Performance Management: Going Beyond The Appraisal (Erik Smetana) The Forum applies the 70:20:10 Lens


The appraisal process has long been associated with the idea of an annual review; the time of year when managers sit down with employees and reflect on how well each has met the goals established in the previous year. In the recent past good managers were considered to be good communicators, and thus they worked within the framework of an archaic system by having regular check points with their employees so that the results of an end of year meeting was not a surprise, or a shock, to the employee.

This approach, done by smart managers within a flawed system, has been widely known and accepted. The problem of course is a system that establishes goals 365 days in the past and then often asks the employees to produce a list of accomplishments and evaluate their own work. The manager then takes this into consideration, creates their own review and commentary, with additional scoring that rolls up to a total that reveals where the employee falls on a scale that will dictate their raise potential, or even their potential to remain employed. The traditional evaluation process has become a new layer of work that rarely impacts the bottom line of the organisation in a positive way. This system was ideal when work was routine and markets were predictable, but times have changed.

Today routine work is being increasingly automated, and even the complicated work is being "outsourced" to agencies and agents outside the organisation. The real work to be done in organisations is often immeasurable in the current appraisal systems. Today the work is in the handling of exceptions; problem solving, relationship building, and more creative endeavors. SMART goals have no place in this environment, and smart employees shouldn't be held to a measurable statement that makes no sense even 3 weeks after it is written. 

In the article Performance Management: Going Beyond The Appraisal, Erik Smetana made the point that "the acts of assessing, measuring, and managing performance should lead to a larger conversation about talent; where an organisation is strong, where it has opportunities, and where it has the ability to create and mold talent on the cusp." These conversations are about a larger strategy. They are about identifying the positive attributes of an organisation's talent growth, where skills can be enhanced, and finally recognising if the organisation has the ability to help people develop and meet the current and future needs of the business. Once these are made obvious the next step is in how to address it.

70:20:10, a strategic organisation-wide framework, is the organisational talent development strategy for today’s agile organisations. This framework addresses the challenges of both measuring and managing performance in dynamic work environments, where needs and markets are continually shifting.  A 70:20:10 Framework focuses not just on learning, but ultimately on individual performance, making both assessment and growth more obvious and placing the ownership of learning and performance in the hands of employees themselves.

The vast majority of learning, and ultimately development, happens in the act of performing; this informal learning is very much an untapped resource for talent growth in an organisation. Organisations that subscribe to a 70:20:10 Framework capitalise on this by encouraging an environment that is failure tolerant, and one that promotes reflective practices at all levels.

Employees learning openly, in and through their experiences, allow managers to measure an employees' growth in real-time versus the traditional action of a year-end review. Informal learning is also ‘pull’ learning where, for example, through the act of independent search, resources are found and leveraged to solve immediate problems and improve performance. The ability to learn in our work, or locate and leverage resources are competencies rarely, if ever, found in traditional performance evaluation tools. It’s here that “social” becomes a key driver of a 70:20:10 Framework strategy.

Social is at the center of 70:20:10, not only because it recognises that a great percentage of learning happens in peer-to-peer interactions and coaching and mentoring opportunities with managers, but because it is the critical artery fueling informal and formal learning.  First, social interaction can inform the informal learning practices in the organisation by helping people locate the most valuable tools and resources for accomplishing their work.

Social activity also works to improve formal learning by providing natural channels to deliver feedback through reflection and criticism that can make courses and classes more responsive to the changing realities of work. Social tools make the invisible visible and when their use is adopted for feedback activities, sharing observations and working out loud, leadership can quickly respond to the needs and requests of employees on an ongoing basis, versus the traditional year-end review cycle. When social tool use advances to adaptation, where work is happening within social tools, an organisation is on the cusp of becoming an enterprise-wide community of practice.

In 70:20:10 Frame-worked organisations, learning and performance management essentially merge. This management merger is more than just convenient, it's essential for agile organisations. 70:20:10 places the ownership of both in the hands of the employee for the benefit of themselves, their leaders and the organisation as a whole. 

READ: Performance Management: Going Beyond The Appraisal