Category Archives: performance management

How Managers ‘Game’ Performance Reviews

I just came across an interesting piece by Alfredo Behrens on Harvard Business Review’s site that takes a troubling look at how managers can (and apparently do) misuse employees’ performance reviews. Many times, he says, such trickery — albeit unintentional — can come back to hurt a company’s bottom line.

In his piece, the author, a professor of global leadership at Faculdade FIA de Administração e Negócios in São Paulo, Brazil, recounts how he joined a large U.S. organization and was assigned an employee who provided “the worst secretarial assistance I have had in my entire life.”

After realizing his predicament, he spoke with a colleague about how to best handle the situation.

The advice he received? “Her performance review is coming up. Give her the highest possible rating.”

Why? Because, the colleague told him, “It’s the fastest way to get her invited to work in another division.”

I am ashamed to admit it, but I followed her advice and, sure enough, the secretary was snatched up by a manager in another division. Evidently this kind of dysfunctional behavior is not uncommon; in Brazil there is even a term for it, “people trafficking.”

Behrens says managers also use similar techniques when trying to hold onto the talent they wish to keep for their own little domains, by giving talented employees low-to-middling reviews with the hopes that such workers’  talents will not be discovered and taken away from their department for use elsewhere internally.

“This kind of behavior can badly hurt the company,” he says. “All those low-ranked but highly valued employees were at risk of jumping to a competitor, of course, just as my incompetent secretary was moved around the company instead of being removed completely, as she should have been.”

And while there is a growing  chorus calling for the end of annual performance reviews entirely (see HRE Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine’s recent take on the topic, for example), Behrens offers a question for companies that “aren’t quite ready to throw out” their performance-review processes:

If performance-management systems are so often reviled, ignored, or gamed, do we really know how well we’re managing talent? How many good people are being held back by bad managers?

Those are certainly two interesting questions to ponder the next time  you’re filling out a direct report’s performance review. Are YOU the bad manager who is holding talent back?

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New Performance-Management Rankings

The performance-management process — why employees and managers tend to hate it so much, ideas for improving it — weighs heavily on the minds of many HR leaders. Plenty of software vendors are eager to sell solutions they claim will make performance management less painful and more effective. In an effort to help sort through the offerings, G2 Crowd, a Chicago-based software review platform, has released a Grid report on performance-management providers.

The report, based on reviews from 240 HR professionals as well as “vendor market presence” that G2 Crowd says is determined by public and social data, highlights seven vendors out of the 65 included in the report that received 10 or more reviews as well as vendor size, market share and social impact.

The seven vendors are classified as Leaders and High Performers. The Leaders — products receiving high customer-satisfaction scores and having substantial market presence — were SuccessFactors, Workday and UltiPro (from Ultimate Software). The High Performers — those receiving high customer-satisfaction rates but smaller market presence than Leaders — were Cornerstone OnDemand and Halogen TalentSpace.

Most reviewers appear to be satisfied with the performance-management products they’re using: Reviewers reported the product they use meets their requirements at an average rate of 78 percent, and on average they said they were 77 percent likely to recommend the product they use.

G2 Crowd is hardly the only source for reviewing performance-management products: HRLab.com also offers reviews, as does Gartner with its Magic Quadrant rankings.

 

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Diversity, Leadership and Performance: i4cp Report

In HRE’s most-recent annual “What Keeps HR Executives Up at Night” survey, HR leaders ranked attracting and retaining diverse talent sixth on their list of top concerns, just below driving culture change and aligning people practices to business.

185905158Of course, it’s hardly a surprise attracting and retaining diverse talent would be a significant concern, considering the obvious benefits of employing a diverse workforce. But that said, there’s also little question employers have a lot more work to do on this front.

The link between diversity and business performance was one of many topics address during the i4cp 2015 Conference, held this week at the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In his opening remarks, Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp, referenced a recent research report produced by the institute titled Diversity & Inclusion Practices that Promote Market Performance.

