The Week That Was

November brings us Thanksgiving and the start of what I like to call Christmas music season. Thankfully, it’s always the season to freshen up on these top five stories from for the week of Nov. 11.

1. Why Employees Fail to Change: Talent managers can increase the effectiveness of annual assessments by providing employees with the skills to put performance feedback into action. Kerry Patterson, co-founder of VitalSmarts, a corporate training and leadership development company, has the answer.

2. The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing With a Slacking Co-Worker: Most workers are familiar with working with a colleague who may not always hold up his or her end. Dealing with that person is a delicate and strategic issue. Kerry Patterson also has more on this story.

3. Build Leadership Table Manners: How HR leaders conduct themselves in big-table settings goes a long way in building the function’s credibility, writes Talent Management columnist Kevin D. Wilde.

4. Job Flexibility Makes Employees More Loyal: Employees are more likely to express loyalty to their companies if offered flexible work options, a new survey shows.

5. Social Networks: Friend or Foe?: Recruiting through social networking can be effective, particularly at reaching highly skilled professionals. But navigating these platforms requires caution as well as digital savvy. Katie Kuehner-Hebert, a California-based journalist, has more.

In Other News …

Big news out of Microsoft this week. The tech company is dropping major elements of its controversial “stack ranking,” which required managers to grade employees against one another and rank them on a scale of one to five. Instead, the company will favor more frequent and qualitative employee evaluations, reported The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

The move comes as Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer gets set to leave the company. He said in August he plans to retire within a year.

The style of stack rankings in performance reviews became popular in the 1980s, when then General Electric CEO Jack Welch implemented the system.

At Microsoft, every employee was assigned a ranking on a scale of one to five, with one going to the top performers. Employees were ranked against others with the same job title across the company, according to the Journal article.

Rankings were also based in part on a review by the employee’s immediate boss, as well as a self-evaluation and a meeting where managers debated scores. Employees with the best scores had the highest chance of being promoted and receiving raises; the lowest scorers found it more difficult to move up the ladder.

The Journal reports that the review system often resulted in power struggles among managers and unhealthy competition among colleagues. GE has since moved away from the numerical system under current CEO Jeff Immelt. Read the entire article here.