Beecroft-style Performance Review…you’re fired!

Share Button

The latest report commissioned by the Government and published this week by venture capitalist, Adrian Beecroft, makes for slightly depressing reading as yet again it points to what it sees as unnecessary 'red tape' protecting employees (such as effective performance reviews) as a barrier to business growth.

A key element of the study suggested that it would help companies if they could more easily sack poorly performing staff with less a consultation period and due process, with Beecroft quoted as saying:

“The downside of the proposal is that some people would be dismissed simply because their employer did not like them.  While this is sad I believe it is a price worth paying for all the benefits that would result from the change."

This type of approach breaks the fundamental contract between an employee and employer; there should be trust, committment and faith that each other is trying to give of their best to the relationship – with such a mindset, both parties seek to resolve issues, understand each other, learn and improve performance.

Without this, employers can just 'give up'; "I tried, he/she doesn't fit, let's get someone else" – the ease with which it can be done absolves companies from strengthening their performance management and performance appraisal processes and from placing responsibility for any 'failure' in performance where it should truly sit i.e. with both parties.


Share Button

Performance related bonuses in schools

Share Button

An interesting article on teacher bonuses from Australia.  Because we all went to school, and many of us have children, schools are a common and easily understood reference point for most people.  The article is generally interesting and there are two key learning points for me on performance appraisals / bonus systems.

The first is the author's argument (which I agree with) that the most important element of a process is the feedback that is received.  Particularly in vocational arenas (and I believe in nearly all professionals) there is a desire in all employees to do a great job.  If the feedback process – be that 360 feedback or standard performance review – starts with that premise then the design is geared to the benefit of the recipient.  We should not need to use money/bonus to motivate people to do the job well.  We should just concentrate on giving them the feedback that allows them to do the job well.

Second, measuring is hard.  It is incredibly hard when someone's pay depends on the measuring.  Before you implement a bonus scheme that is linked to performance appraisal be sure that you accept the consequences of the decision.  Do we wish to hold a conversation on whether my pupil's grades were adversely affected by the pool of children I had to work with, or, do we wish to hold a conversation on what I can do to work with the children I have and produce the best outcomes?

Bonus schemes can work very well.  And I believe that great performance should be rewarded.  But let's start from the idea that we are working with people who already want to do a great job, and let's use bonus for consequential reward rather than the reason to do that great job.




Share Button

Guest Post – How much would you pay for an appraisal?

Share Button

We are delighted to share a guest post this week from Jamie Pennington of Pennington Hennessy, a behavioural change consultancy working within the Professional Services sector; always thought-provoking, here Jamie challenges law firms to re-think performance appraisals.


Think about the feedback you got at your last appraisal.  Would you have been willing to pay £1000 of your own money for the valuable career-feedback you received?  How about £100?  £10?  Or would you have been willing to pay a large sum to have avoided the meeting and associated paperwork?

In investigating this question I have found very few lawyers who would have paid for their appraisal.  So why is it so universally unappreciated?  Why, in a society which craves feedback and a profession in which the “jury of ones’ peers” is taken seriously, is feedback not lapped up voraciously?

Let’s be clear, it’s not the appraisal process.  Even though some firm’s forms and associated procedures may be cumbersome there are few complaints about the areas that are covered.  Most firms ask the appraise to reflect on their own performance before the meeting,

The problems come because:

  • Lawyers don’t like giving feedback.
  • Lawyers don’t like confrontation.
  • Lawyers (on both sides of the appraisal) are unclear on the usefulness of the appraisal.
  • The outcome is usually indistinct.
  • Nothing seems to change.

Meanwhile at HR Central the team is usually too occupied counting how many performance appraisals have been completed to wonder about their quality. 

So what should be happening?

Your appraisals are supposed to be a measure of how suitably skilled and motivated your firm’s personnel are to deliver the firm’s business plan.  A plan that cannot be delivered by your firm is no use, regardless of how great the plan might be.

A proper performance appraisal process is therefore the underpinning of the training programme; it indicates where we currently are, and where we need to be.  Coupled with a competency framework (go on – ask your HR team if you’ve got one. Many of you will find out that you have :-) ) the appraisals should provide the evidence-base for the investment in the systematic development of the workforce. 

I know this sounds a bit like management-speak, but it answers the question “How do I know if the money we spend on training is worthwhile?”  Without proper appraisals, you don’t.  If people aren’t doing more of what the business plan requires them to do, the training is wasted, and performance appraisals are the systematic way to find out.  

So don’t think of your appraisals – whether you are the appraiser or the appraised  – as individual pieces of nonsense.  Since you are a people-business the combined appraisals indicate how fit you are to deliver the plan. 

So this is a call for honesty, transparency and simplicity in appraisals.  What do you think of our chances of success?

Jamie Pennington, Director, Pennington Hennessy




Share Button

Should we nuke these management practices

Share Button

I was reading an article in Business Week : Pointless Management Practices to Nuke . The list is "Forced Ranking Exercises", "Key Performance Indicators", "360 degree feedback programs", "Engagement Surveys", and "One-size-fits-all performance reviews".

