Are you still wasting your time having pointless appraisal conversations?

The world has changed. Over the past 12 months just about every part of our life and the way we live it has shifted. The way we shop, the way we eat, the way we dress, the way we plan our days, the way we work – it’s all gone through a major change.

Amongst all this change there are some practices that, for no really great reason are still managing to linger on! Long beyond their actual usefulness and worth warrants.

The biggest of these is the annual performance review or appraisal process.

Organisations the world over are still demanding their leaders and their teams to invest valuable energy filling in forms, agreeing objectives, holding conversations to measure last years and then agree next years, chasing form completion, logging onto flashy systems so that we have a “record” and so on…

Imagine the amount of time being spent by highly paid and highly valuable members of your teams to follow this over engineered process for what value? How much of this energy actually leads to an improvement in performance over and beyond what someone would actually deliver if it was not there at all?

Let’s be honest – the number is zero!

Why do we do it?

For all that cost, for all that time the actual return on that time would be actually worse than zero – it would be a negative! So why do we do it?

We do it because it gives us a façade of certainty and a belief we are “managing” the performance and direction of our organisations. The reality is however somewhat different. 

Think back to last January – before we had even heard of a pandemic or recognised what it might mean for us. We all sat down and had performance reviews and set our objectives for the year. We spent hours on end having these discussions so they could all be ratified in time for the HR deadline.

Hands up who looked at them for guidance in September last year? 6 months into a world shifting event how many of these documents still had valid currency in your business? How many of us sat down in January this year and reviewed the objectives from the previous year and measured our teams against the specific targets that were agreed in a different world? Anyone? 

The reality is I can use covid to highlight the fallacy because it is so obvious. Yet, in reality I could have gone back to any of the last 10 years and asked the question and the answer really would have been little different. The annual PR’s are set piece conversations that have little or no connection to daily activity in most organisations.

If you are unsure if yours makes a difference ask yourself this? If we just scrapped it what lasting impact would it have on the performance of our organisation? Beyond short term noise and perhaps some reaction to change would it make a telling difference to your level of success?

So, what would you do instead?

If we look at the world of elite performance – be it sports, arts, science or the military the level of performance that is achieved is not driven by an annual conversation. It is driven by the consistent and regular feedback of data on performance levels achieved and ongoing coaching to develop the key attributes required for success.

This is what drives performance improvement. Recognising where I am at, understanding what I am capable of and help and support to bridge the gap between where I am now and where I can get to.

Let’s be honest. In the majority of cases the PR was set up as a way for HR to ensure that at least once a year managers were forced to sit with their people and talk about performance. It was a sticking plaster to try and deal with the bigger issue – the lack of management engagement with actually inspiring their teams to perform. A poor system put in place to help under skilled managers. Something that most managers found a chore to do and the majority of employees think is a pointless waste of time.

What we really need is for leaders who understand that their role is to truly help the teams they lead (and the individuals who make up these teams to) be the best they can be and use feedback, coaching and true connection to empower them to grow.

Imagine a world where you have brilliant leaders who are connecting with each member of their team most days, who are taking time consistently to engage with them and help support both their performance growth and their career development. Helping them to maximise their potential, in an organisation that is transparent and has an inclusive approach to supporting individual career goals. In this world where does an annual performance conversation sit?

How does reward get allocated?

I can hear you screaming about the allocation of bonus payments or rewarding high achievement. If our organisations were generally set up to really reward performance in a pure meritocracy then why would we need a PR process to decide on who gets what? The truth is that if we actually had roles that were mapped to performance inputs and that distribution of rewards was directly connected to contribution to the results there would be no need for calibration meetings or the evidence of a PR discussion.

The problem that we face in many of our organisations is the distance between individual inputs in roles and its effect on business result has become too large. The degrees of separation between individual contribution and the outputs of business performance has grown so wide that actually being able to track the impact of an individual job role has become so abstract that we have created “annual objectives” as a way to try and create governance and structure.

Not every organisation is like this and not every role – there are obviously lots of examples of a direct way of measuring impacts of roles on results. There are plenty of roles that create an impact on performance that appears to be intangible on the surface. Yet, I would argue that even this is the true challenge for organisations and leaders going forward and is the most pressing challenge facing HR teams all over the world. How to create a direct correlation between inputs, performance and the way that this is equitably measured so that individuals can see the impact of their contributions and be inspired and managed to deliver their best each day.

Create this kind of system and you don’t need an annual performance conversation. Create clarity in the system and every person involved would see who they fit. See how they can increase their contribution and how they can therefore increase their own potential for future success.

I would love to know your thoughts. Get in touch and share your own views of the value of the annual PR process. Does your business use one and does it actually make a tangible difference?

If you think we can help your business and you would like to get a feel for who we are let’s have a chat.

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