As an HR professional, one gets multiple requests from salespeople of HR technology companies to choose their platform over competitors when it comes to Performance Management. Performance management is a process that provides the employee feedback and promotes their effectiveness.

Michael Armstrong, in his Handbook of Performance Management, 2009 described it as “the continuous process of improving performance by setting individual and team goals which are aligned to the strategic goals of the organization, planning performance to achieve the goals, reviewing and assessing progress, and developing the knowledge, skills and abilities of people”. According to BambooHR, 70% of HR professionals feel performance reviews are very valuable, but only 34% of non-management employees feel the same. In the recent years, HR technology systems such as Trakstar, ClearCompany, SuccessFactors, and Namely have helped lift the administrative burden of appraisals from managers but for Performance Management to continue to be effective there are additional factors organizations should consider.

Think Agile

Feedback is such an important component of guiding one’s performance that the entire process should be renamed Feedback Management but according to Forbes, 37% of managers admit to being uncomfortable giving feedback and 69% report to being uncomfortable communicating with their employees in general. Dr. David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute, says we should immediately STOP GIVING FEEDBACK and START ASKING FOR FEEDBACK! He says this is because annual feedback is threatening for both the giver and the receiver and you need to remove the threat for feedback to happen organically and you need feedback to happen continuously. As a result he recommends building in the habit of asking each other, up and down, peer to peer, for feedback as part of the way an organization operates. Ever since #Workhuman2018 this year, when we heard Dr Rock in action on the main stage, we at Peoplescape Consulting Group, have been trialing this method, and as Talent professionals ourselves, it has been quite enlightening.  According to Peoplescape’s President, Belinda Morris, “The tickle of pressure to begin the prep of the quarterly review, has been completely lifted. Proactively asking each other for feedback instead, has elevated our levels of connection and honed our focus on learning and development – all in the name of research. It is working wonders in our our niche Talent Search and Consulting firm.”

As we well see, today’s workforce desires authentic relationships between employees and managers, as well as opportunities for employee development and advancement. This generation has ushered in the disruptive age of continuous performance management. This agile approach makes continuous improvement part of the fabric of how the organization operates. Rather than providing feedback on an annual or semi-annual basis, Agile Performance Managemetn (APM) checks in with employees on a weekly or monthly basis. This is often done through one-on-one meetings or retrospectives after a project. Because of the frequency, this allows the manager and employee to focus more on near-term work including upcoming priorities and recent roadblocks or learnings. It also allows employees to give feedback to their managers, not only receive it.

Very few software solutions include a way to check-in continually throughout the year so look for platforms that incorporate objective (OKR) setting and management, weekly feedback surveys, 1-on-1 meetings, and quarterly reviews.

Employee-Experience is a Thing

So we know that 95% of managers are dissatisfied with their organization’s performance management system and the fear-based, top-down approach emphasizes negatives over positives, so how do we switch it up?  Organizations such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Ralph Lauren, Adboe and Airbnb have made employee experience a key part of their employee development strategy and it’s gaining traction elsewhere. Employee experience involves a more holistic approach that follows the entire employee journey and aims to provide positive touch points in work culture, technology and environment. What better place to start improving the employee’s experience than in the review process?  In creating a feedback-driven culture, instead of listening to managers about their short-comings and what the managers think they can do to improve, the shift should be about how employees can develop their performance in the long-term with organizational priorities in mind. Research shows that 60% of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is very important to them. GE, Adobe, and Google changed their annual reviews process to a check-in model where performance, goals-setting, and priorities are more about conversations between the manager and their employee with an emphasis on development.

Train on Biases

When a client in the music Industry began running a groundbreaking new experiential workshop called Respecting Lines to create awareness and equip people with tools to manage the unconscious biases we all hold. The feedback gleaned about this program (which weaves together Organization Development, Creative Design and Human Resources) was quite phenomenal, says Natalie Spiro of Bluefire Leadership and Drum Café West.  “The workshop enabled us to build more authentic relationships and made the performance review conversations easier”. The company noticed that by developing common language as a culture around respect, sensitivity and bias awareness, it led to heightened connectivity and ability to communicate without feeling threatened.

Dr. Rock sites an American Psychological Association study that as much as 62% of a rater’s judgment of an employee is a reflection of the rater, and not the person getting reviewed. That means that an employee’s appraisal may disclose more about his manager’s biases than his or her actual performance. Types of biases such as “central tendency bias”, “recency and spillover bias”, “negativity bias”, and “halo effect” can individually or compound into an employee’s rating. Thus, ratings are starting to become obsolete. Additionally, 360 reviews are being incorporated into performance evaluations. 360 allows for managers to get closer to the objective by looking at the themes or patterns that are reflected on the overall feedback despite everyone’s individual biases. Dr. Rock terms this as “crowdsource reviews”, a system in which, a team member who may have missed his sales targets actually helped others in this team achieve their targets. This type of insight will not be transparent in the old-fashioned performance reviews.

Performance reviews have been traditionally tedious and ineffective for all parts of the organization. A change in design, one where conversations and learning are encouraged, are quickly becoming the new wave in how Performance Management are being practiced by innovative organizations. To learn more about crafting a Performance Development that works for your organization, contact the experts at Peoplescape Consulting Group!


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