Thursday, February 28, 2013

Performance Reviews and Otherwise Getting off of your High Horse and Doing the Work

Every time a major company changes they way they execute their performance management cycle there is the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth from the "thought leaders" out there who see any change of a performance evaluation as an exercise in futility that reinforces a failed system. Kris Dunn points out correctly that these people are high on complaints and low on solutions. It is fine to say that continuous feedback would negate the need for a performance evaluation and that they should not be necessary in a perfect company, however, there is no such thing as a perfect company (Shout out to Jon McAmis my first HR Director for that line). In a world where hourly employees make up the bulk of your workforce and good solid leadership in your industry is at a premium, sometimes you have to create a system to grow your own coaching culture from the ground level.
I hate to break it to many of the experts out there, but in most companies, even some rather successful ones, little to no coaching actually occurs. When you are starting from ground zero it is useful to start a formal process for a supervisor or manager to record coaching and development efforts over the last year. If done correctly and with the right oversight, this process can introduce some basic skill sets that HR people take for granted. Such as:

1. Performance reviews should not be a surprise
2. Discipline matters (If they have formal discipline during the review period they are, by definition, not meeting expectations)
3. Give credit where credit is due (Specific examples of high performing behavior)
4. Don't play favorites (halos and horns)
5. Words and clarity matter (Do not be afraid of the conversation)

The goal is not to create a perfect performance evaluation, but to begin to exorcise all of the demons that a poor coaching environment creates. Let's face it, people are going to be pissed, surprised, and shocked. But you just forced your supervisors to take a stand on his employee's performance that they cannot back away from. They are stuck with it and now they have to deal with it. That, my friends, is where the money is made. Now that they know that they will be forced to confront each employee they have an obligation to that employee to resolve the issue. Hopefully, if you are maintaining a solid relationship with your leaders, you can help them to prepare for this in a healthy way (please god, not the "The HR guy is making me give you a 2")

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