Could Agile Performance Management replace staff appraisals?

by John Maguire27 Oct 2015
Many organisations have already done aways with traditional modes of assessment, with Agile Performance Management (APM) rising in popularity.

APM is described by talent management software creators Cognology as “the successor to Performance Management.”

“It is designed for the new world of work which is more collaborative, social and faster moving,” the company says. “In a time when communication is instant, the once a year appraisal just doesn’t cut it.”

They contradict Samuel A. Culbert’s recently publicised opinion, claiming that “in an ever-changing and fast paced workplace, no feedback makes no sense”.

APM is designed to plug any existing holes in performance management, taking what doesn’t work well, then “fixing and supercharging” it.

According to Jon Windust, Cognology’s CEO, the three key features of Agile Performance Management are frequent feedback, regular check-ins and coaching conversations.

Windust referred to APM as the “natural evolution of performance management”, assisting in the process of getting people engaged in their organisation’s vision.

“The world of work is changing and has been for a while now,” he said. “We’re in a transition period. The workplace is becoming more collaborative and faster moving, and in some cases more social – it’s definitely more fun. But if you look at performance reviews, they haven’t kept up.”

Windust told HC that a key area that has struggled to keep up with that evolving workplace is the practice of setting goals at the start of year, leaving a lengthy gap between goal setting and evaluation.

“Peoples’ expectations have increased,” Windust added. “That’s not just something we’re seeing in Gen Y – every generation’s expectations have increased. Everyone expects instant information, which is why frequent feedback is important. If you want employees to be engaged, then you need to provide this.”

“The first and most important thing to do is to design a process,” Windust said. “Work out what you want to get out of it. You don’t have to use all of the techniques available – for example, crowdsourcing is powerful, but not the right fit for every organisation.”

Windust also emphasised the importance of training leaders in the new process before putting it into practice.

“The really exciting thing we’re seeing at Cognology is the gradual shift towards this more agile model,” he said. “There are definitely more frequent conversations and development happening. Engagement is the most evident benefit – if you look at our statistics, there is around a 30% higher return. The financial bottom line is ultimately the beneficiary of the more engaged and skilled workforce.”

Agile Performance Management versus Traditional Performance Management

There are several differences between APM and Traditional Performance Management (TPM), with APM having been adapted to suit the modern and ever-changing world of work.

These include:

Hierarchical environment vs. Collaborative environment

While TPM was designed to suit the Baby Boomer’s hierarchical workplace, APM systems are a response to today’s collaborative environments.

Emphasis on appraisal vs. Emphasis on development and forward looking performance

The focus has shifted in APM from sporadically recognising strengths and weaknesses to continuously assessing performance and planning ahead. This is achieved by replacing scheduled appraisals with regular check-ins.

Lack of recognition vs. Social recognition

Recognising employees’ achievements on behalf of the entire workforce increases engagement and motivation. This encourages employees to be their best at all times.

Goals set once at the beginning of the year vs. Changing goals if business priorities shift

Agile Performance Management is a more forward looking approach. It’s not so much concerned with appraising performance as it is building capability and skills going forward.  As a result development goals play an important part of the planning picture.

Little feedback vs. Regular feedback

APM encourages a reduction in the gaps between feedback sessions – adjusting and negative feedback also need to be timely, but given in private.

Training courses for development vs. More use of coaching and just-in-time learning

New approaches which include eLearning, coaching and mentoring are quicker and less costly, as well as being more effective in most cases. This speeds up the process of putting new skills into action.

Limited scope vs. Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a great tool for mining the collective intelligence and experience of others, achieved by asking a group of people questions to elicit feedback.

“Crowdsourcing is a particularly useful tool for leaders who don’t work closely with all of their team members on a day to day basis,” says Cognology’s guide to APM. “The reason for this is simple. As a leader you are responsible for coaching and developing your team members.  But imagine one of your team has been working remotely on a project for two months.  How can you talk about what’s going well and what they need to improve when you haven’t seen the person at all? The answer is to crowdsource feedback from key project team members.”