Employers slowly moving toward interactive evaluation technology

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The need for real-time data has infiltrated much of the workplace, from wellness programs to self-insured plans, yet real-time feedback hasn’t made an impact where it’s needed most: performance management programs.

In fact, performance management software has seen little change since its widespread implementation in the early aughts and is becoming outdated as technology offerings improve.

Although employers recognize that their performance management programs are falling short, the vast majority are only making incremental changes, says Asumi Ishibashi, senior consultant of talent management at Willis Towers Watson.

“First and foremost, there’s a lot of news around companies making fairly dramatic changes,” she says. “Only 10% of U.S. employers have eliminated performance ratings.”

The rest of employers, however, are looking internally to correct a system that provides little value and high employee dissatisfaction.

See also: Audit and tax firm ditches annual performance reviews, ratings

A significant number of U.S. employees say their company’s performance management programs are not very useful and give employers mediocre ratings on several aspects of their programs, according to research by global financial services firm Willis Towers Watson.

Fewer than half (45%) of 31,000 employees worldwide — including 3,105 from the United States — say that performance reviews have helped improve their performance, while 46% of employees think their performance was not accurately evaluated in their most recent review, according to the “2016 Global Workforce Study.”

Asumi says that immediate feedback, coming not just from managers but also from peers, is a trend her firm is seeing to alleviate those concerns.

A major firm builds its own app

PwC, the second-largest professional services firm in the world, is one major company that tried to offer immediate feedback to its 200,000-person workforce.

The Big Four firm overhauled its documentation-heavy performance management program in 2013 in favor of an app.

The traditional performance evaluation system relied on managers filling out forms likened to essay writing, says Kim Washington Barr, human capital director and leader of PwC’s leadership development experience.

Although managers were able to track employee progress, the volume was significant, and evaluations were given intermittently and at the year’s end. The program was in place for seven to 10 years before executives at PwC took a step back, Washington Barr says.

“No one liked the process,” she says. “It didn’t connect to how we work.”

See also: Are performance reviews dead?

Rather than employees trying to determine the key messages from their feedback, some of which came as a surprise or arrived weeks after working on a project, PwC wanted a performance metric that added value to the company and its employees in a timely manner.

The firm took about 18 months to speak with employees, design a user-friendly app and conduct pilots, all of which was done internally, before rolling it out to the company.

The PWC Professional Snapshot tool is web and mobile enabled, and it allows employees to conduct a 5-minute assessment of a coworker, manager or subordinate.

Quick evals

The HRIS manager says the trend to move toward day-to-day performance feedback offers instant benefits and focuses on skills development rather than strictly ranking or criticizing a coworker.

PwC’s app uses the same school of thought, and Washington Barr says the app was built to be used after giving verbal feedback to personalize the performance management process and increase transparency; the company wants employees to think about performance reviews as a chance for constructive criticism rather than the prospect of job termination.

See also: Getting rid of performance ratings can lead to lack of transparency

The app looks at five core elements to determine development and behavior feedback in real time, Washington Barr says. It also offers a transparency section, where new hires and employees vying for a promotion can see their job responsibilities and the expectations of more senior positions within the company.

“We want line of sight of each staff level,” Washington Barr says. “We want you to be assessed against those dimensions.”

Easy access to this information is important for employees, especially when it comes to making sense of their end-of-year evaluations.

Only 37% of more than 2,000 global employers indicated their performance management process is effective at clarifying what responsibilities employees would be held accountable for in specific roles, according to a recent Willis Towers Watson survey.

The app also allows users to evaluate their coworkers in whole leadership, business acumen, relationships and technical capabilities. Depending on the ranking, the user can write a performance differentiator in the space three to four tweets would take up, Washington Barr says.

Meanwhile, supervisors can look at their employees’ dashboards to gauge progress. That information becomes more valuable during PwC’s career roundtable, an end-of-the-year discussion around benefits, pay and promotions.

“Every person meets with their leader and they have a career outlook discussion. They know where they stand. They know their impact,” she says. “This is just dialogue that’s been a continuation of the conversation we’ve been having all year long.”

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