Is Performance Management dead? Don’t kid yourself.

There has been chatter in the HR community for a while now regarding the drive to remove appraisals and doing away with ‘traditional’ performance management. Well, like most things, it’s a little more nuanced than simply ‘ditching performance management’.

Deloitte and Accenture are two such firms. They have moved to performance assessment on a project-by-project basis; in this sense, it becomes more agile, providing the business with key insight at the point of need. As an aside, it also enables each to create and share some very meaningful MI with their project clients at the culmination of each piece of work (I don’t doubt that clients are asked to report on performance too). It then becomes a case of ‘operationally the project achieved this, and behaviourally, we did it in this fashion’; a clever and supportive approach that helps both client and colleague. Perhaps most tellingly and intuitively, Deloitte has stripped back how performance is measured, relying on four simple questions, two of which are closed yes/no questions. Additionally, they have amended the frame of reference for asking these questions, requiring only team leaders to consider their own future actions with respect to that person. There is still a calibration process to their performance management, regardless of how they rebrand this.

It’s worth mentioning that these two businesses adequately lend themselves to measuring performance on a project-by-project basis, given the nature of their operations.

Microsoft did away with the rank and yank awkwardness of the bell curve (some time ago); yet still attributes performance on annual basis with mid-year reviews, now coined ‘discussions’; oh, and the bi-monthly ‘check-ins’. So, nothing has really changed, bar the use of the bell curve.

Google has OKRs and has done for an age (from when the firm was in its infancy). OKRs are Objectives and Key Results. Scratch at the surface; they are a shorter acronym for SMART. Employees set their own objectives, and the manager signs off, ensuring they link to the business goals, but isn’t that how we are all meant to do it anyway?

Both Microsoft and Google appear to continue to leverage 360-feedback to help provide awareness of the impact of colleague behaviour. From our perspective, this is a positive – effective and sustainable performance is a balance between the ‘what’ (task) and the ‘how’ (behaviour) after all.

The art that underpins all of these ‘changes’ and the intention of all performance management is a regular and continual conversation about performance. It’s as simple as that. Start talking about performance; start driving performance. The process that sits around that fact is down to you, don’t feel you need to ‘follow suit’ because large firms pat themselves on the back for doing so; you do what is right for your people. Adopt an approach that is straightforward, provide your people with the skills to hold effective conversations and empower them to own their performance; you won’t go far wrong.