Eliminate Your Performance Reviews Step by Step (1/3)

September 17, 2013 - 7 minute read - Posted by

More companies are trying to break away from the annual performance appraisals to adopt a more social performance management process. Many professionals have voiced their opinions that traditional performance reviews are ineffective and employees loathe them. Companies such as 7Geese are encouraging managers to go for continuous and real-time feedback supported with regular 1-on-1 coaching sessions. However, it is easier said than done. HR managers wanting to change their traditional performance management system encounter obstacles such as:

  • How to convince the executive team and Board of Directors that the company should adopt a social performance management system?

  • How to help managers break away from their old habits of conducting only 1-2 performance reviews with each employee every year?

  • How to get employees to adopt another tool when your company is already using other softwares for various purposes?

It is a very substantial change to go from traditional performance appraisals to a social performance management system. Most managers are trained to perform annual performance appraisals and there are not many training programs explaining how to make the transition. Change management can be an overwhelming experience if the managers do not developed a process to guide all members of the organization through the new changes. There are various ways to develop a change management plan. I personally like Kurt Lewin’s theory of change. He proposes three stages: Unfreezing, Change, and Freezing. My next blog posts will talk about how to use Lewin’s theory of change to help you move away from traditional performance management.

Stage 1: Unfreezing

This stage is about getting your organization ready to change. It involves getting the point across that change is necessary. Understand what needs to be changed and the reasons behind – you need to weigh in the pros and cons of why you want the organization to adopt the change. Think about the perspective of each stakeholder. For example, what are the benefits for your employees, your managers, your executive team? How will a social performance management system help you out as a member of the organization? Telling your employees that it is time to move towards a more social performance management process is not enough to initiate any changes on an individual level. Employees want to know what is in it for them.

On an individual level, Lewin found that there are two forces that affect a person’s motivation to change – driving forces and restraining forces. The driving forces are the positive forces for change. For example, a positive can be an employee wanting to be recognized more for his/her contributions. The restraining forces are the obstacles to change such as having to learn how to use a new system. Lewin proposes that for people to want to get out of their comfort zone and embrace change, the driving forces need to be stronger than the restraining forces. Managers can do it in two ways:

1. Strengthening the driving forces

2. Reducing the resisting forces.

Therefore at this stage, it is crucial for you to understand what are the forces affecting your employees. Let’s say one of the restraining forces is employees not wanting to learn how to use a new system. Find a system that is easy to adapt to and very intuitive. Ask the vendor if they provide demos and step-by-step training manuals that employees can refer to at any time. Same goes for driving forces. If one of the forces is to be more connected to the coworkers, find a social platform where every member can be engaged, where they can share their goals. Remember that it is usually easier to reduce resistance forces than to strengthen driving forces.

Another factor that affects change is time. The more change is necessary, the more urgent it becomes. Create a schedule with milestones to achieve. Set deadlines. The more urgent change is necessary, the more motivated employees will be to make the change. Always leave extra time for unexpected events such as technical issues with the computers and software. Often, managers will start with a plan and then decide to play it by ears. Unfortunately, the lack of structure time-wise reduces the accountability of each member of the company. For example, if you want all members to sign up for the new system to find out any concerns and issues, set a schedule as follows:

Day 1: Send the link with instructions on how to sign up.

Day 3: Every employee that has trouble logging in should provide their information to the administrator.

Day 5: Every employee should have an active account ready to be used.

In the Unfreezing stage, you are finding what are the factors that will enable change easier for the employees and creating a sense of urgency that change is needed for the organization to be successful. You will certainly still have people who are not accepting the changes to come. Do not be discouraged. The next stage will help you communicate clearly to your organization on how to make the change. Remember, change your performance reviews one step at a time.

Next stop: Lewin’s Change stage

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