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Next-gen appraisals: What will performance management look like in 100 years?



There have been many articles and opinion pieces recently on the subject of how traditional performance management reviews are felt to have become increasingly outdated and unhelpful. These have been prompted by a growing number of large and noteworthy companies – GE, Google, Netflix, for example – that have publically announced that they will be tackling the topic in a very different way in future.


What such companies have suggested pursuing is a move away from the traditional once-per-year chat with each employee, at which a range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are looked at and analysed, and from which a decision is ordinarily made on reward and recognition.


Instead, some companies are now less focused on straightforward ranking and measurement of individual employees, and instead are looking principally at the performance of employees who are far above or far below the average. Others are looking at disengaging the link between evaluations and performance rewards, while still more companies are using increasing data collection capacity to produce regular, even on-demand, performance reports that don’t need to wait until the end of a financial year to be analysed and discussed.


One reason that has been suggested for this move away from traditional performance management is that employees no longer undertake easily distinguished tasks that can be readily measured through (relatively) simple defined tasks. Arguably, some performance management systems are still very much based on a very old understanding of work where a majority of employees produced a measurable quantity of goods or services – for example, a quantity of manufactured goods, billable hours, or customers dealt with.


When you think of some of the forward-thinking companies above, something they have in common is that their highly technological focus would likely make such a rigid assessment nearly impossible. This is why companies like GE, which have been famously focused on rankings and reviews in the past, are now looking at alternatives.


Obviously nobody can predict with any real confidence what performance management will look like in 20 years, even less 100 years hence. But it is certainly more likely to include a greater focus on fluid goals and objectives, underlined by more frequent management interactions and feedback, and hopefully reinforced with increased coaching efforts that look to build on potential for future performance, rather than critique prior achievements. The pace of change when it comes to individual jobs and responsibilities only seems to be increasing, and performance management will need to keep pace if it is to stay really useful and relevant.
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