By Tracy Sullivan & Mike Brennan
Performance management is, in many organizations, simply a process that has to be completed. There is nothing engaging about it. It is, in some ways, the supreme act of pragmatism:
- The compensation group needs something to which to tie their merit matrices and bonus plans
- Managers need a way to delineate their direct reports
- HR needs a mechanism to develop a performance history for each associate
And it’s been this way for 100 years. Companies have developed a myriad of procedures, forms and rating systems, but, in the end, the vast majority still use a process where goals are set at the beginning of the fiscal year, possibly reviewed at some regular interval (e.g. quarterly, at the midyear), and then rated annually by the line manager.
The manager may solicit feedback from others, but in the end, the line manager is solely responsible for the feedback shared with the associate, in the performance review. And the degree of quality with which managers both collect and deliver feedback varies widely.
And with the advent globalization accelerated by network technology, a tradition rife with [oft-misinformed] subjectivity has become antiquity. Hierarchies have been flattened; managers, employees and teams are often not co-located, and day-to-day work in many industries is more project-driven than it used to be. Oh, and Millennials (i.e., digital natives) who started entering the workforce several years ago are always connected, not to mention seeking feedback and advice.
How has this impacted performance evaluations? For some organizations, sadly, there has been no impact. For many, a lack of engagement in the process has only gone from bad to worse. Thankfully, we’ve had the good fortune partnering with some Talent Management executives to turn performance management on its head.
A key enabler of the transformation has been the inclusion of social collaboration in talent management tools such as Cornerstone Connect.
Why do we espouse tools like this? They work. How?
They allow teams to collaborate on goals. Team sites that allow employees in the same hierarchy or on the same project team to follow (i.e., see) one another’s goals, comment on goals, and even create joint goals, thus supporting alignment (i.e., they support conversations that should be happening anyway!).
They provide managers with a fuller picture of who their direct reports are and what they do on an ongoing basis. Managers who follow their employees gain insights into their interests such as groups to which they belong and better understand their performance based on peer feedback, which is often event-driven (e.g., project completed, sale closed, key customer presentation delivered, numbers met/exceeded, etc.). And they also provide insights into challenges. For example, companies are able to use project team sites to inquire why there is a budget issue and how the project manager and other team members are fixing it.
Social performance provides a more open framework for evaluation. The project lead, matrix manager or peer is not constrained to a focal, annual process any longer. Additionally, the feedback provided is timelier and allows a manager and direct report to be more agile in addressing performance and development needs.
They support continual coaching and development of employees. As the Three Amigos put it, ‘social coaching’ is an organic alternative to form-based, performance management. Employee development should be at the heart of every organization’s performance management strategy. Informal, on-the-job learning has been around since the dawn of jobs. For those workers commonly in front of a computer or carrying a tablet or smart phone (yes, even field workers), social collaboration enables a ‘learner centric experience,’ allowing the ability to quickly post questions, share docs, discuss best practices or simply connect with experts.
‘Social performance’ is still relatively young and finding its center. Many HR organizations are still reticent to fully buy in. They typically cite a lack of cultural fit typically tied to an increased level of transparency. That is flawed logic. The sea changes resulting from Baby Boomers exiting the workforce and Millenials continuing to join will only continue. Organizations that embrace the concept of social performance and incorporate it into their respective organizational cultures will be able to attract and retain the best talent of this generation and the next.
How about your organization? Is social collaboration already supporting your performance management practices? Thinking about it? Feel free to drop a comment here or visit us at Cornerstone Convergence at the Appirio Booth.