The research found high-performance organizations shared the following characteristics as far as D&I is concerned, including:

  • They make D&I part of the organization’s DNA;
  • They ground their D&I efforts in metrics, thereby spurring greater leadership buy-in;
  • They place greater emphasis on inclusion;
  • They have leaders who “seek awareness of differences” and “take action to establish relationships” that bridge gaps and build an understanding of differences.

Later in the morning, a panel featuring diversity leaders from CVS Health, W.W. Grainger and Lincoln Financial participated on a panel titled “Business Impact Diversity & Inclusion.”

Jacqui Roberson, senior director of inclusion and diversity for Grainger, noted that far too many organizations still operate in silos. In order for D&I initiatives to succeed, she said, employers need to get people to “cross over the lines.”

David Green, vice president of diversity at CVS Health, noted that having a CEO who gets it certainly doesn’t hurt.  Referring to CVS Health’s recent decision to remove tobacco from its store shelves, Green recalled how, soon after the decision was announced, his CEO came to him and said, “ ‘Just so you know, we need to make sure we’re thinking about what this means in helping [employees] quit tobacco. We need to be focused on multicultural communities, youth communities and lower-income communities.’ … I didn’t have to go knocking on his door to say, ‘What do you think about all those diverse communities.’ ”

At CVS Health, Green said, diversity operates as a separate function, but works closely with HR to ensure shared goals are in place and each group knows what the other is doing.

Altimeter Group Founder and Principal Analyst Charlene Li also explored some  key themes from her new book (released Tuesday, the day of her talk) during a session titled “The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Digital Transformation.” (Her book shares the same title as the session.)

Technologies are changing the nature of relationships, Li said. Yet many leaders, she added, continue to be stuck in the old ways of doing things.

If organizations are going to thrive in the new digital era, she said, that’s going to need to change.

“Technologies come and go,” she said, “but leadership is [always going to be around] and something you need to have a long-term strategy about.”

In her talk, Li shared several examples involving companies that are using technologies to strengthen the link between leaders and employees.

One story she told involved the introduction of a new burger at restaurant chain Red Robin.  Soon after the launch, she said, leaders at Red Robin learned through the company’s internal social network that the burger wasn’t very good. Employees were saying on the site that “people were complaining about it” and “the burger was falling apart,” she said.

Listening to that feedback, Li said, the organization quickly realized it had a problem and leaders went back to employees for more details. “They then took [that feedback] back to corporate headquarters, cooked up a new recipe and brought it back to the restaurants in 30 days.”

To put this in context, Li said, “it usually takes 12 to 18 months to change a recipe and get it back to the restaurants, but they did it [in this case] in 30 days!”

As a result, she said, Red Robin didn’t just change the recipe. By recognizing the value these employees were delivering to the organization, she said, “they were able to change [the company’s] relationship with those employees.”

Value—or more precisely the “lack of it”—was one of the reasons behind Sears Holdings Corp.’s decision to begin to seriously revamp its performance-management system last year.

During a session titled “The Rise of the Crowd: How Social Platforms Can Drive Performance and Democratize Performance Management,” two Sears Holdings Corp. HR leaders detailed the retailer’s efforts to transform the way it does performance management.

Aimed at salaried workers, the new initiative is based on the work of Neuroleadership Institute Director David Rock and others.

“The old process was cumbersome and annual reviews were happening three or four months after the year had ended—so by the time we were having the conversation, things were stale,” recalled Phil Menzel, vice president of HR for SHC.

In contrast, Menzel said, the new system is much more agile and responsive.

Using a tool developed internally called GameOn, associates every quarter now sit down to identify up to five objectives for themselves.

The new system also features an online feedback tool called Soundboard, which is accessible to associates. “People can go on the tool and request feedback from anyone in the company or provide feedback,” said Chris Mason, head of strategic talent solutions at SHC. “It gives people something they can take action on right away.”

The final part of the new process is a quarterly “check-in” component aimed at facilitating a more meaningful dialogue between associates and managers.

Martin noted that associates now have to prepare as much for the check-ins (which includes a one-page worksheet) as their managers.

