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Many companies, such as Intel, Microsoft, and Gap Inc., have revamped their performance management systems to eliminate ratings they feel demoralize and threaten employees, take too long for managers to complete, and constrain performance discussions to formal reviews conducted one or two times each year. Adobe Systems Inc. provides multimedia and creativity software products including Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, and the files we call pdfs, which stands for portable document format. Adobe was experiencing an increase in turnover which it discovered was related to employees’ dissatisfaction with the performance review process, a lack of recognition, and the lack of regular feedback about their performance. Like other companies, Adobe’s performance review included managers providing an overall rating of each employees on a 1 to 4 scale which was based on how their performance compared to other employees. This created a competitive rather than the collaborative work environment which Adobe values. Each year after employees received their reviews HR saw a spike in voluntary turnover which was especially concerning because Adobe was losing good employees. To improve performance management Adobe decided to abandon annual ratings and introduced a new system called The Check-In. The Check-In emphasizes ongoing feedback. Instead of managers only discussing performance with employees during the formal performance review as tended to occur in the old system, Check-In encourages managers and employees to have informal performance discussions at least every other month. Managers are asked to focus performance discussions around employees’ performance objectives or goals and what resources they need to succeed. Also, employees’ career development needs are part of the conversations. Managers are given complete freedom to decide how often and in what ways they want to set goals and provide feedback. The discussion is future-focused. That is, both the employee and the manager consider what to change to increase the likelihood that performance will be effective. Employees are evaluated on the basis of how they have performed against their goals rather than how they compare to other employees. More frequent performance feedback is especially important to Millennial employees who are used to real-time communications through texting and postings. Managers no longer have to complete lengthy performance evaluation forms and submit them to HR. HR’s role is to provide managers with consulting and tools to help with performance discussions rather than policing to see if reviews are completed or discussions have occurred. Both managers and employees can access a resource center that provides materials about coaching, giving feedback, and personal and professional development. For example, managers might use the resource center to help them with tough performance conversations such as those involving giving employees difficult feedback. HR relies on what is known as a skip-level process to insure that performance discussions are occurring throughout the year. This means that the manager’s own boss holds them accountable for having performance discussions. The boss asks employees if discussions are occurring and if they have a development plan. There are several indications that Check-In is effective. HR includes questions about performance management on its annual employee survey. Survey results show that 80% of employees responded that they had regular performance meetings with their managers and felt supported by them. Since Check-In was introduced voluntary turnover has decreased by 25%. Also, it is estimated that Check-In saves Adobe managers 80,000 hours each year that were previously spent completing employee performance evaluation forms. SOURCES: Based on R. Feintzeig, “The Trouble with Grading Employees,” The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2015, pp. B1, B7; D. Meinert, “Reinventing Reviews,” HR Magazine, April 2015, pp. 36–40; J. Ramirez, “Rethinking the Review,” Human Resource Executive, July/August 2013, pp. 16–19.

 

Please discuss (any of) the following questions:

How does your experience of Performance Evaluation compare to the one described above?

To what extent, if any, should performance appraisals be limited to certain categories of staff?

Referring to the checklist in Figure 9-10 and Table 9-3 in the textbook, develop a set of recommendations for 'best practice' in performance management – which tools do you think would be best for your current workplace and why?

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