“Exceeds expectations.” “Consistently meets goals.” “Does not meet performance standards.” These phrases can strike joy or terror in the hearts of employees. They can mean a welcome boost in salary or the loss of a longed-for promotion. While evaluating an employee’s performance is important, I think the customary performance appraisal process can be demoralizing, and even counter-productive.
In many organizations I’ve worked with, supervisors and employees alike dread the annual review process. But what if it were something to look forward to? What if the process actually motivated staff instead of creating anxiety?
We pondered these questions here at Integrated Work and decided to replace performance evaluation with work planning. The results have been extraordinary! Our employees are fully engaged in planning their own work for the coming six months, and individual performance goals fully align with our firm’s strategic direction. Here’s how it works:
Every six months, our leadership team develops overarching goals for each division, which we share across the company. We then schedule individual work planning sessions with each staff member. Prior to those sessions, the leadership team meets to propose specific goals in different areas of a person’s work as it pertains to our larger division goals, as well as estimate the ideal percentage of time the employee will spend in each of those work areas. During the work planning sessions, staff members bring their own ideas about what they want to accomplish; the discussion results in a clear set of goals, as metrics or evidence of success; and what support or resources they need to accomplish each of their goals. It’s kind of like a six-month strategic plan for each employee.
Toward the end of the six-month period, a couple of staff meetings are dedicated to employees sharing with the whole team the progress they’ve made in each of their goal areas. What surprised us was the amount of pride and enthusiasm folks had when sharing their accomplishments, and the transparency in sharing things that didn’t go as planned. These successes and challenges, along with updated division goals, then informed the next six-month planning period.
Now, I understand this process may not work well in larger organizations or those with strict human performance evaluation requirements. But what if, in addition to the formal appraisal process, your leaders and staff partnered to create meaningful goals that energized staff and aligned with your overall strategic direction? What a wonderful world it would be!