Though still very much a work in progress, the new system has already shown some good traction, according to Menzel and Mason.

Introduced last August, the Soundboard tool already has 10,000 active users and has resulted in 40,000 pieces of feedback. “When we surveyed people, 75 percent said they took the information and actually made a change in [their] behavior,” Mason said.

The new system officially launched in February.

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Is One and Done Finally Done?

The annual performance review — a joyous occasion for all involved (sarcasm) — is on its way out. That’s according to Bersin by Deloitte, which has summarized the findings of its recent study on performance management software (which evaluated 120 performance-management features from 46 software providers) in a new “WhatWorks Brief.”

Organizations are increasingly viewing performance management not as an annual assessment but as a series of ongoing activities that include goal-setting and revising, managing and coaching, development planning, and rewarding and recognizing, according to the study. However, HR will need to evaluate new performance-management software carefully, as not all will offer the same level of support for these activities, the study’s authors warn.

Continuous coaching, in particular, is becoming a bigger priority for many companies — yet only a subset of software applications support coaching management and tracking today, according to Bersin.

“There are many factors contributing to this focus on continuous coaching,” says Stacia Sherman Garr, Bersin’s vice president of talent and HR research. “Work is becoming more dynamic and fast-paced. We see the rise of a large, young generation of employees, along with a skills gap in both developed and emerging markets.”

Coaching, she says, is becoming a bigger part of the “employment value proposition,” where employees want individual feedback and to feel valued for their unique contributions.

 

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TMBC Welcomes Averbook, Secures Funding

Jason AverbookJason Averbook has designs on reinventing workplace performance and employee engagement.

Earlier today, Averbook—recognized HR technology expert and former CEO of Knowledge Infusion—was announced as the new chief executive officer of The Marcus Buckingham Co. In the new role, Averbook plans to help the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based provider of leadership development training and tools “create an organization uniquely positioned to turn the world of talent and leadership inside out,” according to a statement announcing Averbook’s arrival at the company.

Averbook, who officially took over as CEO at TMBC on Oct. 31, won’t be alone in this task, of course. The same press release highlighted TMBC’s completion of a $5 million Series A fundraising round led by SurveyMonkey, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based online survey development company.

With Averbook at the helm and this funding secured, TMBC has lofty goals, according to founder Marcus Buckingham, a best-selling author, researcher, motivational speaker and business consultant.

The firm aims to “fix what is broken in the process of talent performance assessment and management,” says Buckingham. “TMBC’s vision is to deliver companywide and individual team leader visibility into employee strengths, engagement and performance; and its content aims to help the team leader build on the strengths of each employee.”

At the moment, “no such tools—designed explicitly for team leaders—exist,” according to Buckingham, who says the funds provided by SurveyMonkey will go toward “serving this pivotal but unserved market segment of true talent engagement, performance and real-time progress tracking.

On the eve of the announcement of his arrival at TMBC, Averbook echoed those sentiments in a chat with Human Resource Executive, during which he discussed the role of the company’s StandOut integrated performance and engagement platform in rethinking how workplace performance is measured and improved. The first round of funding from SurveyMonkey, he says, is tied to enhancements to StandOut, a strengths-based performance management system that includes a strengths profile for employees, pulse surveys designed to gauge employee-engagement levels and trends in real time, and talent reviews geared toward workforce planning using local talent data.

“The challenge has always been getting [the right] technology into the hands of team leaders,” says Averbook. “We want to [enable] real-time team building and measure engagement at a team level. We want to look at employee performance and engagement in a new way.”

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More Perils of Shift Work Revealed

A new report in the journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine finds shift work may not just have negative effects on workers’ sleep patterns or social life, but also on their cognitive abilities.

According to CNN, researchers from the University of Swansea in the United Kingdom and the University of Toulouse in France followed approximately 3,000 employed and retired workers in southern France — some of whom had never worked shifts, while others had worked them for years — over the course of a decade. They found that shift work was associated with impaired cognition, and the impairment was worse in those who had done it for longer.

