Dear Corporate Governess
How do I get my company to drop yearly performance reviews? Managers and staff hate them — they're a waste of time and resources. What are other companies doing?
—Steve B., Toronto
Some companies are experimenting with calibration—having managers review one another's employee ratings in order to eliminate bias — while others have gone the opposite way with more personal and frequent feedback on how employees can improve. Firms such as Microsoft and GE recently moved away from systems such as stacked ranking — where employees are rated along a bell curve — to a new emphasis on teamwork, collaboration, communication and rewards. However, Dick Grote, a Dallas performance management consultant, estimates that at least 30% of Fortune 500 companies still cling to elements of curve-based ranking, reviled by employees and managers alike, no matter what type of friendly moniker HR tries to give it.
Despite the challenges, not everyone agrees that reviews stink. David Zweig, associate professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, says they are effective if done well. "It comes down to a basic understanding of what motivates people that unfortunately a lot of people in HR don't quite have," says Zweig. "So if teamwork is critical to performance, you'd never want stacked ranking. To reward the right behaviours, you'd make people accountable for the team's outcomes. You also need to ensure that when you're ranking people, say on a one-to-five scale, you have very clear behavioural anchors, so you know what a five, which is exceptional performance, actually looks like. When you do that, it minimizes the biases that come in."
Good luck on your pitch, but before making it, think about what would motivate them—in exactly the same way they need to better understand what motivates you.
Dear Corporate Governess
My kids' daycare is closing over spring break, and I don't want to leave them with strangers. How do I ask my manager if I can bring them to work?
—Heather R., Ottawa
Sorry, but it's unfair to expect your employer (and co-workers) to suddenly become Daycare 'R' Us. It would be great to have onsite child care, but it needs to be properly thought out. So if your organization has the space, why not make a case for how daycare adds to employee satisfaction and productivity? As for spring break, you've had plenty of notice to arrange for a professional caregiver. Test out a few by hiring them to spend time with your darlings while you're at home. Most allow you to request and book a particular caregiver—now no longer a stranger—for the time needed.