It’s no secret that almost everyone hates the annual performance review, where you sit down with your boss and talk about the adequacy of your work over the previous 12 months. If your company’s system includes stack-ranking, where the lowest performers are usually shown out the door, you probably dislike the process even more.
The good news is such draconian approaches are on their way out. Companies such as Adobe, General Electric, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Microsoft have already replaced the old way of managing performance with new systems that force more frequent communications between managers and employees. Held face-to-face, often with the assistance of specifically designed apps, these conversations are transforming performance management into an Agile-like process.
If your company isn’t among the one-third of organizations that have moved toward a new style of performance management (according to data from Accenture Strategy), chances are good that it will transition soon. Some 75 percent of the employees surveyed by the consulting firm believe their companies should change their approach to reviews, and 40 percent of their managers agree.
What’s behind this movement? “The environments organizations need for their employees to succeed is changing,” said Karen Williams, chief product officer of the Ottawa-based HR technology provider Halogen Software. Among other things, she observed, it’s been shown that “traditional appraisals don’t improve performance or engagement.”
In addition, employees from several companies told Dice Insights that performance reviews seem to be the last thing their managers worry about. These reviews are often delivered late, and seem hastily put together. An ongoing process that requires frequent conversations, by contrast, solves that problem by making performance management a measurable, active part of every manager’s job.
Tech Pros Already Think in Agile
You should think about how you’ll engage with an ongoing process if—or when—your company changes its approach. For tech pros, this shouldn’t prove too much of a stretch.
“For developers, continuous change and rewards are part of their daily work,” said Kerry Fuqua, director of product marketing for PeopleFluent, an HR software provider in Waltham, Mass. “They want more frequent feedback from their peers and managers.”
While many companies talk about new styles of performance management, approaches vary from business to business. Some organizations combine feedback that’s delivered immediately after a meeting or project’s completion with apps that allow managers and employees to solicit comments from other people involved in a particular effort. Other firms ratchet up the frequency of performance meetings to quarterly, monthly or even weekly, and also use apps to open up the opportunities for feedback.
The uniting idea is to turn performance management into a forward-looking process, Fuqua said. That means managers must take on more of a coaching role in order to help their team members successfully reach their goals.
In addition, Williams observed, an individual’s goals are often presented within an organizational context. “When this is happening all the time, you get increasing engagement,” she said. “Performance management is a place for your accomplishments to be recorded in a way that connects their value to the organization.”
Get It Into Your Brain
While HR and the executive team are thrashing out the specifics of your company’s approach, there are things you can do to ready yourself for a transition.
- First, take ownership of your career. To succeed requires “a lot of self-awareness,” Fuqua said. “People need to be self-aware and know where they can contribute.” In turn, that helps you identify where your best opportunities will be in the future.
- Clearly identifying your goals is the next step, Williams said. Once you’ve done that, you can talk about them in an effective way with your manager. “The point of ongoing performance management is to have regular conversations to help you work toward your goals,” she added. “This gives employees more control because the more opportunities for communication, the more opportunities you have to check on your understanding of expectations or surface issues while something can be done about them.”
- That means you have to “be open to feedback and be ready to grow,” Fuqua said. For example, more frequent conversations with your manager may push you to stay current on new technologies, something every tech pro knows they need to do.
Fuqua suggests a relatively small proportion of employees use apps to request feedback from people beyond their manager, at least at the moment. However, she believes that will change as more workers realize that having a true grasp of their performance is a key aspect of managing their own career.
These new approaches to performance management “allow both manager and employee to bring things up to move toward improvement,” Williams said, while the technical components (such as apps and specialized Websites) record conversations and achievements to “make sure things don’t fall off the radar.”
That’s a long way from watching your manager slip a review form into your personnel folder, probably never to be read again.