Performance Management: Employees are Humans, Not Robots

Do your achievements over the past year outweigh your pitfalls? Have you worked hard enough to justify your salary? Will your performance score really reflect your actual performance?

Employees have long been losing sleep over rankings-based annual performance reviews which clumsily grade employees on their work performance over the course of the year. Managers have suffered through overly complicated performance management concepts which come with so much paperwork that the annual review has become a box-ticking exercise.

Employees are humans, not robots. Unless you’re working for a dream company with realistic expectations of its staff, no human can ever score a 100% in a performance review — because they’re not robots. Performance ratings are hurting your organization and your employees. It’s time to change that.

Outdated performance management systems have led to a crisis in the way we manage our staffs and run our businesses. HR Consulting firm Towers Waston said performance management isn’t “fit for purpose” — it’s outdated, ineffective and downright de-motivating.

If you want intelligent employees, treat them as humans. Assigning a clumsy score which is open to managerial bias — whether unintentional or not — that doesn’t truly represent an employee’s performance is no way to increase productivity in the workplace. Instead, companies should focus on developing their employees, supporting them in achieving their goals and being the best they can be.

Revamping a Broken System

2015 saw new trends storm through performance management with top companies killing ranking systems and revamping the way they set goals and conduct performance reviews. Adobe, Accenture, Deloitte and General Electric are among the biggest companies to revamp their systems. Now, it’s expected that 50% of Fortune 500 companies will cut performance rankings and annual reviews by 2017.

Adobe, a forerunner in making changes to management processes, led the way back in 2012 when they abandoned their outdated system and introduced informal check-in meetings between employees and managers. These check-ins proved remarkably successful and the company saw increased employee engagement and voluntary turnover decreased by 30%.

Accenture and Deloitte are two of the big players that spoke out about their belief that the focus needs to shift to ensure performance management is really benefitting the employees rather than being a stagnating HR process that does more harm than good.

Accenture shaped their performance management to focus on the future and taking positive steps forward, and Deloitte now have weekly check-in meetings initiated by team members where recent work is discussed.

A more surprising entrant to the changing face of performance management is General Electric, that killed their infamous “rank and yank” system in which managers ranked their employees and fired the bottom 10%. General Electric’s new strategy is prioritizing employee goals over grades. Janice Semper, leader of GE culture, the department which leads the changes said: “The focus is much more on the people, developing them, and much less on rating and ranking people.”

Worse than all of these antiquated processes is Yahoo, which has been caught red-handed rigging their performance management system to lay off groups of employees who aren’t performing as they’d like, and grossly manipulating the valuable reasons organizations have performance management processes in place at all — to develop employees and their business.

The Human Side of Performance Management

New performance management trends show that to make employees more productive, they need to be treated like humans. The focus has shifted to regular and informal meetings, near-term objectives, in-the-moment feedback, ongoing coaching and development, and making meaningful progress.

Analysts predict performance management software will play a major role in improving business productivity and collaboration between teams. Social media is expected to impact the way performance management software is designed, making interfaces more user-friendly and incorporating real-time feedback among colleagues.

The changes are positive so far. Finally, companies are beginning to see their employees as humans, not work robots. But there’s still a long way to go. In 2016, we’re definitely going to see more top companies shutting down outdated systems in favor of employee-focused approaches.


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Stuart Hearn

Stuart Hearn is a specialist in innovative performance management software and CEO of Clear Review. Stuart has been working in the HR sector for over 20 years. He previously co-founded plusHR, a leading UK HR consultancy, and worked as International HR Director for Sony Music Publishing.

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