Unthink Performance Management

In his book Unthink, Chris Paley makes the following statement:

“We re-use tools that are lying around in the brain, rather than invent new ones.”

This got me thinking…

Reviewing the Performance Review

I’ve had hundreds of conversations about performance management with clients, associates, partners, and general workforce types – in many different countries and industries. One observation that stands out for me is that everyone without, exception, complain about the traditional Performance Reviews/Appraisals in their organisations together with its subsequent impact on bonuses, incentives and promotions. Managers hate it, employees fear it and everyone enters the process with trepidation and anxiety.

The traditional Performance Appraisal process is a Performance Management Tool that’s been lying around in organizational systems since the First World War; when military forces began using performance ratings as a means to identify soldiers whose poor performance merited a dismissal. By the end of the war, the system became less militarised and was adopted in the mainstream by organisations, as a system for assessing and maximizing the productivity of the industrial workers in manufacturing firms. The cycle generally began with the development of annual goals for each employee; at the end of the year, people were formally appraised based on how successfully they achieved those objectives. Performance assessment was based on straightforward, production-based metrics, so evaluating employees against goals was usually clear-cut: Did they produce the targeted number of units, with few errors and so on. Appraisals were usually linked to employee ratings, which were used to calculate changes in compensation for high performing workers. Those rated as low performers were let go. As a tool, the Performance Appraisal process was never 100% effective, but it did work to identify non-performers and appraise the work of high performers. This makes me wonder … why are we still using such an outdated tool to manage or develop performance?

According to a Gallup study conducted in 2017, only 14% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve.

Todays’ workers want more

Fast forward to the 21st century when work systems are becoming a lot more fluid and new reporting processes mean that many team leaders may observe the performance of someone who is not their direct report. Who then gets to do the performance evaluation? For extra complexity, throw in a new breed of digitally savvy employees, who need more frequent input and feedback for their work and progress. Add to the mix the unpredictable and exponential rate of change brought on by digital disruption. Feeling overwhelmed yet? Most managers do.

As someone asked me just a few weeks ago: “If I have to give constant performance feedback to everyone of my direct reports on a continuous basis, where will I find the time to do my actual work?”

Ironically, even though todays workers want more input, more feedback and more performance related conversations than those before, they don’t necessarily want it from just their managers. This should make all managers feel a sense of relief. It’s not up to you anymore. It’s time to spread the load. Studies by Gallup and other similar research organisations, has proven that managers tend to evaluate employees with a strong dose of subconscious bias, anyway. Therefore manager-led performance evaluations tend to be viewed with suspicion and gets rejected to a large degree. On the other hand, the more performance conversations are employee-led, the better staff morale and engagement levels rise.

“Deloitte conducted a public survey and found that 58% of executives questioned felt that their current method of managing performance neither drove employee engagement nor promoted high performance”

So, if business leaders today cannot rely on the old tools any more, but really want to drive high performance, it seems they would have to unthink traditional methods. Organisations like Netflix and Amazon are already using alternative ways of driving performance development, with incredible results.

In DDA, we have seen the impact of assisting business leaders to make the shift from Annual Performance Appraisals to Continuous Feedback and Coaching.

As a Performance Development tool, the PPT™CoachingSystem© helps organization drive performance in real-time on a continuous, fast and agile basis.

Client Feedback

“I’ve been using the PPT™CoachingSystem© for over 14 months. The impact has been that achieving our targets has become easier, due to the improved communication between team members, especially across generations. It especially helped me to gain greater understanding of what Millennials need and my ability to respond to that. ” Reeva Wellman – Dept of Economic Development

“Fantastic course with simple steps that one can apply. Simple and easy to use with practice.” Regional Sales Manager – Japan Tabaco International Reinventing Performance Feedback Masterclass

An Article by Deshun Deysel

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