Think about the last time you spoke to a colleague about something they were working on. Perhaps they asked for some feedback, which you provided. Or perhaps you pointed out something that needed to change slightly, they nodded their understanding and got on with their work, and so did you.
Was that an appraisal meeting or just being a good manager? You didn’t think any more of it, right?
One of the headline grabbing trends of the past few years has been to drop formal employee appraisals completely. Big names such as Accenture and Microsoft made news because they “killed” their employee reviews or “axed” their ranking systems.
But other than suggesting we move to a more “continuous conversation” approach, there has been little offered that provides the evidence base that HR and OD professionals need to show the people running the organisation that performance is improving and that their human capital is working effectively. Where those conversations are actually happening, they’re often not being noted and their outcomes monitored.
Having said that, surely having ongoing conversations with your staff is as old a concept as the annual appraisal, or an employee review? Is it not just good management? Research by the CIPD in 2016 looked at why organisations were embracing this “new” approach to performance management, and its conclusion was that “they don’t give much, if any, evidence on whether these new practices actually improve performance”.
I believe that the regular dialogue we have with staff should form the fabric of a good quality performance review template, if you still have one. Too often, staff and managers are too busy to make note of useful feedback or what employees are putting into practice, so by the time the employee reviewcomes around, it’s all forgotten.
For those organisations jumping on the bandwagon to drop the employee review, can you guarantee that those ‘continuous conversations’ you’ve promised you’ll have are of good quality and link employees back to your wider goals and values? Can you produce the data that will demonstrate a return on training investments, or that your new hire is working productively?
Our tool, WorkPAL, drives and records these ongoing conversations through a modern digital platform. Managers can note successes, request training, capture 1-2-1 meetings and documents. They can offer and request feedback, and employees can access this data to drive their own performance improvements.
When employee appraisal time does come around, there’s clear evidence of progress made throughout whichever time period you’re looking at, and you can have a quality, evidence-based conversation - looking forward, rather than struggling to remember what’s already gone.
Crucially, this data is then available to employees and managers alike. Leaders can see a dashboard view of performance across the organisation - cutting data by team, department, geography - however they need it. It can be benchmarked against your culture and values so there’s a tangible sense of the direction of travel.
So, let’s stop talking about whether we should drop employee appraisals or have continuous conversations. Do whatever works for your organisation, just make sure you’ve got the data and the visibility of that data to move the dialogue forward.
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