Employee Evaluations are an Easy Target for [Social] Disruption

There are really only two reasons we still have annual reviews, well maybe three. First it’s legacy. Your grandmother had annual reviews. It’s just what is done, usually in Q4 when revenue is better understood and the calendar year is coming to an end so it ties in with compensation – a nice little bundle. And that leads to the second reason; convenience. Just 2x a year do we have to “deal” with this issue. Set some goals in January and review how well they were accomplished in December; set, scheduled, delivered. And finally, a third reason and one that is really more recent, the advent of the HRS. The Human Resource System is a software system that locks you into the archaic process that most organizations never questioned. Now with a system that requires unique skill sets and of course a significant price tag it’s really hard to justify changing. Here’s why – add these 3 factors up and you’re ultimately up against some serious cognitive dissonance; “We’ve always done this, it’s convenient, and we have a shiny system in place… it must be right!

OK, I made my case. This isn’t going to be easy but that shouldn’t hold you back from pushing for what is right.

We all know the obvious things that happen for the business when we break free and shift from annual reviews to more continual ones – feedback is timely and today’s work is improved. Got it. But here’s the less obvious, if done right, continual feedback isn’t just more frequent, the space between when it happens and when it doesn’t happen actually disappears, the friction of process is gone and friction in business is a bad thing. The “scheduled more periodic” becomes the “ongoing conversation”, managers manage less and support more; “try this”, “have you considered…”, “who else can help…”, “what about doing…”.  Yes, you’ll still need to work out the compensation stuff as that too will need to be more incremental and frequent but in an age of Venmo and PayPal you have to figure that any HRS system worth it’s salt will evolve.

Reducing friction is the key measure of success in a social organization. So not only is feedback timely and work improved but new ideas too can just flow, engagement increases, the stress of proving value and meeting months old goals is eliminated, an increase in openness and transparency results – more social, less friction, better business.

2 thoughts on “Employee Evaluations are an Easy Target for [Social] Disruption

  1. First, I’m not sure what this sentence is saying: “But here’s the less obvious, if done right, continual feedback isn’t just more frequent, the space between when it happens and when it doesn’t happen actually disappears, the friction of process is gone and friction in business is a bad thing.”

    Second, when I was an everyday director, I used to evaluate half of my staff once a month. These were the people bringing the money into the place, and I needed to not only make sure they were continuing to be great (which they were) but to see if I needed to redistribute work or see if someone had found another way to do things. We’d also talk about special accomplishments in the month if there were any so that when the annual review came up (for raises) I’d already know what everyone had done so evaluations were easy.

    For the other half of my staff, I left that group up to the supervisor they reported to, although I met with them once every 6 months because I wanted them to know they were as important as the group bringing in the money. Of course I saw everyone every day and I had an open door policy so I talked to everyone all the time.

    1. Thanks Mitch. First, that convoluted line of mine was really just that, about “the line” that we can choose to blur in a good way between a formal conversation and the informal. To add to that, second, what you said is what is most needed in businesses. You repeated the point that they were the people bringing money into the place (your direct and indirect reports). Being conscious of that, the idea that you in essence work for them and not the other way around is a powerful belief, a belief that can emerge after much practice and support (as this is very uncommon). It can lead to more regular communication, no mysteries about performance, no one-offs where the most recent accomplishment (or fail) defines the year.

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