Out with the Old Performance Review, In with the New

It’s February and virtually no one is thinking about the dreaded performance review–except an increasing number of organizations, including The Herald Group, that have decided to dump the traditional performance review.

Don’t get too excited. We still have a review process… But a better one.

As a relatively young firm, we have tried a variety of methods to evaluate performance. In our early years, it was a very informal conversation with one (or all three) of the partners. As we’ve grown, we recognized the need for a more formal process. Several years ago, we developed a very robust and comprehensive performance review form and system – and everyone dreaded it. It was cumbersome, time consuming, and seemed to only reflect the recent performance of the individual not the entire year. Most problematic of all, in hindsight, is that we set goals for our team members with absolutely no mechanism to support them, or even follow up with them, in achieving those goals.

We decided that to truly embrace a culture of developing our team members, a once-a-year report card system was not the way to do it.

Like Deloitte, Accenture, Medtronic and many other organizations over the past few years, we threw out the old form (which was admittedly a bit painful for me since I spent a lot of time creating it!) and we tried something new. And it’s working.

Now, each THGer has 1-3 big goals for the year and has a dedicated person within the firm with whom they will meet monthly to discuss those goals and any other issues related to developing in their career at THG. At the end of the year, there should be no surprises, no anxiety and hopefully a constructive discussion on what’s next instead of what’s wrong.

So far, so good! We continue to learn as we go and tweak the process based on feedback we receive, but this system seems to be working for our team. From a management perspective, I’m most proud – though not surprised – that virtually every employee has immediately acted upon feedback they’ve been given in a demonstrable and maintained way. I think that speaks volumes about our employees, but also about how a review process must be grounded in growing people vs. grading them.