If the thought of performance reviews makes you cringe, you aren’t alone. Research supports the fact that performance reviews are pretty much universally viewed as ineffective. So it generated a lot of attention, if not a ton of surprise, when GE—recently named by Forbes as the ninth largest company in the world —announced it was scrapping annual performance reviews in favor of more frequent engagement with employees.
HR professionals, recruiters, and organizational change experts have been forecasting the demise of the performance review for years, not just because research says we don’t like them, but because they’re all but irrelevant for a broad swath of employees.
Millennials and their more mature counterparts in the workplace are often more likely to request, and respond positively to, regular feedback that both recognizes stellar performance as well as identifies how they can improve. This is a change from the status quo, but that’s good news for managers. Not only are workers more likely to be open to feedback, there are tech tools that make that dialogue easier.
Millennials Want To Improve Now, Not Next Year
Speaking of Millennials, they are not a particularly patient bunch—and that’s a good thing. Karie Willyerd, the workplace futurist for SuccessFactors, quoted a Millennial in an article written for HBR: “I would like to move ahead in my career. And to do that, it’s very important to be in touch with my manager, constantly getting coaching and feedback from him so that I can be more efficient and proficient.” What an improvement that is over waiting around for that once or twice yearly performance evaluation and subsequent conversation with the boss.
Reflecting on research done by SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics, Willyerd said, “What [Millennials] want most from their managers isn’t more managerial direction, per se, but more help with their own personal development.”
What does that mean for an open feedback loop? Here’s a look at the kind of input that works.
Millennials are motivated to prove their ability to do a task well. Feedback that reinforces what people are doing right, not just what they’ve done wrong, recognizes strengths and abilities while also letting them know how to improve.
More than that, if someone isn’t suited for a task, they’d rather know about it now and move on to other things they’re better at doing. The awareness that Millennials want constant feedback has been often unfairly described as narcissism or the result of helicopter parenting, but it just makes sense. Imagine doing a job for 12 months only to be told you weren’t good enough at it? The core idea behind regular feedback resonates with employees across generations: Put me where I work best, both for my sake and for the company.
People hate criticism. Negative reinforcement doesn’t work for employees, and—when it comes once a year, with another 12 months before they find out whether they’ve improved—it becomes a morale killer. Taking an iterative approach, as GE has, makes it easier for people to receive criticism and drive momentum on the things that truly matter to their own development, while also having an impact on the company as a whole.
Ongoing feedback benefits both managers and employees. Millennials, the largest demographic in the workforce, hate performance reviews more than anyone—but they aren’t the only ones. Anyone with a forward-thinking mindset wants regular feedback and coaching so they can do their best work at the right time. They want jobs that they love, and they want to be doing things that are interesting and fulfilling to them. Feedback helps employees stay engaged and motivated, and it helps managers attract and retain top talent. A win-win.
Add Technology to the Review Process
As you move from yearly reviews to open communication, there are a number of purpose-built tools that can you can explore to help with the process. These include offerings from companies like Impraise, Workday, Glint, and 15five, to name just a few, that can help with your new process. Each is built to encourage regular (even daily) dialog and can help make this concept a reality within your workplace.
Feedback goes both ways, and employees need to feel safe to share their thoughts; it’s up to employers to pick the right technology and introduce it in a way that clarifies its intent.
It’s important to remember that real-time feedback isn’t just a matter of adding new apps to your processes; it also requires a shift in mindset. An organization can’t just talk about change; it has to show their employees a commitment to change. As such, technology can be both a boon and a danger. If you rely too heavily on technology—in this case, an employee engagement platform, and take the humanity out of relationships, you’ll reinforce the idea that your people are just a cog in the machine instead of valued human beings. in a myriad of ways. Better culture, happier employees, more productive teams, more productive managers, and greater profitability overall. As you reshape your company’s culture of feedback to become more continuous, your employees’ development will be tied to the company’s development and growth. And that’s really what the performance review was supposed to do in the first place.
What do you think about performance reviews? As an employee, do you like or loathe them, or do you fall somewhere in between? As an employer or HR pro, what are your thoughts? I’d love to hear.
A version on this post was first published on Talent Culture blog on 1/14/2016.
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