“What do Accenture, Adobe, Gap, Microsoft, and Netflix have in common? They all eliminated their annual performance review practices. In fact, six percent of Fortune 500 companies have already put a stop to their rate-centric performance management culture. And this percentage is expected to grow to 50% over the next three years.”
That’s how Kristof De Wulf opens an article that asks the question many companies are asking: “We Eliminated Annual Performance Reviews. Now What?” If you’re responsible for the performance of a group in one of those companies, the answer is: “Not much is going to change.”
Eliminating annual performance reviews won’t change your job
If you’re a boss, your job is to help your team and the individual team members succeed. If you were good at that before, you’ll still be good at it when the annual performance system goes away. If you’re not such a good boss, eliminating the annual performance review won’t make you any better.
In either case you’ll still be responsible for team performance. And, if you’re good you’ll still be helping team members grow and develop. Part of that is performance appraisal, but done differently. Here’s what great bosses have always done and will continue to do.
Great bosses develop relationships
Great bosses touch base a lot. They have conversations with team members about all kinds of things, some business and some not. The relationships that grow in those conversations make it easier to have difficult conversations about performance and more likely that those conversations will end well.
Great bosses are helpers
Great bosses also set the stage for successful conversations about performance by constantly helping team members. They help get the work done. They help team members develop their skills and seize opportunities.
Great bosses make performance a part of the agenda
Great bosses have lots of conversations about performance. Most of them happen in the normal workflow. If you’re the boss and you touch base a lot, you’ll be around to catch problems when they’re small and easy to fix. Those performance conversations often look a lot like helping.
Great bosses also have frequent, formal one-on-one meetings with team members. If you’re a boss and doing a good job of catching issues in the workflow, most of the formal meetings will be about the future and a team member’s development goals, rather than about past performance. Most of the great bosses I’ve observed have these meetings weekly or bi-weekly.
Great bosses know that the people work is the real work
Helping the team and team members succeed is the boss’s real work. That means lots of small contacts and conversations and helpful acts. It also means enough formal structure to make sure everyone stays focused on what needs to be done and constantly getting better.