Re­think­ing the re­view

A new ap­proach to ap­praisals

Idealog - - CONTENTS -

ON A RE­CENT Satur­day night rag­ing it up in my py­ja­mas and read­ing the Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view for kicks, I came across an ar­ti­cle on Deloitte’s new per­for­mance ap­praisal sys­tem.

Now, there are count­less things I loathe in life, fei­joas be­ing a prin­ci­pal one. But when it comes to the work­place, high on the list is the re­view process, not least be­cause try­ing to rate my­self out of five when I am clearly at least a six, is im­pos­si­ble.

Un­for­tu­nately, as Mary Jenk­ins, co-au­thor of Abol­ish­ing per­for­mance ap­praisals, points out, the whole idea of not do­ing them is al­most seen as ir­re­spon­si­ble. So per­for­mance re­views are likely to be here to stay. But how we do them could be about to change. Many moons ago, Michael Mount, Steven Scullen and May­nard Goff did some re­search in­volv­ing al­most 4,500 man­agers be­ing rated on three per­for­mance di­men­sions by two bosses, two peers, two sub­or­di­nates and them­selves.

Based on this, Mount, Scullen and Goff con­cluded (in the book How peo­ple eval­u­ate oth­ers in or­gan­i­sa­tions) that, “Although it is im­plic­itly as­sumed that the rat­ings mea­sure the per­for­mance of the ra­tee, most of what is be­ing mea­sured by the rat­ings is the unique rat­ing ten­den­cies of the rater.

“Thus rat­ings re­veal more about the rater than they do about the ra­tee.”

Deloitte, ahem, rated this re­search and, cru­cially, dis­cov­ered con­duct­ing per­for­mance re­views for its 65,000- odd staff took two mil­lion hours a year. (It is a fi­nan­cial con­sul­tancy firm af­ter all.)

The April 2015 Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view ar­ti­cle de­tails how the com­pany is start­ing to turn the sys­tem up­side down, rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the man­ager- em­ployee re­view process to save money and en­sure the com­pany isn’t cap­tur­ing what Mount, Scullen and Goff termed “idio­syn­cratic rater ef­fects”.

Go­ing for­ward, its new re­view sys­tem will ask team lead­ers not about the skills of each team mem­ber but about their own fu­ture ac­tions with re­spect to that per­son. At the end of each quar­ter or pro­ject, man­agers will give them­selves four propo­si­tions about each team mem­ber:

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. (1– 5)

2. Given what I know of this per­son’s per­for­mance, I would al­ways want him or her on my team. (1– 5)

3. This per­son is at risk for low per­for­mance. (Yes/no)

4. This per­son is ready for pro­mo­tion to­day. (Yes/no)

This shiny new process means em­ploy­ees aren’t rated against a long list of skills and projects that were fin­ished months ago. In­stead the process is for­ward look­ing and talk­ing about peo­ple in­stead of rat­ings.

One of my col­leagues of­ten likes to ask us in with­er­ing tones if we’re do­ing some­thing this year just be­cause we did it last year. Irk­somely, he has a point.

Are you run­ning your per­for­mance re­views the same way you al­ways have be­cause you think they work, or be­cause that’s just the way you’ve al­ways done them?

Amer­i­can singer Sh­eryl Crow says that za change will do you good. And Sh­eryl is never wrong. Pene­lope Whit­son is a word nerd with a fond­ness for syn­tax, cats and lolling about scoff­ing cake. She tweets on an ir­reg­u­lar ba­sis at @PenelopeWhit­son

Deloitte dis­cov­ered con­duct­ing per­for­mance re­views for its 65,000-odd staff took two mil­lion hours a year.

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