The rank and yank or the forced distribution techniques did not make sense anymore and have been the main reason for dissatisfaction at all levels. When employees are treated as numbers and points, it is not only impersonal but sends a wrong message about how you value and develop talent in your organization. The assessment process should be relatively easy to understand and administer if the focus is on building up and moving forward.
We all know that reward, and recognition are most impactful when given in a timely manner, are specific, within a context of a larger goal, and authentic. Even discipline follows this immutable rule! However we have failed to apply this simple logic to performance management. There is clearly no point in giving an employee feedback about the results of his or her performance up to a year or 6 months after the fact. Actionable feedback must be timely or frequent enough and constructive to influence performance and results moving forward. Hence the shift in performance management by breaking it down into frequent check in conversations rife with feedback. How often is enough, the length of the check in’s, does it require documentation and the contextual nature of such conversations are unique to an organization and its performance culture. While this may take a few tweaks to find the one that works best, the focus shouldn’t shift from timeliness.
What compounded the feedback problem was cumbersome review systems, forms and processes that were cause for much frustration, wouldn’t make sense and only added to the apathy in the process. If we are to truly transform our approach to performance management, we have to adopt a much simpler approach that is easy to use, offers greater flexibility, intuitive in flow, easy to comprehend at an employee’s level and facilitates a positive acceptance by the employees. It’s not about building steps and work flows or creating forms that collect redundant information but making performance management systems more responsive and sensitive to the dynamics of workforce and the generational cohorts at work. Focus on skills, strength building, goal accomplishment and career aspirations. Don’t let forms and rigid processes detract from you from having conversations with employee’s in driving the organizational strategy through engagement, empowerment and encouragement.
Technology and Performance Management
The lack of technology presence in performance management systems was highlighted by Towers-Watson’s 2012 Global Workforce Study entitled, “Engagement at Risk: Driving Strong Performance in a Volatile Global Environment”. It was found that only 44 percent of organizations do an effective job of using technology to deliver the performance management process itself. One of the reasons why performance reviews have been eschewed is the archaic process and paperwork involved. There is a plethora of systems out in the market from simple off the shelf PM systems to sophisticated workflow based systems that enable a more fluid and intuitive approach to PM. We haven’t been receptive enough to advancements in PM systems even though we have been complaining about them for over 15 years. We won’t just be saving trees by adopting a more automated solution to performance management but also creating efficiencies in administering and supporting PM with a streamlined approach that engages the workforce in a feedback culture with real time reporting capabilities. Technology in performance management enables and encourages employees at all levels to participate in the process by literally placing performance management in their hands and triggers a culture of appreciation and recognition.
What is also lacking is the use of technology to support the corporate strategy through quality data that reflects the state of talent management. Data on performance management should feed the pipeline of real-time information about how individuals are performing and the skills and knowledge inventory in the workforce. This information is critical when it comes to assessing bench strength, developing current talent pool and workforce mobility in strategic planning. So take advantage of the solutions out there and free HR to be more strategic.
Assessment Gone Wrong
Here are two quotes that come to mind when we speak of performance assessment;
“Measurements that don’t lead to meaningful action aren’t just useless, they are wasteful” – Jim Clemmer
To which our bright friend Albert Einstein would say; “Not everything that can be measured is important…and not everything that is important can be measured.”
This is where performance management really broke down. The rank and yank or the forced distribution techniques did not make sense anymore and have been the main reason for dissatisfaction at all levels. When employees are treated as numbers and points, it is not only impersonal but sends a wrong message about how you value and develop talent in your organization. The assessment process should be relatively easy to understand and administer if the focus is on building up and moving forward. When goals are set collaboratively and aligned with the organizational strategy, there is a consensus on how goal accomplishment will be measured, and what measurement approach is used, it starts to impact talent. I do believe there has to be some scale of measurement to track progress and improvement or for that matter, even recognize achievement in quantifiable terms. A number as in a rating scale may not always be the right measuring unit, but our human nature needs a reference point that places us on a continuum of progress. To avoid the fixation on numbers and ranking, the approach would have to be forward-looking and speak to the developmental nature of performance management and with frequent feedback on how an individual’s performance is contributing to the larger organizational objective.