The impact was particularly marked in those who had worked abnormal hours for more than 10 years — with a loss in intellectual abilities equivalent to the brain having aged 6.5 years, CNN reports.

The researchers say that shift work, “like chronic jet lag, is known to disrupt workers’ normal circadian rhythms and social life, and to be associated with increased health problems (eg, ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, breast cancer, reproductive difficulties) and with acute effects on safety and productivity.”

There was one (very weak) bright spot in the findings, though:  Workers were able to regain their cognitive abilities after leaving shift work behind, but it took at least five years to do so.

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Women and the ‘A’ Word

200401077-001A recent analysis of performance reviews by linguist Kieran Snyder has uncovered what seems to be a powerful bias against women who are seen as “too assertive” in the workplace — and the bias seems prevalent regardless of whether the review was conducted by a man or a woman.

Writing in the latest issue of Fortune, Snyder describes how she collected 248 performance reviews from 28 companies that ranged from large technology firms to small start-ups. The reviews came from 180 male and female managers.

Snyder was inspired to do this partly by a conversation she’d recently had with an engineer friend who was preparing performance reviews for two people on his team, a man and a woman. He wanted to promote both, but was concerned that his peers would endorse only one of them: “Jessica is really talented, but I wish she’d be less abrasive. She comes on too strong.” And the male? “Steve is an easy case, smart and great to work with. He needs to learn to be a little more patient, but who doesn’t?”

In examining the reviews, Snyder found that women received much more critical feedback than men did: About 59 percent of men’s reviews included critical feedback, while nearly 88 percent of women’s did. As for constructive feedback, the advice given to women tended to include personality criticisms, such as “stop being so judgmental” and “You can come across as abrasive sometimes. I know you don’t mean to, but you need to pay attention to your tone.”

Snyder also found that the word “abrasive” was used 17 times to describe 13 different women, but the word never appeared in men’s reviews.

Here at HRE, we’ve written about the double standard faced by women, including those in positions of authority. Here’s hoping that HR leaders of both genders take this omnipresent bias into account, and strive to help their organization’s leaders be as fair as they can.

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About to be Asked for a Raise? Feed the Source

A paper is being presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Philadelphia, which ends tomorrow, that I thought you might find interesting.

167422861 -- crazy hungryIt seems, according to researchers Emily Zitek of Cornell University and Alexander Jordan of Dartmouth College, the hungrier an employee is, the more entitled he or she feels and the more effective he or she can be in asking for a raise.

Their study, I Need Food and I Deserve a Raise, based on two experiments involving about 270 college students, finds that “hunger leads people to feel more entitled,” according to the report. “Hungry people think about themselves instead of others and focus on their own needs, which leads them to feel and act entitled,” it states. (Here’s the AOM press release about the study.)

The paper, according to the release, “defines psychological entitlement as ‘the feeling that one is more deserving of positive outcomes than other people are,’ and explains that ‘entitled individuals pay attention to themselves and the special treatment that they should receive over other things.”

While research “has tended to focus mainly on social and cognitive causes of increased entitlement, such as recalling an unfair event,” the report states, “the authors posit that it can also be driven ‘by amplified levels of a basic physiological drive — hunger — which may cause people to turn their focus inward and place their needs above those of others.’ ”

The authors’ advice? Feed them. It’ll help you in the raise discussion and can smooth some other workplace rough edges as well.

As the AOM report puts it:

… for the edification of bosses, the researchers observe that ‘entitlement can cause big problems in the workplace, so managers might want to provide food to employees or wait to schedule potentially contentious meetings until after lunch.’ They go on to note that, ‘although certainly due to a host of factors, organizations with readily available food, such as Google, are also known for having unentitled, grateful and satisfied [digestively and otherwise] employees.”

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A Push Toward the Exit

exitIf you can’t fire ’em … isolate them, assign them menial, mind-numbing tasks and hope they wind up so discouraged they voluntarily leave the company.

That seems to be the idea behind “banishment rooms,” where, according to The Asahi Shimbun, some large Japanese companies are sending handfuls of employees in hopes of nudging them toward the door.

