The head-spinning advances in technology, endless bottom-line financial pressures, and growing networks of global economies described earlier demand a need for superior performance and sustainable efficiencies. Organizations aspire to motivate their employees to be better, more productive, and more engaged. Leaders seek ways to create a common language behind which organizational goals and activities can align. What can replace the void that is being created by the slow demise of performance management systems? What is the new corporate currency?
In today’s “get-it-done-yesterday” business environments, tenure is shortening and relationships are becoming shallower. It’s no longer enough when an employee exceeds expectations. Herminia Ibarra, the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Professor of Organizational Behavior at Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD), reflected on this topic in a recent Wall Street Journal article. “With competition fierce and the business climate changing rapidly, companies are telling their leaders that it’s no longer enough to deliver results in their individual departments, or over the short-term.”
The frequency and pace of change in your organization, the exponential growth of your professional transparency, your lack of energy to connect with others while employed (visibility), and your lack of energy regarding your performance assessment (value), all create professional risks for you. With increased turbulence in your organization resulting in roles, responsibilities, and relationships changing with great frequency, your ability to benefit from the development of organic relationships (ones that grow naturally over time) or purposeful relationships (ones that you proactively create with a goal in mind) is being seriously eroded.
How do you know if your organization has a performance management system? I think you know, as your body is already starting to shudder. Once a year, your boss is thrust into the dreaded “performance management cycle” and required to complete numerous performance appraisals. As he rushes to complete his appraisals en masse the Sunday night before the appraisals are due, his ratings are influenced by the rankings and bell-curve pre-established by your organization. Upon the completion of an exhausting approval process, he finally schedules a meeting with you. Following the meeting, you rush back to your cubicle, call your significant other and exclaim, “I got a 3.5 on collaboration!”
History will not be kind to the performance appraisal. After decades of lackluster experiences, stale formats, and non-existent correlations between assessment and achievement, most savvy business leaders and modern management experts would tell you that the performance appraisal is a well-intended yet failed exercise in behavior modification.
While networking is the most effective strategy for individuals looking to land a new job and for self-employed business owners to generate revenue, networking is significantly less effective for employed business professionals who are seeking ways to grow within their current organization.
When you perform your job well, you are valuable to your organization. When you are focused primarily on creating individual value, you tend to be in a role that is more tactically-focused. And let’s face it, some roles in organizations need to be tactically focused and this focus is very valuable to the organization. Not every role has a clear line of sight to financial performance, nor should they. At the same time, most organizations have yet to explore how roles, even the most tactical, can create value to the organization by exploring how individuals within these roles can impact financial performance. Not all value that is created has to be worth millions of dollars, or qualify for the cover of Time magazine. Even individuals in a tactical role or a group of individuals comprising a function can create value for the organization.
Other people are similar to you. They are working hard to stay afloat and stay ahead. Their workplace is fast-paced and ever-changing, just like yours.
All of you have grown up in a culture focused on numerical ratings, bell curves, and annual performance assessments. You rush from meeting to meeting and conference call to conference call so blindly that months pass by before you open your eyes to see where all your rushing has taken you. You have little time to think about yourself. You defend “where you are” professionally by deluding yourself that being a good performer is enough. Yet, today’s competitive and fast-paced workplaces are demanding more from business professionals. Your organization does not have the time or money to train you to be a good performer. As a stand-alone differentiator, good performance is no longer enough – it is expected!
Deep within the heart of your organization’s cubicle farm and hidden down hallways of closed office doors, you and dozens of your heads-down colleagues are working hard to stay employed. Our performance appraisal, metric-based culture has created generations of individuals like you who believe that good performance alone ensures job security.
While it is inevitable that the dreaded performance appraisal as the sole measurement of your contributions to your organization will cease to exist in its current format (insert golf clap), some form of performance measurement will continue to exist. One reason is that roles within organizations where value creation falls into a category called “individual value” will need a performance management system to measure how foundational activities impact the organization.