Thursday, November 6, 2008

Response to Jim H's blog 'Keep the Performance Reviews!'

I think we should keep the reviews but with less emphasis on the automation. I’ve heard it argued that canned feedback is better than nothing. This is probably true but there is sufficient research to indicate that personal recognition makes people feel valued, which can be more motivating than cash. I would therefore argue that better than nothing is not good enough.

Talent management is a human problem first and a software problem second. So far the leading talent management solutions have not solved the problem of poor management, which seems like a pretty important problem to solve if you want to attract, retain and motivate good people. Note that poor management can manifest in many ways, from failure to weed out poor performers to vague, confusing or conflicting corporate objectives, and automated performance reviews in a poor management environment will at best create some baby steps in the right direction and at worst bog everyone down in pointless activity.

Not that this is a criticism of talent management solutions because in all fairness, management of people isn’t a software problem. The criticism is that leading talent management solutions have implied that automating talent management processes is some sort of recipe for better management. The real solution is better management, which can’t be installed.

A performance review done well, with an emphasis on the people involved rather than complex cascading goals and what percentage of reviews are complete, can be tremendously value adding for everyone involved. So, I agree we should keep the reviews. But I think that the value add comes when people have an honest, constructive interaction that results in the right people being recognized and/or rewarded, not from the automation.

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