Or at least performance review in the form we now know it?

Recent conversations in the corporate sector have been increasingly about the need to re-visit the traditional performance review model. Organizations such as Accenture and Deloitte have already embraced a new approach to performance management, realizing the limitations of the traditional annual review.

What’s on the cards? An ongoing feedback and coaching model, which lets employees get coached constantly as they perform tasks. A contrast to the annual appraisal that assesses their abilities just once a year.

Reviewing the review model

The modern appraisal system has its roots in the industrial revolution days, when factories needed to find ways of improving employee productivity. It evolved over the years, drawing from people studies and socio-economic conditions, which suggested that productivity is linked to the work environment and worker satisfaction, and eventually paved the way for a friendly management style. All through, the need to measure and increase productivity persisted, only taking different forms. If objectives and goal setting were important at a point, at another period, it was embracing technology for performance management.

The move towards change began with research suggesting that performance reviews in their conventional form can do more harm than good. Findings challenged the assumption that criticism encourages people to improve, pointing out that the truth could in fact be just the opposite. Criticism, even if it is dressed up positively, challenges a person’s self-esteem and self-image, and is almost a form of threat. And no one likes to feel threatened!

Studies also pointed out that ratings and reviews aren’t always objective. The rating often shows the reviewer/ rater’s bias more than assess the subject’s competencies.

The times, they are a changing

The new approach responds to these limitations, and, in sync with our times, is ‘social’.

Ongoing feedback instead of once-a-year review is aimed at empowering people to be more effective. The employee gets real-time inputs about his work, encouraging him to make necessary modifications faster, thus improving continuously.

The feedback mechanism is more democratized too, reducing the chances of rater bias. It allows team members and peers to add their compliments and observations, providing a more accurate and rich view of the employee’s capabilities.

Technology provides the tools to easily send, receive and store this feedback, creating a more transparent system.

Embracing the new

While the new approach has its merits, organizations will need to adopt it gradually, letting go of their existing review traditions. Like with most forms of change, this too might meet with resistance if implemented in a top-down manner, without employee support.

Before implementing it, organizations could initiate conversations with employees about their existing review mechanisms. Employees can decide whether to continue with the current systems or write an obituary for it and truly let the conventional annual performance review rest in peace.

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