The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

New Age of Appraisals

From Personnel department to Human Resource function to People Strategy, people management has come a long way to be at the centre of corporate game. With the workforce becoming more dynamic day by day, and changing the façade of the corporate culture, organisations are now encouraged to adopt new talent management practices.

In continuation to my previous article A Classic Choice with a Time-Tested Twist: Performance Appraisals and The Bell Curve, let’s look at how organizations are now adopting new performance appraisal methods to align with modern goals, values, and employee expectations, while still appreciating the enduring benefits of the bell curve.

Picture this: You’re sitting in your cubicle, palms sweaty, heart pounding, about to receive your annual performance appraisal. It’s a bit like waiting for exam results, except instead of A’s and B’s, it’s all about where you fall on the Bell Curve. Sounds familiar, right? In my view, the Bell Curve has left employees feeling somewhat like they were competing in a marathon of “Survivor: Corporate Edition.” The top 10% would be showered with praise, the middle 70% labelled as “meets expectations,” and the unfortunate 20% would receive the dreaded “needs improvement.” It was a rating rollercoaster, and many felt they needed a seatbelt.

Well, guess what? The corporate world is shaking things up and ditching the old Bell Curve for appraisal methods that are as refreshing as a Friday afternoon chai-samosa break. The shift away from the traditional bell curve method in performance appraisals has led many organizations to explore alternative methods that focus on employee development, continuous feedback, and a more individualized approach to performance management.

Continuous Feedback and Coaching
Instead of annual or semi-annual reviews, employees receive continuous feedback and coaching from their managers throughout the year. Adobe Systems is a notable example. Adobe replaced its annual performance reviews with regular “Check-ins,” where employees and managers have ongoing conversations about goals, progress, and development. Their shift to continuous feedback and development-oriented appraisals resulted in cost savings of approximately $6 million annually in reduced turnover-related expenses. To add to this, Adobe reported a 30% reduction in voluntary turnover and a 50% increase in the number of employees receiving bonuses.

360-Degree Feedback
Employees receive feedback not only from their managers but also from peers, subordinates, and other colleagues. This approach provides a more comprehensive view of an employee’s performance. Google uses 360-degree feedback as part of its performance management process. Employees receive input from multiple sources to assess their strengths and areas for improvement.

OKR (Objectives and Key Results)
Employees set clear objectives and measurable key results to align their work with organizational goals. Progress is tracked regularly, and discussions focus on goal attainment. Besides 360-Degree feedback, Google is known for using OKRs as a performance management system. Google’s “OKR” approach helps employees set ambitious, measurable goals and regularly evaluate progress toward achieving them. Benefits of this method include — enhanced goal alignment, increased transparency, and improved focus on achieving meaningful outcomes.

Performance Development Plans (PDPs)
In this methodology, employees and managers collaborate to create personalized development plans that include goals, skill-building activities, and timelines. Technology giant, IBM shifted from forced ranking to a PDP-based approach. IBM employees engage in ongoing discussions about their performance and development, with a focus on individualized growth plans.

Strengths-Based Performance Appraisals
Assessments focus on identifying and leveraging employees’ strengths rather than emphasizing their weaknesses. The goal is to maximize each employee’s potential. The well-known brand, Deloitte is one organization that adopted a strengths-based approach. Their “Performance Snapshot” process aims to identify and build on employees’ strengths rather than fixating on weaknesses.

Check-In Meetings
Managers and employees hold regular one-on-one meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and development opportunities. These meetings can be more informal and focused on coaching. Accenture implemented a “Check-In” system, encouraging more frequent conversations between managers and employees to provide real-time feedback and support career growth.

Team-Based Performance Evaluation
Instead of individual performance appraisals, evaluations are conducted at the team or project level, considering collective contributions and collaboration. Amazon employs a “Leadership Principles” approach that includes team-based evaluations. Amazon’s leadership principles guide team assessments and decision-making.

It is safe to summarize that…

Shifting from the bell curve method to more modern performance appraisal approaches can indeed have quantifiable benefits for organizations, although the precise numbers may vary depending on factors such as the size of the organization, industry, and specific goals.

These new methods have some pretty impressive perks. They promote employee development, encourage open communication, and create a more positive workplace atmosphere. Instead of fearing appraisal time, employees are looking forward to it. It’s like switching out your Monday alarm clock for a Sunday brunch reservation.

In this appraisal revolution, it’s not about the curve; it’s about the journey. So, buckle up, embrace the appraisal innovation, and prepare for an experience that feels more like a walk in the park and less like a rollercoaster ride.


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