Manage Performance Now — Not Later

The notion of the traditional performance review has always baffled me.

Being that I am 25 years old and largely still considered a “kid” in today’s workforce, I’ve always felt as if job performance should always be critiqued and cultured on a constant basis.

Not in the way most HR departments operate — where performance reviews occur every six months to a year, and an employee’s bottled-up wrongs are finally exposed and discussed openly.

While I understand the need to have a formalized system that documents and tracks employee performance, the framework of most current systems appears to be broken.

An analogy I came across recently (as I was writing an article linking the lessons that managers can learn from their dogs) hit the point on the head.

If your dog pees on the carpet in your house, you tell him right then and there that he/she was wrong — and your dog is not likely to do it again. You don’t run to some file and scribe that on Nov. 1, Buster peed on the carpet, and six months later bring it up to your dog.

For the rest of that six-month period, your dog is likely to continue to pee on the floor, until you finally reveal to it in due time that he/she has been making a mistake. What is productive about that?

Unfortunately, the same could be said of today’s performance management processes. It’s an antiquated idea that seemingly has been in practice for years, but as this month’s Talent Management special section on performance management makes clear, a change is past due.

A few months back I interviewed Maksim Ovsyannikov, vice president of product development at Rypple, a social performance platform. The company has streamlined and encouraged through technology what it refers to as “micro-feedback.” Rypple is an HR technology that creates a digital system for employees to communicate, set goals and monitor performance, whether it is on a specific project or an employee’s overall job performance.

The ability to give real-time, actionable feedback engages the employee and provides managers with a useful tool to improve performance on the fly.

Rypple set out to design this sort of HR technology because — as Ovsyannikov scribed in a recent article featured in a TM special section on HR technology — in its view, the formalized performance review period is a dead process, and providing feedback on a loop is a more up to speed with today’s growing business demands.

“Feedback loops are based on the premise that constant feedback results in constant improvement,” Ovsyannikov wrote in the article, “and constant improvement is what a high-performance work culture is all about.”

“ … For the first time, talent leaders can actively use performance reviews [using the feedback on a loop method] to improve performance.”

How about that: A technology that encourages continuous feedback in a work environment. While the use of a social platform such as Rypple is innovative and cutting edge, shouldn’t managers be savvy enough to grasp that open feedback and constant communication with employees is the most productive and sound method to manage employee performance?

But Rypple’s technology not only paves the way for the notion of the continuous performance review, it uses elements of social media and interconnectivity that provides for a more engaging and developmental experience all the same.

The major step, Ovsyannikov wrote in his article, is cultivating a performance management culture. “If talent managers build their organization’s performance management culture around the concept of constant micro feedback, it likely will become viral because feedback loops are inherently social.”

Luckily, being that am still in the first 90 days of my editorial role here at Talent Management, I have yet to experience a first formal performance review. But I am starting to get the idea I won’t have to, because each and every day I work in a culture where, if I do something wrong or my job performance is poor, I am told right away. Feedback and ways to improve my own performance are continual.

My co-workers, many of whom have been here for years, abide by the same performance management guidelines. Maybe it’s because our publishing company is small and we don’t employ a large HR staff to compile and conduct comprehensive performance reviews. Or maybe the notion of constant feedback is just part of the culture here.

But then again, you never know: Maybe we’ve all peed on the carpet at one point or another, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re sat down and formally reminded of it.