Annual performance appraisals have been at the centre of much debate and criticism in recent times. And whilst in their traditional form they are equally hated by employees and managers, there is an acknowledgement that the core of what they offer is of value. There is a need to have some form of performance management, but in a form that both employees and managers feel is straightforward, transparent, fair and useful.
It is this need that has led to a number of leading organisations publically talking about how they are changing their performance review process. In these reported changes, the commonality has been to move towards a more informal but frequent process. This simplicity overcomes one barrier but the nature of what is discussed has also changed. Traditionally, performance reviews were backward looking processes – looking in the rear view mirror at what could have been done better. But looking behind you doesn’t always tell you how to excel at the challenges in front of you. So these newer approaches tend to take a developmental, forward looking approach. Certainly this is a better conversation with the employee but one challenge remains – do managers have the skills needed? Training is key and this time the focus is coaching skills. So, will this new approach work? Probably for this moment in time, but performance management is a process that needs to continually evolve as organisations evolve, so more than likely we will see the introduction of another style of appraisal in a few years time.
One final thought, this changed approach has also ditched SMART objectives and I for one am singing for joy. I have seen too many instances of unintelligible objectives as people get into ravels over what a SMART objective is and, even worse, it has driven people to have an objective that is easily measurable rather than one that will make a real difference to performance. For me, it’s having the conversation that really matters not the way we express the outcomes, so long as both parties agree and understand what the desirable outcome looks like.
Bring on the change, let’s make performance discussions meaningful and helpful for everyone!