ARE PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS DYING?

An article on performance assessment in the October 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review traces the history of appraisals back to the days of World War I. Termed the “merit rating” system, it was used by the US military to spot poor performers for discharge or transfer. Within the next two decades, the article notes, the system was adopted by 90% of companies in the US.

Since then, despite its many limitations, this annual ritual has served to reinforce company expectation, targets and future goals. However, many MNCs such as Google, Accenture, GE and Deloitte are departing from the traditional year-end assessment to focus on talent development and feedback as a means to achieving business goals.

Performance, per say, has become a tad difficult to gauge these days. Given the nature of different kinds of work and the technology involved, it’s hard to measure individual responsibilities. Collaborative environments can also throw challenges like spotting individual performance in a team, achieving equilibrium, putting ideas forth, agreeing and disagreeing to them etc. Assessment, as we see it today, holds many contributing factors up for debate, in which engagement and feedback form the core.

First of all, there are countless reasons as to why the old yardstick does not apply in current times. Businesses are changing, and so are the duration of contracts and their requirements. It makes more sense for managers to engage with subordinates during the course of the project than putting it off till the next assessment.

The need to develop regular conversations on performance has becoming more demanding – from a year-end process to a quarterly or mid-year process. For some, it may even be an ongoing process where daily statistics give the company a better understanding of where the business is heading. Regular conversations help close gaps, acknowledge strengths and align strategy to business needs.

Managers, for their part, need to understand that assessments are no longer based on tick-boxes and performance graphs. What truly matters is the talent’s ability to continuously add value to the business and how they relate to company values and culture. Reviewing what happened in the past takes a lot of time out of what can be improved currently or in the future.

Cut to ‘feedback’, the biggest talking point in our industry. Today, feedback is synonymous with ‘growth’. Customer-centric businesses know too well how not to mess with this as retention (of customers) plays a big role in the way they manage their businesses. For talents serving customers directly, it becomes imperative for line managers to build constant support and check if objectives are being met.

Removing assessments from the rigid frameworks they currently exist in can make room for more mentoring, coaching and other kinds of formal learning. But the most crucial of all would still be “On The Job’ (OTJ) learning, which beats everything else. It also brings in greater initiative, participation and trust from talents.

Structurally, designing an assessment model where all employees (not just the extroverts) are able to articulate their strengths and milestones will be a better choice than having a mammoth paperwork exercise every year which is frustrating for all. Still interesting would be to have innovative assessment models, like say video recordings of previous assessments to improve efficiency and progress.


At Propay Partners, we’ve devised an assessment model that incorporates all teams and job roles. Members undergo this bespoke assessment every three to six months with their senior managers. The results are then used as a yardstick to have conversations with new employees on their strengths and gaps during their onboarding process. Even in-house rules are suggestive of our office culture: “Have a Learning & Growth Mindset”. This puts in place a learning cycle that ensures quality assessments; benefitting both the company and the team.

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