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Just Checking In: 3 Benefits Adobe Got from Eliminating Performance Reviews

performance-evaluationTAKEAWAY TUESDAY Take it away! This is the ninth in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association. It’s hard to find anyone who looks forward to annual performance reviews. Employees usually don’t, and neither do their managers. Yet, in most organizations, they remain firmly in place. In a recent post to LinkedIn, Bob Sutton, a professor at Stanford University and co-author of Scaling Up Excellence: Getting More without Settling for Less, noted, “Management experts have questioned the value of such reviews for decades.” To illustrate that there could be a better way to evaluate employee performance, Sutton shares one of his and co-author Huggy Roa’s favorite examples from their book (an excerpt) about how Adobe “killed one of the most sacred of corporate cows” two years ago by getting rid of traditional performance reviews. The company moved away from this yearly exercise and instead instituted frequent “check-ins” during which managers provide employees targeted coaching and advice. There is no corporate or standardized format or frequency for these check-ins. Managers are simply expected to check in regularly to make sure employees understand what’s expected of them. According to Sutton and Roa, the goal is “to give people information when they need it rather than months after teachable moments have passed.” What about money? Adobe managers make adjustments to employee compensation annually. Further, they now have far more discretion over such decisions than they did before. They have almost complete authority to allocate their budgets amongst their staff members as they see fit. It’s important to note that managers did receive additional training on giving and receiving feedback as part of the new program’s rollout. And so far it seems to be going well. Here of three of the benefits that can be drawn from Sutton and Roa’s summary of the changes made at Adobe.
  1. More time: It was calculated that Adobe’s 2,000 managers had spent approximately 80,000 hours each year preparing annual reviews.
  2. Better communication: According to a recent employee survey, 78 percent of employees indicate that their managers are open to getting feedback from them, which is a sizable improvement from previous surveys.
  3. Less attrition: Voluntary attrition at Adobe has dropped 30 percent since the check-ins were introduced.
Despite these benefits, Sutton acknowledges that “in the end, check-ins may prove worse than traditional reviews.” Still, he says the HR staff at Adobe should be applauded for “summoning the courage to kill this maligned—yet somehow still sacred—practice.” You may be thinking that for your association, getting rid of performance reviews is totally out of the question. Arguably, this would be a drastic step for most organizations. Even so, it’s important to continually evaluate your processes and resist the tendency to keep doing what you’re doing simply because you’ve always done it. Original Article
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