Performance Reviews – Everyone Knows They Stink

Accenture was in the news in July for ditching performance reviews and with their 330,000 employees, that is a big deal. In its place they planned to implement a process that is more fluid and fast in providing feedback from managers to team members. That speaks to the clear flaw in many organizations today in that managers aren’t providing consistent, clear, and timely feedback to their teams.

I remember covering various review processes during my first MBA course, Organizational Behavior, which solidified my view that most of the issues teams and organizations face are centered on communication, on people. We come up with processes to try to improve the people side and end up with three page performance reviews that the manager and participant are likely not behind. We can do better by keeping it simple.

In March of last year, Deloitte decided to move away from performance rankings and instead ask four simple questions and I’m drawn to this simple approach.

  1. Given what I know of this person’s performance, and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus.
  2. Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team.
  3. This person is at risk for low performance.
  4. This person is ready for promotion today.

We all have stories about how to not use performance reviews. As a manager, I’ve been given detailed salary adjustments for each of my team members without any of my input in the process. That was far from empowering but very aligned with how this business operated. As a manager, the takehome is that the review shouldn’t be a surprise. Your team and you should have interactions all the time. Your goal should be figure out how you can make their job better, their career brighter, and they should never be left wondering where they stand. That’s where agile has helped. Daily standups and mantras like fail fast has increased overall feedback cycles making it even easier to keep with your team.

The areas where it gets more difficult are on remote teams and large teams. Remote teams simply require more discipline to keep in touch. Video chats are far better than instant message and even more so than email. Large teams are just tough. Team size should be a manageable number. Some say 5, some day 10 but few say 20, especially in technology. It should be at a size where the manager or team leader has the ability to have contact with everyone at a regular basis and know the temperature of the team.

 

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