March 18, 2019
Can an Effective Innovation Initiative Be the Blueprint for Transforming Performance Management?
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Traditional performance management processes have come under fire for several reasons. One of the most vocal critics is Samuel Culbert whose passion on the topic has resulted in somewhat of a “manifesto” for those wanting to abolish the practice. Professor Culbert lists 10 reasons for his position: (1) people dislike giving and receiving reviews; (2) reviews are not objective; (3) employees won’t be honest in self-assessment for fear of negative career consequences; (4) reviews discourage ideation because they promote the notion that employees work for bosses with their own ways of doing things, not for the company; (5) reviews discourage or prevent teamwork where manages have to rate employees on a curve, with a limited number of top ratings; (6) different reviews by different managers during an employee’s tenure often highlight disconnects between observations and objective measures, which may weaken an employer’s position in a wrongful termination lawsuit; (7) managers tend to use reviews to justify pay increases they have decided to give already; (8) critique of traditional reviews has caused many HR departments to try to salvage the approach by “tweaking” the process with things like a 360-degree feedback “innovation” that also reflect other people’s biases and agendas; (9) reviews are one-sided and presume the boss knows best; and (10) reviews instill fear and intimidation in employees (Culbert, 2013).
Others have focused on common rater errors in the evaluation of employee performance such as the halo effect (generalizing job performance from one aspect of an employee’s work), leniency (evaluating everyone as “outstanding”), central tendency (evaluating everyone as average), strictness (rating everyone at the low end of the scale), first impression (using an initial favorable or unfavorable impression for the overall rating), and the similar-to-me (rating people similar to the leader more favorably). (Dartmouth Human Resources, 2016).
The basic premise fueling innovation is the notion that organizations must adapt to be competitive, or risk obsolescence. This is no less true of human resource practices as it is for the development and/or acquisition of emerging technology. Organizations must identify business needs, continually, to maintain a competitive edge, and this mandate applies enterprise-wide. In fact, transformative innovation requires internal, as well as external, metamorphosis.
Professor Culbert’s “transformative” performance management process is something he calls the performance preview. The essence of a performance preview is a collaborative, forward-thinking discussion whereby boss and subordinate both discuss their assignments and responsibilities for achieving success in the coming year. Because a manager’s responsibility is to guide, coach, tutor, provide oversight and, generally, assist a subordinate to perform successfully, the manager should be held accountable for the success of the employee (Murray, 2008). The discussions continue during the year to review and revise direction as necessary. In this framework, a manager might have the ability to assess and award bonuses correlating to performance on assignments and projects throughout the year.
The notions of continually identifying and rationalizing projects and assignments based on business needs, reviewing and “course correcting” as necessary, and avoiding bias really are the essence of testing and experimentation in a sound innovation process. There are many sound practices HR leaders can learn from effective innovators and well-functioning innovation labs to reinvent performance management and address employee needs, which really are BUSINESS NEEDS ultimately.
Culbert, S. (2013). 10 reasons to get rid of performance reviews. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samuel-culbert/performance-reviews_b_2325104.html
Dartmouth Human Resources. (2016). Common rater errors. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~hrs/profldev/performance_management/rater_errors.html
Murray, S. (2008). Performance review vs. performance preview. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.realtimeperformance.com/RealTimeLeadership/2008/performance-review-vs- performance-preview/
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