Taking the eye roll out of performance appraisal

Taking the eye roll out of performance appraisal
By Alison Williams on 27 March 2015 Mention the words “performance appraisal” and I usually have to try and stop my automatic eye roll. The time they take, the often useless – and out of date – data they produce and the disconnect between true performance and reward: it hardly seems worth it.

So I was interested to hear of a global consulting firm Deloitte’s reinvention of its appraisal system for its 65,000 staff worldwide. And even more interested to hear of a local firm offering a system that dovetails nicely with Deloitte’s approach.

In an article in this month’s Harvard Business Review [possible paywall], Deloitte reports it has moved away from a formal once-a-year system because it no longer suits the real world of work. Given the amount of time it spent on performance appraisal, the company decided it would focus its discussions on the present (and future) rather than on the past.

It undertook a radical redesign of its appraisal system to fit with three objectives. First, they wanted to be able to recognise performance, mainly through variable compensation. Second, they needed to see performance; to do this, they ask only for the immediate supervisor’s opinion and only for his or her future-oriented actions with the person being rated. 

Make the future your focus


The focus of the performance appraisal conversation shifts from the rating to the actual person to what to do with this person. At the end of each project, or quarterly for longer projects, team leaders answer future-focused questions about each of their team members, which lead directly to reward and staff development. 

The third objective is to fuel performance – not only to measure and reward performance, but to improve it. Team leaders and team members have a “check in” conversation once a week, usually initiated by the team member. The article emphasises that any system used to facilitate such frequent conversations needs to be quick, engaging and easy to use. This is where the local system – 6Q – comes in.

WA marketing firm BAM Creative developed the 6Q (short for “6 questions”) visual survey for its own internal use and soon saw its value to other businesses. 6Q works by sending an email to team members once a week, with six questions: they answer by sliding a bar using happy/sad faces, taking an average of two minutes. The questions can be sourced from 6Q’s library, or users can make up their own. Team members have 24 hours to respond and their answers are then collated and sent to the team leader. The responses can be anonymous or open, depending on what the organisation is comfortable with for its culture. 

Take a real-time approach


BAM founder Miles Burke says he sees the tool as a “conversation starter” that team leaders can use to have the frequent conversations that Deloitte talks about. 

“Gone are the days of annual performance reviews,” he says: “Goals shift and projects evolve fast – we need to take a real-time approach to engaging our employees rather than relying on annual snapshots”.

It’s early days yet and hard to tell whether this could be just a new fad, but the 6Q system and Deloitte’s approach seem to have hit on something: we are all suffering from information overload and their simplicity is attractive. Performance appraisal needs to be ongoing and future-focused and anything to help you achieve this is worth paying attention to. 

More information

We’ve also published an article today from The Conversation about why the days of performance appraisals are numbered. 

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