Viability of Performance Journals
French writer Rousseau, once noted “He who is slowest in making a promise, is most faithful in its performance”. Modern competitive demands may not permit this luxury of extended thought to individual employees. However, systems that enable performance could ameliorate the situation by providing a mechanism that records the employee’s confidence in achieving a certain goal, perhaps on a week-to-week basis. This mechanism opens the door for review and course corrections early in the performance appraisal cycle as compared to an erstwhile system that is used once at the end of an year.
Performance appraisals are viewed with skepticism and sometimes fear. Employees and their supervisors perhaps face a heightened consciousness that their rating is but a ‘version of truth’ and that it has to be conveyed and signed off on, in one instance at the end of the performance year. The world has tried out quarterly and semi-annual appraisals. The fact is that businesses are still not happy with this level of enablement. Performance Journals are a good way to keep a track of progress on goals. The word ‘Journal’ comes from the Latin word ‘diurnal’. Journals were the daily noting of events. They have been praised for their utility of being a true reflection of ones learning, giving one direction on what to do next and sometimes even brings out new goals.
The question is, why not adopt this concept into a performance appraisal system? Will adopting such a practice spur thought and spawn off course corrections?
An analogy is offered here for the reader’s appreciation of the importance of journals. Prediction Markets (a web 2.0 technique) was designed (at a simplistic level) to anonymously collect survey data from employees. 'Will a certain business venture succeed?' is the question asked from the employees. Employee responses were found to be a good indicator of the probability success as it was established by its practice.
Its importance is that while the leadership articulates a business plan, employee’s actions articulate it every day. Investors would perhaps find this “plain talk” useful in gauging the viability of the venture. If employees were to somehow record these thoughts in the public domain, then investors could benefit from such a journal. (eg. Glassdoor)
Coming back to the discussion on journals, end of the year, the HR teams are sending out “gentle reminders” to employees and supervisors, coaxing them to complete the annual appraisal process. Now supervisors are thinking how to squeeze employees under the performance normal and employees are crying foul. They are wishing that they had discussed some part of the fit earlier, instead of doing it one time, at the end of the year. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review from a popular consultant reveals that several thousands of hours of effort are spent at the end of year in assessing performance. Why not instead, record employees and supervisors dialog on performance, week on week? Will this not fuel performance, is the thought offered?
By introducing the concept of a performance journal, employees and supervisors are required to indicate their level of confidence in achieving a certain performance target on a weekly basis. Employees may record their thoughts against each goal and events indicate on a point scale, their level of confidence in achieving this goal. Will the gross margin target be met in a certain region? This would depend on the class of customers acquired and speed of billing, say. Those involved will know quite early if they will be scrambling for the numbers at the end of the quarter or sail smoothly toward an over achievement problem!
So why not declare the progress, formally through a weekly journal? The acceptance of the reality begins early spawning of correctional actions and hence productivity.
Journals are not a new invention. Certain performance systems that Ramco has designed, require employees to show growth from the previous years (compare this to achieving a new target). They require employees to articulate environmental support at the beginning of the performance year.
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