being willing to point out how I can do things better and highlight my blind spots.

The question that I never argue the opposite to is the individual respect question. I treat a ‘no’ here as a serious issue and want to understand what’s going on to address it immediately.

I see the MATRIC as being a vital tool we use to keep in touch. It is not a performance management tool – people don’t get a score from it, and it doesn’t affect their pay. It is one of the mechanisms we use to measure the temperature of the organisation, ensure we are behaving true to our culture and improve by acting on feedback.

Try it out – it works.

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