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Big Performance Data? Small Steps!


Performance reviews are painful. Let’s face it. Usually HR or my manager kicks off the yearly ritual, without me of course. I’m not needed. It’s anonymous. Results are revealed to my manager and by my manager, at the same time as the consequences for my career and salary. No fair trial, I’d say. No learning, no trust, no meaning, no context, no better performance. Just a verdict.

This blog describes the new way of reviewing people. Why big data should be created, yet built in small steps, every time, every day, every week. 75% of global HR management wants better talent measurement. Time has come to tailor better to their needs with new innovative tools.

Why are these traditional yearly 360º measurements inaccurate and disengaging me and others? Why do they lack delivering insight in a person’s performance?

We love the concept of 360º feedback itself: bringing in more perspectives teaches me a lot about my blind spots and confirms in other instances my talents. That’s not the issue. Read then why HR grades the review process C or below (Sibson Consulting) and in a 2012 Globoforce report, and why people say to get rid of the annual review meeting in this Linkedin discussion thread, initiated by Dr Tim Baker (author of upcoming book: “The End of the Performance Review”) or Cris Wildermuth. Deloitte underlined in their recent HR Trends 2013 Report: “modern organizations turn to just-in-time feedback”. Delayed feedback, i.e. feedback asked and given after weeks, or even months, serves no purpose.

Academics say: “Continuous feedback is the most important and powerful feedback that can be given. Both the research and practice literature have advocated that feedback be provided immediately following effective or ineffective performance” (Wexley, 1986, Gregory, Levy & Jeffers 2008, Pulakos & O’Leary 2011).

(By the way, we couldn’t find clear academic evidence that supports anonymous, one-off traditional 360º feedback methodologies. Did you?)

Traditional 360º

Let’s take a deeper look at the traditional, one-off, yearly 360º feedback for the annual review process. (By the way: most people are assessed by their managers, without any form of process or tool-support). And let’s keep it simple here.

Take Paul. He is a senior account manager, and worked for 8 years now at the company. This year, he has been involved in over 80 client meetings, performed over 200 conference calls and meetings, participated in 7 projects and met over 50 unique people, both internally and externally. He wrote a few micro blogs and joined a dozen internal discussions on a forum, and visited quite some network events. He spoke with Sandra, his manager, about 4 times this year, 3 times on the fly, one time for about 45 minutes max (the mid-year review). That’s pretty much it. They did not make any report of this, to memorize what has been said, except for the formal mid-year review. Paul performed all of his work in joint-effort with many, many others on many, many moments in time.

Now look at what Sandra does. She’s requested by HR to prepare Paul’s annual review. She wants to ask 4 people, and uses a survey of 40 questions. The tool Sandra uses is anonymous. Building trust and creating actionable learning results aren’t Sandra nor HR’s objectives now. Atwater, Waldman & Brett wrote in their 2002 article about the negative effects of anonymous feedback, while Covey wrote about the need for trust to create learning effects.

Let’s analyze the data points collected this way:

• 4 people asked, 4 givers of feedback: 100% response rate
• 160 data points: that’s disappointing, given the true dynamics of Paul’s work
• lack of accuracy: lack of context and reliable answers
• no learning opportunity for Paul
• anonymous: creating negativity and lack of accountability

Social, continuous 360º

Now, look at what happens when Paul and Sandra deploy Katch for continuous, social 360º feedback. Feedback is asked continuously, limited to 3 questions per request, keeping reliability high and workload low (30 – 60 seconds). Feedback is given via a Private note to speed-up learning and create actionable results. In addition, feedback is given via a score, generating a continuous flow of data points. Big vetted data, yet small steps! Small steps, time and place independent via mobile or desktop, that jointly can increase learning by 30%.

• 50 unique people asked: 50 unique perspectives
• 200 times feedback asked, 3 questions per time, generating 600 data points
• reliability, trust and learning on highest possible level
• 30% faster learning

And Sandra? Sandra adopted Katch for different reasons. Sandra escapes now the one-off batch of traditional 360º feedback lists of 40 questions, for all her 15 team members. This cost her and her team in the past 5 full days, without reliable results nor adding happiness and trust to the team. One item less on the list of things-you-hate-most-at-work. Sandra got a highly-productive team in return!

What’s next, You?

Organizations that want to engage their managers and employees in feedback & performance review processes should embrace a continuous 360º feedback system, featured by:

• More data points: 600 versus 160
• Better data points: reliable and accurate with more unique points of view
• Less red-tape & transparent process
• High empowerment, trust and safety
• Improved and faster learning: actionable results
• A no-surprise end-of year meeting

Create a continuous 360º process and engage people just like Sandra, Paul and myself (don’t just say to employees to use the ‘traditional tool more often’). Start now, to avoid the trap of delay. Kaplan says: “I would encourage you to overcome some initial discomfort in order to take greater ownership of getting feedback.”

Start this process in which the manager takes a role as coach, to accommodate and accelerate team members. A process in which the employee is empowered with the means and trust to capture this feedback continuously within a clear context. A process that allows manager and employee to share and discuss the outcome in a structured way to make more impact, together!

Maurik Dippel (Europe), founder of Katch
David Lock (Singapore), partner of Katch, founder Arrows with Soul
Otbert de Jong (Singapore), investor in Katch, founder of MetisGRC, ex PwC, ex ABN Amro
Dr Tim Baker (Australia), partner of Katch, founder of Winners at Work


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