I finally had a chance to read an article a colleague sent me from the Harvard Business Review called Reinventing Performance Management by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. I’m not a fan of the viewpoint the article takes, despite the optimism of the authors. Despite Deloitte’s record on diversity, here’s why:
1) With regard to who conducts evaluations and when, Deloitte seems to be putting the responsibility on the employee to get the evaluation done because, they authors argue, employees innately want to improve themselves. They say leaders should be constantly evaluating their employees so they don’t need to have regularly yearly or semi yearly scheduled evaluations. Ultimately, a process like this is self-serving for Deloitte. It saves the leaders time to not have to conduct the evaluations. Plus, it puts in place a system that rewards high achievers or those who already know the system while leaving those employees who might be insecure or shy about initiating an employee evaluation for themselves potentially in the dark about their performance. This reinforces that those already in the know will continue to get access to Deloitte’s leadership. It also creates a system in which those who aren’t, won’t be likely to.
2) With regard to what questions get asked on the performance evaluations, Deloitte is saying they want their leaders to own their judgments of employees so the evaluations are not about what the employee is doing but about what the manager is doing. This new version of their evaluation confounds two different aspects of the assessment process: criteria and judgment. Instead of articulating criteria on which judgments should be based and then, as a separate step, making judgments about employees, Deloitte’s leadership team would need only make the judgments. These are the four questions Deloitte has reduced their performance evaluations to using a typical [strongly agree to strongly disagree] scale:
-Given what I know of this peron’s performance. and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus.
-Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team.
-This person is at risk for low performance.
-This person is ready for promotion today.
Confounding ‘criteria’ and ‘judgment’ pulls the wool over the employee’s eyes by disregarding that the leaders are making the judgments anyway regardless of what the evaluation form looks like. In a traditional evaluation system, the criteria for those judgments is separate from the judgment and the criteria are clearly articulated. The Deloitte system would remove this transparency so that judgments are being made but the employee is not privy to the criteria on which those judgments are based. This makes it harder for some employees to improve their work, especially those who are less self-aware. In other words, the employee familiar with how to walk the walk and talk the talk of the corporate environment will be rewarded and those who don’t will be left behind. all the while, by phrasing this as a new employee management system, the company gains the loophole of never having to justify their decision making related to raises, promotions, etc.
3) Ultimately, this Deloitte performance evaluation is bad for diversity and for employees. Yes, it would save time for the leaders. Yes, this type or constant evaluation the leaders are supposed to be doing on a regular basis with employees anyway. However, for a company that wants to see sincere improvement in their employees and is dedicated to diversity, it will not allow for that. It would not allow for employees with diverse backgrounds- other than a traditional corporate training model- to thrive in that environment. Plus, employees who lack self-awareness on some issues, and are great in other areas, will not keep their jobs very long because they could be continued to be denied opportunities for raises, promotions, and so forth and never really understand or be told why in a concrete and unavoidably clear way. Additionally employees who are happy at a company but lack certain criteria to go higher within the company can also feel dissatisfied without even knowing for themselves why and, thus, attribute it to being a poor fit and move on to work at a different company they think is a better fit. The Deloitte performance management process guarantees they will get employees who look like them, talk like them, and are the kinds of people they want to hang out with. For a company who has potential employees clamoring to be let in, it’s a self-serving biased model because it is essentially an inbreeding model that allows them to weed through the masses while doing less work to get the employees they want most anyway.
But for companies who are not as competitive or who actually sincerely value diversity and the many benefits diversity offers businesses, the model doesn’t work.
1) Employees who do not come to a company perfect, and most don’t, need training and supervision. Part of training requires a regular, consistent, collaborative, and transparent evaluation process.
2) Companies who value diversity want the right person for the job even if they are not someone we want to hang out with, even if they don’t dress exactly like us, even if they talk the same way we do.
Most companies nurture employees. An environment in which criteria for judgments are explicit will facilitate this nurturing environment in a way that will ensure anyone qualified could thrive in it.