Embracing the Overhaul of the Annual Performance Review

Since companies like Adobe, Netflix, Deloitte and Accenture announced in 2015 that they were overhauling their annual performance process, a slew of other companies have come along and declared that they, too, were doing away with this exercise. “Today’s employees want frequent feedback, open communication, and collaboration with their peers,” according to a recent Fast Company article on Why the Annual Performance Review is Going Extinct. As a professional services firm that has embraced a client-centric approach to building teams (not too dissimilar from consulting firms), we too realized it was time to rethink performance management.

So how do we move forward? To understand where we wanted to go, we needed to understand where we’ve been. In more recent years we have defined our annual strategic plan in December, and, in the spirit of our value of “Act with Respect and Transparency,” cascaded that to the organization in January, empowering individuals to do personal and professional goal setting for the year. We have conducted quarterly check-ins between supervisors and staff focused on evaluating progress towards annual goals, and also done an annual review in November focused on alignment with values and skills for the role. 

We were ahead of the curve in the frequency of feedback as compared to a number of other organizations, but we knew there had to be a better way. A way to give people a more well-rounded view of their performance in a way that motivated individuals to produce quality work and generated engagement without all the paperwork hassle. If you have investments in the stock market, would you only monitor and evaluate it annually or even quarterly? As an organization that, in truth, adds value to clients through our ability to translate complex business challenges into integrated marketing communications strategies, our people are our No. 1 investment. So, it makes sense that we would want to consistently keep a finger on the pulse of how our people are performing.    

Additionally, with the clear goal of being an agency that is a “home for top talent,” we wanted to identify an approach that would help us continue to create a culture of continuous learning and development and where our staff get the coaching and feedback they need to grow personally and professionally.  We have a strong emphasis on professional development within our firm and try to align our approach with the 70:20:10 model, which came out of the Center for Creative Leadership in the 1980s. This theory holds that individuals obtain 70 percent of their knowledge from job-related experiences, 20 percent from coaching/feedback, and 10 percent from formal education events (trainings, books, etc.). There seemed to be a real window of opportunity for us to make more of an investment in our leaders, so that they could be empowered to provide that 20 percent. According to The Fast Company article, “if organizations want to develop high performers, managers must be equipped to coach and empower them.” As a result, we made an investment in leadership training for all account leads and supervisors, focused on honing coaching skills and emotional intelligence.

We wanted people across the organization to recognize and reward individuals who were modeling our values of “Be Better” and “Be More Than More of the Same,” while also providing them with the tools to do so. So, we launched a piece of software called Reflektive, whose tagline is “goodbye clunky performance reviews. Hello real-time talent development.” The system reinforces our values, and empowers people across the organization to recognize the awesome work being done across the firm…in real-time.

“The future of the workplace depends on how successful companies become at building out new systems that incorporate frequent feedback, open communication, and coaching,” the Fast Company article says. It’s our sincere hope that as we make these investments, we can be a model for other integrated marketing and communications firms who also seek to embrace this new paradigm. Onward and upward.

See how our focus on culture and professional development resulted in being named 2016 Best Small Agency to Work For

May 6, 2016
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