The “New” Performance Management — What We Were Supposed to be Doing All Along?

Shared Leadership Carol Anderson

by Carol Anderson, Columnist & Featured Contributor

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]F[/su_dropcap]OR YEARS AND YEARS and years, HR has pleaded with managers to have more frequent performance discussions, and has introduced technology for the purpose of making it easier to document performance. I can tell you firsthand, it’s been a REALLY tough sell.

Today, GE makes headlines in the Washington Post article, Why Big Business is Falling Out of Love with the Annual performance Review. They join the likes of Deloitte, Accenture, Adobe and Gap shedding a process that has for too long be tedious and of little value by moving to a more fluid system.

They will (gasp) have more frequent performance reviews and use an app to document the dialogue.

Um….

So….

Hmmm….

It just sounds so déjà vu.

Why all of a sudden is this big trend heading down the fast track? I think there are a couple reasons.

It now belongs to the operational leaders, as it should have all along

I’m guessing here, but I suspect operational leaders grew tired of the bureaucracy created by the annual review, the tediousness of rating goals and competencies, and the snapshot-in-time that gave no real indication of the level of performance.

Again guessing, they’re opting for something relevant that actually drives performance and develops talent.

My question however, is why did it take them so long to figure this out? I’ve been astounded at the number of organizations that waste the precious time of managers by continuing to sponsor a process that didn’t do what it was supposed to do.

Is that the fault of HR? Perhaps a little, but where the heck has the CEO been all this time? Oh, wait. He hasn’t been held accountable for performance reviews, so he didn’t even know how tedious they had become. I believe I remember a comment once…Something like, “My executive leaders are well experienced and beyond needing to set goals and build skills.”

Improving performance is a leadership accountability. Period. Why not step up and help HR figure out how to make the process less bureaucratic and more helpful?

Here’s the real rub….it’s not the design of the process, it’s the dialogue that is important. But don’t just copy GE for heaven’s sake. Figure out what really matters to your organization — together.

Performance management is a business process, and HR can do nothing other than be a good shepherd. The business has to own the business process.

HR didn’t read the tea leaves and see the dilemma of a process that didn’t add value

HR folks have wrangled and wrestled with managers for years over completing performance reviews. But we (and yes, I’ve been right there) have totally missed the signs of a meaningless system. We’ve gotten stuck in enforcing compliance and missed the purpose.

When there is resistance to a process, there is usually a good and valid reason. It is up to the sponsor of the process to dig deeper and identify the resistance so that value can be created.

We have missed the single biggest opportunity with performance management — that the purpose of the process is to improve performance. We’ve know it isn’t working, yet we buy bigger and better tools to make it easier to track down compliance, rather than providing data that actually answers the question — how are we performing? Technology can’t give you that without real dialogue as the underlying source.

The big trend is what should have been

I love the fact that organizations are moving to less formal, more frequent, more relevant (we hope) dialogue. What better way to improve performance and develop talent.

But this is what HR has been advocating all along so why couldn’t they get their message across and/or why wouldn’t the leadership listen? Perhaps a more candid, more open dialogue between HR and operational leaders, a dialogue of equals with a focus on business results, might have led to a change some time ago.

Organizational performance is too big of a deal to leave to chance and bureaucracy.


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