The truth about ditching the annual appraisal…

I have heard lots of comments lately about those nervous to contemplate the ditching of the annual appraisal, and this is what I have to say.

The truth is, we’re getting this wrong. It’s not about stopping doing something. It’s about coming up with ways to do something better, more easily and more frequently, and as soon as we make that the headline, the better.

I know this because I did it in my last organisation. When we introduced the change, which was ‘no mandated annual performance review’ – we didn’t leave it there, just hanging. We actually offered something else – a ‘strengthened’ one to one process, which contained all the elements the annual performance review had, and more.

We weren’t ‘ditching’ anything. We were offering more, a way to have regular conversations, or ‘check-ins’ – flexibly. By using a web-based system that we adapted to our needs, these conversations could happen anywhere, anytime, and the system equally could be updated by the employee or their manager – anytime, anywhere. If a manager wanted to meet their team member in a coffee shop, they could. If they wanted to have the conversation over the phone, or a skype call, with the information readily displayed via the web-based system, they could.

The online tool had sections that could be completed in advance, if that was what the employee and their manager wanted to do, or it could be filled in as part of the conversation. Just a few useful prompts; How are you, how’s the team, any successes, any challenges? That’s fairly standard for a one to one process. The beauty of a digital tool though is you can add other elements too – and give total flexibility and choice to the individuals as to what they use and when. So, another section, typically found in an annual review process could be around objectives – What are they, when are they due, what progress has been made and so on.

Training needs, personal development – that can all be captured too. Again – the flexibility is given to the individual and their line manager to decide how frequently they would need to have those discussions, with the ease of having previous conversations and plans all visible at the touch of a button. A framework is provided that can be made completely personal. It may be that the ‘extra’ sections, training needs, career planning, are covered off at intervals – 3 monthly, 6 monthly – which the individuals can decide.

The other hallmark of the traditional annual appraisal is the performance element – maybe a competency or behavioural framework. Rather than mandating an annual discussion wading through and scoring numerous elements on a framework – how about having those questions readily available – and training managers in how to use them to prompt a discussion around behaviour as and when it is needed?

So, it’s actually about a shift in the power balance. No longer mandating an annual discussion, but by providing a tool to facilitate more frequent conversations, empowering individuals with their line managers to work out how best they can use it together. Nothing is taken away, instead more options are added. And if HR are nervous about not having annual statistics to report on, with an online system there is built in reporting, so more data, more readily available whenever it is needed.

Of course that’s just how it worked with my implementation – as I mentioned – it’s a tool – it can be built and adapted in different ways depending on each organisation. It’s the principle however that I am passionate about – replacing an archaic way of doing something with a better way, and part of that is giving choice and flexibility to employees and their managers.

Talk to us if you are thinking of updating your performance management processes – we’ll be happy to help!

Our video gives our 3 top tips for moving to a check-in process



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