Hierarchy, Silos, Bell Curve, etc. are some of the prominent legacy work practices. What’s common among them is that over the years, they have been eliminated and organizations have moved towards better and innovative approaches.
The world of HR is undoubtedly changing and the function is redesigning the longstanding best practices and setting a forward looking agenda.
One of the most talked about practices that got overhauled in the last five years is the performance management. Adobe, GE, Microsoft, IBM, Dell and many more who led the way and brought revolution into the ongoing performance management practices, share a common reason for shedding the legacy practices like the Bell Curve.
It was the disturbing spike in voluntary turnover as disheartened employees—many of them good workers—left the company.
Annual evaluations and appraisal programs simply failed the new generation of workers for whom performance management is less about a steady paycheck and more about career development. There is an increase in demand for opportunities to learn, mentor guidance, recognition, development, a 360-degree feedback and more.
Evolution of Performance Management
Here is a look at the evolution of performance management over the years:
Source: HBR & Josh Bersin Academy
Over the last few years, organizations have radically changed the way they measure, evaluate and recognize employee performance. Today, with a lot of experimentation, continuous performance management practices are being deployed on a wide scale.
The shift from the traditional angst-ridden numerical ranking system to a continuous and a qualitative approach is occurring as companies recognize that the old way doesn’t work anymore. Work has become more collaborative, more knowledge-based and, as a result, more difficult to measure.
The big shift: Continuous performance management
Today, as companies operate as a network of teams, careers and learning are strategic, and companies are shifting from “jobs to work” in their operations, the need to align goals, provide feedback, and coach for performance is real-time, continuous, and multidirectional.
In fact, companies such as Microsoft and GE, that had historically epitomized the rigid and flawed ‘stack and rank’ approach, abandoned it to test the idea of continuous feedback and coaching. Netflix, a company that has seen incredible success on many fronts, including subscriber growth, stock performance, and even Emmy awards, attributes a lot of its success to doing away with the infrequent and bureaucratic annual reviews altogether and instead encouraging employees to engage in regular informal discussions about performance with their managers.
The idea of continuous performance management is starting to take center stage because:
The way we work is different: The workforce is distributed and with the rise of gig workers, the way people work has disrupted the way performance is measured.
The makeup of today’s workforce is unique: For the first time, there are five generations of workers in today’s workforce. Employers are challenged with meeting a wide spectrum of employee needs and expectations. There is no more “one size fits all” approach.
Technology continues to advance: Technology enables us to give and receive immediate feedback all the time. We rely on feedback from others for everything from which App to download to what to order for dinner.
Worker expectations have changed: Workers want meaning in their work, to be more empowered in their day-to-day decision making, and to be in the driver’s seat as they progress through their career.
This paradigm shift means that for making performance management processes successful, HR has to create goals in a more agile way, give people lots of feedback, and coach people to succeed. And most importantly, keep the process continuous.
Why continuous performance management?
Josh Bersin, President and Founder of Bersin & Associates, mentioned in one of his articles that purpose, progress, and continuous growth are the engines that fuel our personal productivity.
Enabling continuous feedback essentially means enabling a culture of ownership within your company, where employees take charge of their own growth trajectory and become owners of their individual performance.
Continuous feedback fosters trust, transparency and healthy dialogue between managers, reportees and peers; it captures feedback real-time and heightens engagement, removes biases and surprises, allows room for rapid course corrections, minimizes risk of misalignment and therefore, reduces loss of time as well.
Continuous performance management allows employees to develop themselves continuously, stay at the top of their game, and measure their growth over time. In a nutshell, continuous performance management augments capabilities and productivity of the employee and the organization.
A continuous performance management process augments productivity by:
Agile feedback loops – Weekly check-ins complement the company’s performance paradigm of recognizing, seeing and fueling performance for the future.
Short-term focus – According to Josh Bersin, companies that set quarterly performance goals generate 31 percent higher returns from their performance process than annual ones. And monthly performance goals give even better results.
People development and coaching approach – As digital natives join the workforce, linking performance management to development needs will enhance the employer value proposition.
Qualitative KPIs – The changing nature of work and need for regular feedback necessitates development of qualitative performance measures.
Integration with business goals – Rethink how to link rewards and recognition to qualitative feedback received during check-ins.
Role of technology
A meaningful performance management system is an outcome of strong fundamentals aided by the right technology. Agile and ongoing performance management is the way ahead. The right technology should rely on automated tools to drive goal management, review communication, coaching support and performance visibility, all in real-time environment and with utmost accuracy.
According to a recent report by Darwinbox on Continuous Performance Management, over 70 percent of Indian organizations perceive that the right technology platform will boost adoption and eventually the ROI of continuous feedback.
Technology holds the power to moderate the manner in which continuous feedback can be administered by organizations or the ease with which employees can exchange conversations on-the-go with mobile or voice-based feedback.Continuous engagement based on openness and transparency is the key to unlock the advantage of happy and productive employees.