The article falls for the age old trick of saying … look at these poorly implemented practices – we should stop doing them.  I agree with nearly everything in the article other than the conclusion.  If you use 360 feedback to allow people to say things they wouldn't say to someones face then you may have an issue.  If you design a performance appraisal system that doesn't reflect what the employees/staff want from performance appraisal then again you will have an issue.  Don't nuke the practices – nuke the way you are doing it.

If you take great care on your 360 feedback design and make it an open, inclusive process;  if you build a performance review process that balances the individual's requirements equally with the organisation's needs; then you will find you have great, core tools for supporting your team in their personal development and in achieving the company goals.

Best practice in 360 feedback and best practice in performance reviews (and KPIs, and engagement surveys) will lead to fantastic results.

I might agree completely on forced ranking exercises!






Share Button

360 Degree Feedback debriefs; questions which help explore feedback in a report

Share Button

When you are in a one-to-one 360 degree feedback debrief session,  the purpose is to explore the recipient's report, raise their self-awareness and have them accept what the feedback is saying; without these stages of awareness-building and acceptance, it is difficult to move onto setting development goals and action planning.

With this in mind, questions which help them reveal more about a situation from different perspectives are  invaluable; let's take an example of someone having feedback as being abrasive or brusque in their dealings with others.

The first question often to ask is 'Does this ring true for you?' or 'Do you recognise this in yourself?'; if the answer is 'Yes' then the line of questionning is different to that if they say 'No'.

Taking the former, your questions should then try to highlight the specific scenarios in which this behaviour occurs; asking 'Why do you behave like this?' can often make someone defensive and attempt to justify the behaviour i.e. 'It's not me, it's them'.

Far better to uncover what is happening before they decide to behave like that, because consciously or unconciously, there is a decision made to act one way or the other.

So, questions might be 'When do you notice this behaviour emerge? With particular people or in a particular situation? What do you believe about this person or situation? What are your expectations as you go into a particular situation? What about when you are not brusque or abrasive…what's dfifferent?

Such questions serve to help an individual become aware of the beliefs, values, assumptions, thinking and feelings which lead them to certain decisions and behaviours; with that knowledge, individuals are in a better place to make different choices & decisions next time.

If you are interested in knowing more about our 'How to conduct effective 360 degree feedback debriefs' training programme then feel free to get in touch through this blog or the website.





Share Button

Sherpa Survey 2012; 360 degree feedback assessments lead the way in Executive Coaching

Share Button

The US based 'Sherpa Coaching' organisation annually publish the results of a survey on trends within the world of Executive, Business and Life Coaching; the seventh one has just been released with an interesting find regarding the use of 360 degree feedback.

The use of 'diagnostic' assessments, such as 360 feedback, within the realm of Executive Coaching, is now a consistent front-runner compared to 'type models' such as Myers-Briggs and DISC; some 26% market share compared to around 15%.

Naturally we find this encouraging!  We see great value in psychometric tools as a means of highlighting preferences, dominant styles and approaches within individuals; they can use this raised level of self-awareness to perhaps help become more flexible in their communication, leadership, etc.

However, whatever one 'might do' or 'prefers to do', nothing has more impact than awareness around what it is you actually 'do do' (try not to laugh at the back…) – 360 degree feedback provides perspectives from Line Manager, Peers, Direct Reports, and a host of others if desired, all of whom offer observation of your behaviour, and crucially, its impact.

To move from 'that's interesting' to a real lightbulb moment of 'I need to do something about that!', moving from psychometrics to 360 degree feedback often provides the impetus for change.





Share Button

Latest CIPD Employee Outlook Report; 360 feedback reality bites for Line Managers

Share Button

A brief post to highlight some findings from the latest CIPD 'Employee Outlook Survey'; a key finding was the 360 degree feedback perception gap between how Line Managers rated their abilities compared to how their direct reports rated them – near 80% to 58% respectively.

The level of satisfaction and confidence in Line Manager capabilities, feeds directly and crucially into levels of employee engagement, a factor which has growing evidence of  having considerable impact on organisational performance and 'bottom-line' figures.






Share Button

Is it a performance review or a performance conversation?

Share Button

It's interesting to note how important language and terminology is when it comes to defining the performance review process within an organisation.

Some organisations use the term 'appraisal' or 'evaluation'; others favour something which leans more towards the developmental element within the process, such as 'Personal Development Review' or suchlike.

Invariably the purpose of the process is the same; a chance to reflect on what has happened, plan ahead, and highlight development needs for the individual concerned – all encompassed in a conversation between a line manager and the employee.

The question then is, does it matter what we call it? Does one title or phrase better describe what happens over another? And do people approach the process differently depending how it is framed?

For our part, we favour the idea of stripping back all these to something which is relatively neutral but which conveys the true essence of performance review; it's a conversation.

A conversation implies two-way dialogue with the intention or purpose to collectively review, plan and define development needs, and perhaps more besides.

Let's throw this one open and ask, "What do you call your annual performance conversation & why?"



Share Button