Developing a growth mindset for 140,000 people

When research showed that traditional performance management wasn’t working, Gap Inc. decided to make a change. Hear how Rob Ollander Krane, Head of Talent Planning and Performance, transformed their approach. Explore how a toolkit of resources can support behavior change and empower managers, and find out why you need to keep retail learning short and visual if it’s going to be effective.

Rob Ollander Krane Developing a growth mindset for 140,000 people

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Top tips for transforming performance management

Don’t have time to listen now? Here are some top tips from Rob:

  1. Focus on performance, not on management: Create a learning culture through regular conversations. Embrace feedback and the growth mindset.
  2. Provide the tools for change: Don’t just tell people to change, make the case for change. Give people the tools they need to make it happen.
  3. Empower people to drive performance: Let people use your tools in the way that works for them. Your desired outcome is the same for everybody, but the way they get there doesn’t have to be.
  4. Keep learning short and relevant: If you’re going to engage retail employees you need to keep learning short, visual and relevant.

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1. Focus on performance, not on management

Traditional performance management is time consuming and transactional for both employees and managers. Putting the emphasis on one conversation and employee compensation is not effective. So how can you focus more on performance and less on management?

Rob developed GPS: Grow Perform Succeed. Gap Inc.’s innovative approach to performance management removes the annual performance review. Instead, GPS focuses on having regular performance conversations and creating a learning culture. At its foundation is the growth mindset. By harnessing the positive power of feedback, you can transform performance conversations. Encouraging people to try things out and learn from mistakes.

I felt it was time to get rid of that [traditional] approach. And then I got asked to do that for our company. And in the process of doing research, I found out we weren’t driving performance at all. All we were doing was allocating reward. Instead, we want performance management to focus on performance and really help people improve.”

2. Provide the tools for change

Traditional performance management has gone unchallenged for the last 50 years. Every company did it, and most people thought it worked. 

In this landscape, taking a different approach didn’t just involve rolling out a new process. It required organization-wide behavior change. Rob knew he couldn’t just tell people to change. He had to provide the tools they needed to change. Asking employees and managers to talk once a month didn’t guarantee quality conversations. Consistent communications and centralized resources helped people approach conversations with the right mindset.

“You can’t tell somebody to change. You have to give them an incentive to change. You have to give them the tools to change. The system has to support that change. You have to let people change at their own pace. And you have to be forgiving when people fall back to the old and encourage them to go to the new.”

3. Empower people to drive performance

From product design to the shop floor, each retail division has different needs. So, how do you ensure an organization-wide change program works?

At Gap Inc., the change needed was the same across the company: moving to a learning culture. The goal was the same for everybody, but how you achieved it could be different. Providing a toolkit for change enabled each division to choose their own learning path. Rob is clear that empowerment is essential for success. Managers are accountable for their day-to-day work. Why shouldn’t they also feel responsible for hiring, assessing and developing their employees?

“We didn’t want to micromanage this. We wanted to say here’s the outcome, you pick the path to get there. And some started with philosophy, some started with tactics and some were a blend.”

4. Keep learning short and relevant

With young, often part-time, employees, and high turnover in stores, the retail learning environment can be challenging. If it’s going to be effective, it needs to be engaging.

The traditional approach to L&D does not work in this retail environment. It is time consuming, expensive and doesn’t engage the workforce. For Rob, learning which you can do in a few minutes on your phone is the answer. Making it light and visual keeps employees engaged. Make sure you reinforce the learning to ensure it’s effective.

“Salespeople don’t have a lot of time. On my phone, I can do a module in like three minutes on my break and learn something. And that is reinforced maybe a week later. It’s got to be small chunks, very visual, very much fun. It can’t feel heavy.”

A quick recap

Tired of traditional performance management, Rob transformed Gap Inc.’s approach. He has four strategies for creating a learning culture. Focus more on performance, and less on management. Don’t just tell people to change – give them the tools they need to change. Empower people to drive performance. Keep people engaged with short, relevant learning. 

Want to find out more? Check out the full podcast. 

About Rob

With over 20 years’ experience in retail L&D, Rob has worked for Levi Strauss & Co, and LVMH. As Head of Talent Planning and Performance at Gap Inc., Rob owns performance management and succession planning.

You can find out more and get connected with Rob on LinkedIn.

On Rob’s reading list

Find out which books are Rob’s must-reads for improving performance management.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink

Drive explores what motivates knowledge workers versus productivity workers. This book showed Rob he needed different approaches for different retail divisions.

Get Rid of the Performance Review!, Samuel A. Colbert

Colbert covers everything that’s wrong with traditional performance management. Rob recommends this book if you’re exploring a new approach in your organization.

Mindset, Carol S. Dweck

Dweck’s seminal book is the foundation of Gap Inc.’s GPS approach to performance management. For Rob, the growth mindset is a life lesson as much as a business lesson.

Handbook of NeuroLeadership, Dr. David Rock and Dr. Al H Ringleb

This handbook looks at how the fight or flight response shows up in social interactions. Rob sees this as a vital insight into how we should approach giving and receiving feedback.

Looking for more reading tips? Check out our book blog

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We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast, so feel free to get in touch on Twitter @learningatlarge with any questions or queries. You can also email Simon, our podcast host, at As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Learning at Large in your favorite podcast app and leave us a 5-star rating if you enjoyed it. Thank you for joining us, and see you next time.

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