The companies operating these rooms—including Panasonic, Hitachi, Sony, Toshiba and Seiko Instruments—have more palatable names for them, of course.

Certain employees at a Panasonic subsidiary, for example, are assigned to “career development teams,” similar to the company’s “Business and Human Resource Development Center,” typically reserved for employees from sections that are performing poorly.

Panasonic and the other companies specified in the article deny they are exerting pressure on workers to resign by relegating them to lesser duties.

At Panasonic, employees are relocated to “career development teams”  to “acquire new skills so they can work at different sections,” according to a public relations official with the company.

But don’t be fooled by such claims, one Panasonic worker told the paper.

Transferred to the “career development team” four years ago, the man—unnamed by The Asahi Shimbun—says he was told the move was only temporary. In the time since, his tasks have included staring at a monitor for 10 hours each day, looking out for irregularities in TV program footage, according to the paper.

The worker also claims that employees given these undesirable assignments “come under enormous pressure to quit,” and described his current work environment as “simply another banishment room.”

A male Hitachi employee in his mid-50s interviewed by the paper recalled feeling “betrayed” by the company, which he says urged him to “find a different career path” upon completing a two-week “career challenge program” last year.

The employee had worked in a computer-related capacity with Hitachi, according to the paper. Upon finishing the program, he says, he was reassigned to a windowless room with only a desk and computer—prepared by a staffing agency—to work on his resume and search the web for job opportunities.

Determining the prevalence of “banishment rooms” in corporate Japan is difficult, according to the article, which also notes Japanese businesses “have been clamoring for an overhaul of employment practices to make it easier for an employer to fire regular workers on grounds that companies need to move more swiftly to seize growth potential.”

Indeed, Japan’s long-standing lifetime employment system often deters organizations from abruptly terminating permanent employees. But here’s hoping the system ultimately evolves to allow employers and employees a cleaner way to make the break.

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Still Taking Aim at Performance Reviews

Roughly three years have passed since the publication of Samuel A. Culbert’s Get Rid of the Performance Review. Culbert, a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, received a decent amount of press around his book when it first came out, no doubt thanks to performance reviews’ many shortcomings. (Indeed, last year he contributed a byline on this topic to HREOnline.com, in which he summed up his opinion about performance reviews in one word: “bogus.”)

Last week, I had a chance to witness first-hand just how passionate Culbert is about this subject during a keynote he delivered at the i4cp’s annual conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

RatingsCulbert called performance reviews “old and dishonest” and chided HR leaders for permitting “command-and-control managers, people who don’t know beans about human nature, to continue to put this bankrupt management practice to use.”

“They provide comparisons of people who shouldn’t be compared,” he said. “They allow bad managers to scare employees. They prevent good managers from hearing what employees truly think. Their mere presence destroys trust.”

Culbert pointed out that “performance reviews make it harder for employees to own up to their deficiencies” and “create a culture of fear and intimidation.”

“Bosses have to have something bad to say about the employees or they themselves won’t be seen as objective,” he said. “There’s no evidence that people who receive average or lower [scores believe] they were assessed objectively.” No one wants to be called average, he added.

Culbert spent the bulk of the time detailing to the group the many ways in which performance reviews are broken. (To be sure, his list goes on and on.) But he also devoted a slice of his allotted time to laying out what he’d put in their place: performance “previews.” In his book, Culbert describes previews as …

… an ongoing dialogue between boss and subordinate, where each of them is responsible for asking the other: What can I do to make us work together better and get the results we’re both on the hook for? The focus isn’t on the past and how one person screwed up, but on making the system work better in the future.”

“Let’s have those conversations,” he told the i4cp audience. “Talk about situations when they occur, not later.”

I suspect not everyone in the room agreed with Culbert’s extreme approach to performance reviews; that they represent a practice that should be put out of its “misery.”  But judging from the reaction of the crowd, both the speaker and his audience seemed very much in agreement that employers need to find a better way (hopefully sooner rather than later).

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