The rise of the feedback culture

Performance reviews are dreaded by employees and managers alike, so it’s not surprising to see more companies moving away from this traditional corporate practice and embracing a culture of consistent feedback.

By Sarah K. White
Dec. 20, 2016

No one likes performance reviews at work -- managers don't like conducting them and employees don't enjoy receiving them. And it's nothing new. As The New Yorker points out, dissatisfaction with performance reviews can be traced as far back as the third century in China. Yet employers have been unsuccessful in moving past this outdated tradition.

"Many of the HR executives and CEOs I've met with dislike performance reviews with a passion, but they aren't sure how to remove them when they are so intertwined with other processes such as compensation increases. However, in the last two years there has been a wave of companies moving away from performance reviews," says Rajeev Behera, CEO of Reflektive, a company that develops real-time employee performance management software.

Companies like Deloitte, Accenture, Microsoft, Zappos and Pinterest have ditched traditional performance reviews or any other system that ranks employees. Instead, "these companies are all moving to more agile systems designed to provide continuous feedback throughout the year," according to Behera.

Building communication

Performance reviews were originally intended to encourage managers to address issues in the workplace before they grew into larger problems, says Joseph Grenny, a four-time New York Times bestselling author and cofounder of VitalSmarts, a corporate training and leadership development company.

"The idea was that if managers knew they'd have to fess up about their opinions sometime in November, they'd be more likely to start addressing chronic problems earlier to pave the way. But that has not proven true. Instead, the perverse truth is that if managers are going to avoid candor all year long, they're going to find a way to do it in November, too," says Grenny.

He says that, in his experience, a company's overall "health" is often linked to the "average lag time between identifying and discussing problems." The longer managers wait to address problems in the workplace, the greater the negative impact on things like engagement, employee satisfaction and productivity. Grenny's solution is to instill regular, consistent communication in the corporate culture to reduce the amount of time it takes for employees to alert management to internal issues or personal problems.

When these instances are pushed aside instead of confronted, they only grow and fester within the department. By the time performance reviews come around, the problem might have grown too large to easily tackle. The best solution is for managers to act often and early, maintaining a regular pulse on the daily engagement of their employees.

Bring down defenses

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