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The future of Performance Appraisal: less formality and more agility?

Nine out of 10 companies continue to use traditional performance management methods: goal setting, mid-year check-in and an individual rating based appraisal. So, when Adobe Systems abandoned their appraisal system in 2012, it was seen as a bold and risky experiment. Yet, in the last 12 months, Deloitte and Accenture have joined a growing list of organisations that have chosen a similar path.

Over breakfast on the 28th October 2015 at the Private Room of the Ivy we were delighted to host 30 senior HR, Talent and Learning Professionals from a wide range of organisations to explore some of the implications for performance management in a 'post appraisal' world.

While we agreed that reports of the death of the traditional appraisal were greatly exaggerated, there are several issues that arguably ought to concern anyone interested in retaining and getting the best out of their talent.

A professional identity around leading and managing

It is clear that many managers see the appraisal as simply a tool or a format, rather than means to engage and lead through others. Those quality conversations that distinguish the 'good' and 'bad' managers spring from a personal and professional identity around leadership, and the role and responsibilities it holds. Too many managers are technical experts who feel they need to 'lead' occasionally, rather than leaders who happen to be technical experts. The most successful organisations and the most engaged staff enjoy the latter.

A systemic approach to appraisal

Too many individuals work in silos and units far removed from the organisational outcomes, to which their appraisal is vaguely connected. Managers must be able to provide a clear 'line of sight' from the individual to the organisation's outcomes and its measures of performance. But more than this, they need to identify those processes and practices that help, as well as those that hinder performance, to develop their organisation alongside their people. This is especially the case where the nature of work has changed – more agile, flexible working arrangements. This aspect of Management Development is severely neglected; management programmes are tuned to a workplace and culture that is rapidly disappearing.

Feedback: They want it now and they want to be good!

For those under the age of 30, a good day is measured in likes and retweets, immediate and positive feedback dominates. So feedback on performance at work that is perhaps once a quarter, and removed from its context, is perhaps inevitably seen rather differently. But what if you could assess performance in context easily and quickly, and provide instant accurate feedback? Such an 'appraisee-centric' tool would be a worthy complement to the traditional appraisal methods.

Appraising what our organisation values and valuing what we appraise

It's clear that one size does not fit all – what works for a tech start up simply doesn't fit an investment bank. But what is common is a need to identify what it is that our organisation values – their output, behaviour, thinking and relationships they have with others – and focusing our efforts around those consistently.

Suggested further reading:

Reinventing Performance Management (Deloitte's radical re-design)

Transforming performance management PDF (4.68MB)

Ingle Dawson, Senior Leadership Consultant, is an award-winning consultant and expert in change management and leadership. He thrives on making a real connection between 'people' and 'commercial' issues to generate clear business benefits, and is passionate that development programmes are delivered in a stimulating, participative and enjoyable manner in order to make sure the changes stick.