Job: invasion of the annual revisions



In a previous job, I had to prepare and deliver them, and remember that giving a review on one of our publication. It was a glowing review, but I felt compelled to find some area that he could work, having said that an all-positive review would be pointless and that there was always room for improvement. I saw the hair as I mentioned the flaw, and I wondered if that one critique overshadowed all the praise.

Then there are the underperformers. Managers say that anything in a performance review should be a surprise, and yet it is understandable that they would delay raising uncomfortable issues with employee. So problems can fester well until they explode in an annual review.

For many workers, the annual performance evaluation is "this peculiar form that you can fill in every year that has nothing to do with daily life," said Robert Sutton, Professor and organizational psychologist at Stanford University and co-author of the forthcoming book "Scaling Up excellence."

Some companies have left a total of annual assessments. In Adobe, "our annual performance review, eliminated in favor of light-weight check-in discussions that Center in constant feedback," wrote Donna Morris, Senior Vice President of human resources of the company, in a blog post last summer. "We have no Tags, an official tool or regulatory time of year all has to happen-ask people to have conversations."

But many companies feel they need to use formal reviews and scores to create an objective measure of performance and objectives, so administrators to reward and promote good employees and provide poor performance they are going to improve (by creating a paper trail in case should be rejected).

Some companies go so far as to rate employees on a bell curve, a process known as forced or stack ranking. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, proposes a system in which 20 percent of workers considered were rewarded top performers, the Middle 70 percent had coached on ways to improve, and the bottom 10 percent were shown the door.
Classification of forced advocates say is a concrete way for managers to identify top performers and to explain the steps that such a load must be increased in the highest tier. They say, too, can be an effective way to force managers to take the painful step of dismissing the worker subpar.

A problem with the forced ranking is assuming that a company that, in fact, that a certain percentage of parts is faulty, said Professor Sutton. Suppose an administrator works wonders and everyone in the Department improves. Under the forced ranking, he or she may still have to let some workers go, he said. At the other end of the bell curve, only a certain number of workers, say 20 percent, can be singled out for higher bonuses and raises.

But "why can not exceed 20 percent of the people in a group is great?" he asked.
Forced ranking, high ratings should go to people who not only makes great work individually, but also contribute to the realization of the entire organization, "he said. Otherwise, a "dysfunctional internal competition" may lead, with cooperation coming to a halt and workers potentially sabotage one another to stay on top of the leaderboards.

Microsoft recently ended a forced ranking approach; workers had complained for years that this discouraged teamwork, according to reports.

Classification of workers into a curve is one way to force managers to differentiate between employees, but can also create stress, said Jon Picoult, founder of watermark Consulting, a management consulting firm in Simsbury, Conn. ranking can work if it is flexible — for example, if they do not mandate that a certain percentage of workers be dismissedHe said. But if done poorly, he said, can hurt morale.

At the same time, "an egalitarian approach to ratings and rewards are just so poisonous," he added. "Some things are as a disincentive for a workforce and watching the bad performance tolerated and exceptional performance ignored."

Yahoo began a new approach to evaluation of workers last year, and has been tweaking. But contrary to recent reports, there is a forced ranking, said Sarah Meron, the company's spokesman. Rather, he said in an e-mail message, "lets us understand how employees are performing system in relation to the expectations (achieve or exceed missing), and there is no hard and fast rule" around their categorization.

Professor Sutton is wary of ratings and annual evaluations in General. Many organizations, he said, it would be better if they give constant feedback, with formal reviews that comes into play, especially if the employee is being eyed for promotion or to have shown substandard performance.

"If the performance reviews were a drug, I don't take adoption F.D.A.," he said, because "they have so many side effects, and so often fail."

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