TalentTalent DevelopmentPerformance management – evolution, not revolution

Performance management – evolution, not revolution

Appraisal is long due a reappraisal itself. How can you find out what works for your organisation and make it happen?

The reputation of the annual appraisal has taken a good kicking over the past few years. Around Christmas, the same articles about the “dreaded” event begin to appear. “It’s the same thing each time”, “They take far too long, “They feel pointless, “They add little value” – these are just some of the common complaints expressed.

In a fast-paced, digital world, having a single sit-down performance review once a year with nothing in between is insane. However, the benefits of setting long-term goals shouldn’t be ignored. There are some things, like career conversations, that make sense to discuss on a longer-term basis. There is also value in taking a step back every so often to reflect on what has worked well and what could be done better. Setting long-term objectives can be very positive and motivational, giving employees something aspirational to aim for.

So, what is the best way forward? There is definite merit in having frequent, regular discussions between line managers and their employees. In fact, according to a 2018 Forrester paper, commissioned by Workday, “those with monthly or continuous performance processes are 1.4 to 1.5 times more effective at engaging and retaining employees than those with annual processes.” In our own research with employees in 2019, we discovered a staggering 84% consider regular check-ins with their line manager to be important[1].

Be true to your culture

So, how do you marry the need for long-term reflection with regular and meaningful discussions? The point about performance management is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It requires a nuanced approach that considers the unique needs and culture of your organisation. What works for one business, will not work for another. It’s about listening – to your senior leaders, your employees, and third-party experts – and finessing your approach on a regular basis. It’s about finding your own path and ensuring you take everyone in the business along with you on that journey.

One of our customers, Splash Damage, a British video game developer that has worked on many iconic titles, including Gears of War, Halo, Batman, Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein, has been such a journey. Since moving on to Appraisd three years ago, the company’s approach has continuously evolved to ensure that it is delivering the benefits of a strong performance culture to employees, managers and HR.

Head of HR, Kate Lindsay, shares her experiences:

Where did the drivers for change come from?

“Our senior leadership team were keen to develop a more effective approach to performance management that could help move us forward as a business, and that better reflected the dynamic, rapidly changing sector that we’re competing in. One of them had read Tim Baker’s “The End of the Performance Review – A New Approach to Appraising Employee Performance”, and was inspired by the messages in it, particularly around creating a more collaborative and cohesive workplace. These chimed with our ambitions as a business and our desire to fuel better, more productive conversations between employees and managers.”

How did employees react to the change?

“Overall, the reaction has been really positive. We introduced monthly conversations as part of our new approach. When we first launched Appraisd, these conversations were designed to focus on a different area every month. This ensures each time feels fresh and the discussion doesn’t go over old ground. However, we have since adapted a simpler approach as we noticed a decline in 1-2-1 conversations.”

“We switched our focus to management training, including how to have conversations and ask ‘good questions’. This approach also ensures that we discuss a range of topics, such as development needs, career progression and wellbeing. With the introduction of self-assessment appraisals, employees feel empowered to have their say. Performance management is something that’s inclusive and collaborative, rather than a one-way conversation from manager to employee. We monitor the conversations and have noticed a marked improvement in the quality of feedback being given. We provide continuous training on this and have been pleased to see more detailed and constructive information being delivered across the business.”

What's Hot

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Strategy & Leadership Establishing an Organization Guidance System

10m Dave Ulrich

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Alan Todd break down Organization Guidance Systems - what they are, and why they are essential to HR's role in busines...

View article
2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of the year to come

Strategy & Leadership 2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of the year to come

11m Michael Hocking

2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of...

Dave Ulrich, Jill Christensen, Jon Ingham, Katrina Collier and more HRD Thought Leaders predict the trials and transformations that will face the work...

View article
HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

HRD Summit UK HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

10m Joe Talora

HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

With the HRD Summit 2020 fast approaching, HRD Connect takes a look at what to expect at this year’s landmark event. View article

Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real cultural transformation

HRD Live Podcasts Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real cultural transformation

11m Michael Hocking

Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real...

In this week's HRD Live Podcast, Amanda Cusdin, Chief People Officer, Sage, sat down Michael Hocking, Editor, HRD Connect, to discuss Sage's mammoth c...

View article
HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

Engagement HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

11m Michael Hocking

HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

As 2019 comes to a close, we look back at the top 10 culture and engagement articles, podcasts and interviews of the year. View article

Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

Learning & Development Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

10m Jill Christensen

Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

Jill Christensen, Employee Engagement Expert, Best-Selling Author and HRD Thought Leader, breaks down the two most important skills in the workplace, ...

View article

What pain points have you encountered?

“When we first introduced monthly conversations, we included peer reviews. These fed into employees’ overall ratings and were anonymous. As people knew that they could affect their colleague’s ratings, they were often reluctant to complete them. They also felt uncomfortable being too specific in case they could be identified. To rectify this, we have introduced fully transparent 360 reviews, which are working much better. It is now clear who the reviews are from and employees have embraced the opportunity to offer constructive comments.”

“Breaking the link between performance reviews and pay has also been a challenge. It has required us to work with everyone in the business to create a change of mindset. Employees now see performance conversations as opportunities to develop themselves as individuals, not just a way to get a pay rise. It has been hard to make the break but introducing proper promotion and salary review processes has helped to make the change.”

What have you learned along the way?

“It is really important to realise that you don’t have to change everything overnight. Performance management is not something you complete – it is ever-evolving and needs constant attention to ensure it remains as relevant and effective as possible. Not everything you try will work, but that does not mean that you should stop exploring new ideas. We are always thinking about what we can do to improve our approach.”

“The next thing we have planned is skip-level reviews – employee reviews of their managers, that they will give to their manager’s manager. This will help reinforce collaboration within the organisation, give employees access to senior leaders, and demonstrate our commitment to nurturing exceptional management skills throughout the business. We are also just finalising changes to our ratings scale, ensuring the options are as clear and straightforward as possible for managers to select, creating a higher level of consistency across the business.”

“Being agile and always ready to change is at the heart of what we do and has been a key driver in creating an open, friendly and collaborative culture, where employees want to work.”


[1] Survey conducted by OnePoll with 1,000 UK employees working in organisations with 50 employees or more in April 2019.

Comments are closed.

What's Hot

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Strategy & Leadership Establishing an Organization Guidance System

10m Dave Ulrich

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Alan Todd break down Organization Guidance Systems - what they are, and why they are essential to HR's role in busines...

View article
2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of the year to come

Strategy & Leadership 2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of the year to come

11m Michael Hocking

2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of...

Dave Ulrich, Jill Christensen, Jon Ingham, Katrina Collier and more HRD Thought Leaders predict the trials and transformations that will face the work...

View article
HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

HRD Summit UK HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

10m Joe Talora

HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

With the HRD Summit 2020 fast approaching, HRD Connect takes a look at what to expect at this year’s landmark event. View article

Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real cultural transformation

HRD Live Podcasts Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real cultural transformation

11m Michael Hocking

Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real...

In this week's HRD Live Podcast, Amanda Cusdin, Chief People Officer, Sage, sat down Michael Hocking, Editor, HRD Connect, to discuss Sage's mammoth c...

View article
HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

Engagement HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

11m Michael Hocking

HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

As 2019 comes to a close, we look back at the top 10 culture and engagement articles, podcasts and interviews of the year. View article

Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

Learning & Development Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

10m Jill Christensen

Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

Jill Christensen, Employee Engagement Expert, Best-Selling Author and HRD Thought Leader, breaks down the two most important skills in the workplace, ...

View article