Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Employee reviews...

It's that time of the year when we all start waking up from our holiday comas and drag ourselves back into work. (Alright, I'm a little late, but I've been under the weather for a few weeks.) For some of us, we are kicking off the new year with new plans, and for the rest of us we are just figuring out that it is a new year and we need to make some plans.

With that cycle, many of us also recently endured the review and appraisal cycle. Once again we are reminded of the standard lesson that the raise we receive is tied to economic conditions and the review we receive is tied to how well we can game the system. The majority of us get the painful sting of our performance having almost nothing to do with our raise.

In our little agile community, there has been a lot of talk about how the team dynamic within agile complicates this further and that it all needs to improved. At Agile 2008, I sat through an interesting presentation by Mary Poppendieck on the topics of appraisals, bonuses, and compensation. The problem is that we can point at all the things that are wrong, but I'm not sure we completely know how to fix it. Once you grow beyond the garage, it becomes difficult to say everyone has an equal part in the success of the company and that everyone deserves an equal slice.

So, I found something old that still feels new in its approach. The real point is to insure people are measured by their worth their team, their customer, and the company at large... not the manager that reviews them. Jeff Sutherland actually posted something on his blog over 2 years ago that is not only an idea, but was tried and tested. I not only like the rating system, but also the approach to the document itself. It's lighter, quicker, and probably more accurate than many things I've seen so far.

One other thing I saw in a company I worked for and liked (besides full 360 reviews) was the concept of round table reviews. In an effort to compensate for good managers being more critical of their reports (and scoring them lower) vs. bad managers fluffing their reports scores (to help them get raises)... managers were brought together and had to lobby, review, and normalize their scores across teams. Thus, a stellar (or stinker) employee was discussed across managers and validated (or disproved) as such. For every level up your name was recognized, the more likely you were to get an abnormally large adjustment. This meant that the rare cash that was handed out to the very few had been peer reviewed and management acknowledged across the board. This process also created a identification process to move star employees into a fast-track program for management mentoring or uber-skill training to foster future leaders.

Either way... yearly reviews suck. We really need feedback more often (monthly, weekly) so that we can grow and improve ourselves.

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