Every once in a while, I get writer’s block. It doesn’t happen often, thankfully. But when it does, it hits me hard. Without warning, I’ll find that the messy but plentiful pile of ideas that usually occupy my head have disappeared, and I have nothing to say.
(Again, this is very rare. Just ask my husband.)
And so, rather than force a column, I decided to goof off a bit. After perusing Twitter for a while, I landed on Facebook, where right away something caught my eye.
Dale Sanders, a good friend of our publication, had posted this:
Accenture will get rid of annual performance reviews and rankings. We already did this @HealthCatalyst http://t.co/6IFDTS2vdd
“Finally!” I said. My inspiration had come roaring back.
The annual performance review has been a thorn in my side for years. I find it to be antiquated, ineffective, and even demoralizing. How anyone can believe a forced, awkward conversation held once a year can accurately evaluate one’s performance, day in and day out, is beyond me.
And now, it seems that Accenture agrees, announcing recently that it is replacing annual evaluations for its 330,000 staffers with “a more fluid system, in which employees receive timely feedback from their managers on an ongoing basis following assignments.” And they aren’t the only ones. Microsoft, Adobe, Expedia and Motorola have recently overhauled their employee review systems in favor of methods in which staff get feedback in real-time (or at least something closer to real-time).
It’s a breath of fresh air, both for managers who don’t believe one’s performance can be categorized into a simple ranking system, and for employees who genuinely want to improve, and therefore want to be told on a regular basis what’s working and what isn’t. Think about it — if you’re being told in May that your performance fell off a bit in November, how does that help anything? It doesn’t. Studies have shown not only do these reviews not improve performance, but they may actually hinder it.
What’s far more helpful is being told right away that the project you just finished was a homerun (or a whiff, for that matter), or that it’s time you accepted more responsibility. When leaders communicate more often with employees about how they’re performing — instead of making it a yearly, dreaded event like Tax Day — it helps build trust, and makes employees that much more motivated to earn positive feedback.
And as for the ranking system? That’s the worst part of all. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who was in the process of preparing reviews for his staff. Everything — and I mean everything from punctuality to performance on specific projects — had to be ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 meaning that expectations were surpassed.
“How many 5s do you give out?”
“Because that means someone can’t do any better. So there are no 5s. I couldn’t give one out if I wanted to.”
There wasn’t an eye roll long enough to convey my disgust. It reminded me of the time I was asked to rate my level of discomfort after my C-section, with 10 being ‘severe.’
“Discomfort?!” was my response.
Not everything can be quantified so easily, especially something as critical as the effort an employee puts forth on a daily basis.
It’s time for all of us to take a page from Accenture’s book and make those painful annual reviews a thing of the past, and step into an era where communication is frequent, open, and fruitful.
To me, that would be off the charts.