In a recent speech Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of People Operations at Google, made the case that taking power away from managers may be a good thing. In a recent Business Insider article, we learn that Google is increasingly relying on peer feedback for employee performance evaluations and less on the manager. This is because Bock believes coworkers are generally less biased than managers. In his book, Work Rules, Bock writes that peer evaluation is a key part of performance reviews at Google. Googlers and their managers select a group of peer reviewers, including employees who are junior to them. Each reviewer is asked to list one thing the person should do more of and one thing they could do differently.
This is a much more powerful, and data-driven way to provide feedback and to set up a constructive conversation between an employee and his or her manager. Google is one of the first organizations to understand and retool its performance management process in a way that acknowledges that managers are not all-seeing and all-knowing. Further, it is consistent with societal trends that are democratizing environments, including work environments. Finally, the framing of the questions focuses more on the work and less on the person, thereby reducing defensiveness.
A large organization with robust margins like Google has the resources to implement processes like 360 feedback that better inform the performance review process. But what if your organization cannot, or is not ready to, implement 360s? Can you still democratize your performance evaluation process?
There are elements of this philosophy that can be implemented even without 360 feedback. An organization can start by helping managers understand and admit that they are not the sole, or even the best informed, observers of how employees are doing. The manager’s view is limited; peer feedback helps to fill observational voids. Next, it is important for managers to come to the conversation with an interest in understanding what is happening with the employee. Determining performance against key performance indicators (KPIs) that are quantitative can happen quite easily. What is more challenging is the portion of the conversation that focuses on how the employee achieved those goals, particularly where the organization is trying to drive desirable behaviors and values.
So let’s imagine what that conversation might sound like…
“Thank you for a good year. I am pleased that you achieved all of your KPIs. This is important to the organization and to me and is greatly appreciated. Can you tell me which of these accomplishments you are proudest of and why?
“... Now, I would like to focus on an opportunity you may have to still meet your objectives but do it in a slightly different way. I received informal feedback from a couple people, and have seen instances firsthand, where you have not been very collaborative with your colleagues. In fact, in a couple instances you seemed almost confrontational. I realize that I do not observe most of what you do during the day, and therefore would like your perspective. Do you think these may have been isolated incidents?
“...Great, thanks for clarifying what drove this and how you viewed it. With that in mind, what can I do to help you achieve your objectives and do it in a way that leaves others with a more positive impression?”
As you can see, this framing relieves the manager of the responsibility of being the all-seeing and all-knowing person with the only point of view that matters. Instead, the manager establishes that he or she has a limited perspective and would like to round it out.
The conversation requires the suspension of conclusions and judgments. It also requires a curiosity, a desire to understand what contributed to the instances observed and reported. There may be compelling reasons; on the other hand, there may simply be a need to help the employee with self-awareness. Either way, it sets up a more positive conversation that will lead to development opportunities.
If you are unsure how to prepare your organization to have more productive performance conversations, give ASE’s Talent Development Team a call (248-223-8017). We provide consulting and development programs that help managers conduct positive conversations that are based on trust and good intentions.
Source: Business Insider 1/21/16