Q&A: Anna Rasmussen, Founder & CEO, OpenBlend
Anna Rasmussen is the Founder & CEO of OpenBlend – the people-centric performance management platform. As a former executive leadership coach, Anna is extremely passionate about helping others to reach their full potential through regular, meaningful performance conversations.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’ve spent the vast majority of my career coaching individual performance and training people managers, from all sectors, on how to use coaching techniques to drive the performance of their teams. About ten years ago, I recognised that the type of conversation managers and employees were having was too narrow in scope and needed to be broader. Ones to ones needed to move beyond objectives and consider motivational drivers, wellbeing and relevant aspects of ‘life’ . I knew that managers needed support in how to have more frequent, broader, and effective conversations as this was the only way organisations could effectively drive high performing cultures. So, I put all my ideas into software and that’s how OpenBlend came to exist.
What does your company do? / What is your USP?
OpenBlend modernises performance management by enabling effective conversations. We exist to improve & broaden manager & employee conversations, and we believe this is the only way to ensure that performance management processes work. We know that the one to one conversation is THE single most important productivity tool a manager has – in fact, it’s vital. Our USP is simple: there are many performance management tools out here but none that focus on the breath of topic and effectiveness of the manager employee conversation in the way that OpenBlend does. That’s what really differentiates us.
What’s special about the platform and your approach?
Our approach is logical. People get it. Employees love it, managers need it, and businesses benefit from it. Let me explain: employees feel valued, heard, and enabled to thrive, which is a must for today’s workforce. Managers also feel more confident and capable due to the insight and the structure OpenBlend provides. Our platform makes busy managers’ working lives easier, especially if they are new to a role or struggle with people management. We provides businesses with critical data insight around frequency of conversations, breath of content, and effectiveness of one to ones across the business. This enables HR and business leaders to make more informed people decisions and create highly targeted people strategies.
What advantage does it add?
There are multiple advantages to using OpenBlend. Employees feel valued, heard, supported, enabled to perform at their best and have a clear direction of what they are working towards. Managers feel confident in the structure of a conversation, are able to discuss matters beyond objectives (the nuts and bolts to high performance ), and feel more empowered to hold the employee to account. A significant advantage for businesses is that their managers become better coaches and are able to continually develop their capabilities as a people manager. It’s a win win!
How does a product/service implementation actually look like and how do you measure success?
We are a SaaS platform that integrates with any HRIS, as well as communication platforms such as Slack, Teams, and Outlook. We believe in taking OpenBlend to places where employees are already present. The integration varies from client to client but is always seamless and key to supporting adoption and engagement.
We also have a great Customer Success function led by our CCO, Shelley Davies. Every customer has a dedicated CSM who works with them in partnership to create and deliver their success! We use PlanHat, a customer success platform, which provides us with a 24/7 real-time of customer success metrics. We like success and providing very clear ROI to our customers.
How are retailers using your systems to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like? Can you share a case study with us?
All of our clients use OpenBlend in their employee value proposition. OpenBlend is exactly what today’s talent look for. Post hiring, OpenBlend also acts as a significant employee retention tool. – something that is especially key in the midst of the Great Resignation. If managers are connected to their employees and are having frequent, broad, and effective conversations with their employees, there is ample opportunity to reduce and prevent employee churn. We have many examples of that across our customer base.
Best practice for using OpenBlend will vary from client to client, and employee to employee. There’s no one size fits all, and nor should there be. OpenBend is freedom within a framework, though most managers and employees are active at least once a month.
Are there other companies you partner with?
We are currently developing our partner strategy for 2022 and have some exciting partnerships on the horizon. Watch this space!
What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2022 / What challenges are retailers facing this year?
The main challenge that springs to mind is that employees, whether in head office, distribution, or on the shop floor, have increasingly varied and complex needs. That said, every single employee, at all levels of seniority, needs to be supported more than ever. Turnover is extremely high in retail anyway but, right now, it’s higher than ever. It’s an employee’s market and that places significant pressure on managers, both in store, in distribution centres, and at head office.
The solution lies in enabling people to talk openly and know that their manager cares. But of course, managers need support too. I also believe that consumers care how retail brands treat their employees – and in fact, we’ve just written a blog on the interdependency between employee experience and customer experience. One definitely comes before the other!
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
OpenBlend is a tool that is populated with an individual’s bespoke motivational drivers, and incorporates a range of key success factors relating to wellbeing, objectives, feedback, actions, notes, and so on. It’s therefore highly personalised to the individual employee, enabling a much broader and more effective conversation. We do this because we know that if the right conversation takes place at the right time, and between the right people, virtually any and all challenges can be turned into successes.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
Our future is simply about ensuring that one to ones are frequent, holistic, and effective. Performance management will only work if supported by effective conversation. Our horizon is all about supporting our valued customers to build high performing cultures.
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