Humanity, Culture and Performance Reviews

Performance reviews spark fear in the hearts of managers and employees everywhere. You know you are going to have to sit down with your manager, justify your performance, possibly get a reality check and hear some tough feedback. All accross a boardroom table, fully documented and ready to submit to HR. Then if you don’t improve we are going to use that document to support the performance management process, right through to termination. No pressure people – Performance Reviews are supposed to be fun.

I believe that people working together in communities who share common goals are naturally cooperative and collaborative.

We want to to help each other to support enduring success. Naturally collaborative and cooperative people are always receiving feedback and training, the group calls out bad behaviour and the team develops. Think about a team that you know that works really well together, could be a sports team or a family setting. Do they need a performance review to keep them on track. No, no they don’t.

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Perhaps the reason we dislike performance reviews as we know them is because they actually grind against the core of how we want to operate.

We want to be open and honest, receive feedback in the moment and not feel we need to defend ourselves on paper. We just want to do our jobs, receive feedback and contribute. Performance reviews often symbolise a one time a year feedback session fraught with frustration and headaches for everyone involved. Despite the various attempts to rename it as a performance discussion or one-to-one they are what they are. The manager providing feedback disguised under the veil of a two-way-dialogue.

Performance reviews are personal. Sadly there are lots of managers who don’t connect with their team. If your team doesn’t respect you they certainly don’t care for your feedback. They are most likely job hunting as we speak. We have all been there, working for a manager we don’t trust and couldn’t really give a toss about. Yet they are entrusted to give performance enhancing feedback. Seriously. Just. No.

I don’t have the answers about how to improve this dismal situation and neither do the 1000000000 other HR articles on the internet so it seems.

I do think however that the secret to the Performance Review is closely tied to how and who we recruit and the culture we develop. For some reason, I think if you can truly nail recruitment and you have the right people in the right roles at the right time, trained to do the job they are in.. and they enjoy their work – Performance Reviews will just happen and they will be a natural part of coaching and mentorship.

Right now the situation for many is a performance review system to satisfy performance management needs. Not a process born from a great culture.

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OD is just HR grown up

Organisational Development (OD)  is what I consider the younger, cooler, more out spoken and rebellious version of HR. OD is inhabited with HR specialists who said HELL NO to boring HR practices and wanted to take on a much broader view of the business. OD specialists are problem solvers and always ask the question “should it be like this?”  and “why are you doing it that way?”.

The evolution of your HR role into an OD role comes from not blindly accepting the status quo. Any HR professional can lift their game and work in the OD space! In my opinion, you are an OD specialist if your role requires you to work accross multiple business units to make work more efficient and improve the employee experience. OD is about developing an organisation to be bigger and better than it was before. Any time you do this it will invariably require some kind of HR Development experience (whether it be knowledge of legislation, adult learning, change management etc).

If you look at OD through my definition then really I do not see that OD deserves to be a separate discipline. I think it’s just HR evolved and eventually OD and HR will be one in the same.

The days of businesses paying for HR specialists to tick boxes are on the way out. We can outsource that stuff – we are now about solving problems. If you are not solving or working on solving a problem everyday, I would start to question the value you add.

I recently read an article in the Industrial and Commercial Training Journal called – Waking ourselves up! Re-examining the role of OD practitioners – a challenger perspective. I would recommend reading it if you’ve got the time. It is written from the point of view of an OD Consultant and provides a bit of a framework for getting people to be effective OD Specialists.

It talks about the Challenger Spirit – which is about standing up against the status quo and finding out who is blocking the path to change, echoing some of my initial thoughts. Some of the qualities of the challenger include:

  • taking a broad business view;
  • understanding commercial realities;
  • being prepared to experiment and improvise; and
  • causing some kind of purposeful disturbance.

Sounds just like what HR should be doing, right?

Further Reading

lare Southall , (2014),”Waking ourselves up! Re-examining the role of OD practitioners – a challenger perspective”, Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 46 Iss 4 pp. 182 – 187 – http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/ICT-12-2013-0083