What if you could start with a clean slate? Introducing performance reviews and 360s from scratch
What would you - as a HR practitioner - do if you could start over and introduce performance reviews and 360s from scratch? My six tips:
Start the process Bottom-Up
Performance reviews work better in an environment where there is a high degree of trust between managers and their employees. It's important to feel you can openly discuss performance and how to develop yourself. To do so, people must trust that performance conversations are about helping everyone in the organisation to be the best they can be, without any hidden agendas.
In a young fast growing organisation, we acknowledge that everyone has a lot to learn and improve, employees and managers alike. That's why we have bottom-up reviews.
When introducing a new performance review process, I'd love the first review cycle to be bottom-up, rather then the traditional top-down assessment.
By starting bottom-up, you basically give an important message: "reviews are not designed to categorise staff based on past performance. Instead, it's about helping everyone to constantly improve". We emphasising that managers have as much to learn as their team members.
Check out if your performance review system has the capabilities administer bottom-up reviews. The system we use, small-improvements, is capable of doing such reviews.
Keep it really simple. At Atlassian, people assess their manager on two axis - leadership (does the manager communicate a vision, is he/she a motivator, an inspirational leader?), and management (is the manager good in organisation the work, provide role role clarity, clear plans and objectives). Ratings are anonymous.
All at the same time
With the right amount of focus reviews can be done quickly,.. within hours,..across the organisation.
What would happen if you get everyone in the company to complete their self evaluation on the same day, or the same afternoon? Well, nothing special, but it would feel a whole lot easier.
Why would your organisation be able to stop the entire organisation to do a hackathon, but not one afternoon to complete your performance review?
Perception is everything. Performance reviews feel like a massive time suck. Some organisations take weeks, months, to complete a performance review cycle. The actual invested time may actual not be massive (1 hour?), but it feels like the whole organisation slows down for weeks.
Set some time aside, communicate it from the top. On the day, get some pizzas in, make it fun and get it done and over with efficiently. This may sound only realistic for smaller organisations, but it's surprisingly realistic to achieve even for larger employers.
Performance ratings have been widely debated. Surely, it helps calibration, and identifying 'under-performers', but unfortunately it doesn't help with the ultimate goal of reviews, to motivate people and help them perform better.
In my earlier blog 'What’s the obvious issue with performance reviews staring us right in the face?' I explained that managers need to justify the rating that will inevitable be lower then what a person feels they deserve means an unhealthy focus on people's weaknesses and failures.
People love numbers. They are objective and easy to analyse. So, people will inevitably feel uneasy about removing them. Also, we still want to give people an indication on how things are going. We use the Small-Improvements system to indicate people on two axis instead. People generally understand that, if their performance is indicated to be closer to the bottom-left corner of our performance/stretch axis, they have to step it up. You don't need a rating or a number for that. Also, we noticed that salary reviews and talent management didn't need an exact performance rating. Few organisations would calculate their salary reviews in a simple formula as other things also impact annual increases.
Lightweight to allow for higher frequency
Do we really need to spend 2 hours on our self evaluation? A performance review should feel lightweight.
Imagine that you have a system and process that allows you to do a quick review every month. Your system should be able to allow for that even if you don't plan to do it at that frequency.
Systems you use often, and that you like, are never complicated or laborious.
We should think twice before adding any field or question in our performance review forms. A form that is only 80% 'perfect' - but that is lightweight and easy to use - is often better. (For a cheesy analogy; Apple's Ipod didn't have nearly as much functionality as other digital music players when it first came out - people still preferred it's clever design). You want people to be able to focus on just one thing, helping people be motivated and even better results in the future.
Don't assess every personal objectives, every company value, all the competency areas, and any career development choices. It's way beyond what is required to get the result you want to achieve. Ask people to evaluate/rate/assess their performance, and ask them why they choose that option in an open text field. That's it!
360s only for those recently hired or changed roles
360s are great, but if you've done them every year for many years - like in our company - they become a bit of a bore. And that affects the quality of feedback. Why is that? The problem is that for many people their 360 feedback won't change much year on year. And if everyone in a 1000 person company company invites 5 people to provide feedback, it creates a huge time suck.
Having said that, people consistently see value in 360 feedback when they are new to the company or in a new role. So, time to re-evaluate the invite list...
People in new roles need more feedback to help them adjust and improve performance.
Get only people in a new role, or new in the organisation to participate. In a fast growing tech company, this can be as much as 60% (or more) of your workforce. To automate this, best link your performance review system with your HRIS (using a web APIs) to identify participants.
Also, managers should all participate. However, 360 review feedback requests sent to subordinates should include the bottom-up graph (see above).
Consider Team 360s
We've traditionally collected 360 degree feedback on individuals. Having a 360 cycle where you get to review your team may be a great way to mix things up and provide a different perspective
Have you ever heard people in your organisation saying that they feel worn out from all those reviews and evaluations that focus just on them individually? Also, it may not always provide that many more perspectives. Doing a 360 degree review on your teams however, offers an interesting new viewpoint that provides data that would otherwise go lost and helps building a team.
Ask three questions relevant to that team and ask your key stakeholders to respond. Make it quantitative so you can collect and analyze data easily. Ask your own team to rate themselves in the same three areas. Your outcomes will be interesting on multiple fronts:
- Understand how your team is viewed within the organisation - Compare team self-assessments against ratings from stakeholders - Compare views from different team members or different stakeholders per topic.