I walked into a very large, publically listed client’s office a couple of years ago to have a discussion about becoming a ‘feedback culture’. I was asking lots of questions and gathering insights into where they were at, what’s working and what’s not. The HR Director told me that the organisation was fully committed to the process of changing their culture. She explained that the CEO was repelled by the ‘outdated performance review process’.
I thought, ‘Fantastic! We’re on the same page.’
Then I found out that they had completely scraped performance reviews. ‘Our people need to be having conversations in the everyday and not just waiting for the reviews’, she explained. I thought, ‘Ok, I like where this is going.’
Then I started digging a little deeper to find out how it was all going. She literally sat back in her chair, her shoulders dropped and she looked down (you know that look). ‘Not that well’ she said. ‘Well, not really at all. In fact, it’s worse since the only mechanism we had to have them is now gone’.
The everyday conversations and feedback moments weren’t happening. Although the organisation was committed to the concept of a feedback culture, their people still hadn’t set regular catch-ups. Nor had they committed to drive a strategy of embedding it into their everyday so that it can become a habit. They were not trained that well and regular systems and processes were not in place.
The CEB Corporate Leadership Council’s (Gartner) research into 9500 employees (including 300 heads of HR), found that 28% of people become disengaged without performance reviews. While you may be thinking that’s not the majority, that means over a quarter of your workforce is disengaged – and that is definitely worth taking into account.
We are kidding ourselves if we think pulling the pin on performance reviews will transform the business into a conversation culture.
If we don’t do it properly it’s like throwing a child into the water to teach them how to swim.
When performance reviews fail at engaging, motivating and improving our team members’ performance, getting rid of the reviews is not the solution. Performance reviews can be improved, relied on less and have a change of focus. You’ve got to get commitment from the business to become more focused on the day-to-day conversations before you make any major decisions.
I still think we should be having bi-annual or annual performance conversations. However, we should be on the same page as Small Improvements, these conversations should be future focused. They are ‘Performance Forwards’. We agree where we are at (coz we nipped those feedback conversations in the bud) and now we can set goals for the future.
Get yourself a copy of Feedback Flow to learn what else we need to do to create our ‘feedback flow’.