I know it would be hard to just get rid of performance reviews, as I’ve suggested in an earlier post. In the back of our collective minds, we’re still thinking “yeah, but the truth is I want to make sure the individuals in this organization are doing the right things and doing them well, so if this process (however flawed) helps us to do that, then let’s keep it.”

Okay, I hear you. So if that’s the case, here’s my recommendation: Make sure your performance management system is tied directly to culture. Don’t ask managers to evaluate direct reports on whether they did a “good job.” I’d even pull back on looking at performance metrics to prove whether or not they did well. Instead, double down your efforts to ensure the work of your people is tightly aligned with your culture.

This, of course, assumes (a) you know what your culture is and (b) that culture is aligned with what drives your success. That work might need to come first.

If you’re there, here are a couple of examples of what performance management could look like.

If you still want that once- or twice-yearly survey, then work to take the principles that define your culture and convert them into behavior statements. It’s hard to rate people on whether or not they “value transparency,” but it’s easier to figure out whether or not they routinely share information with people outside their department. Sometimes you can even describe what the negative behaviors look like: tends to keep things to himself/herself or at most share information with the direct team. Give people a tangible understanding of what these 1-5 ratings actually mean. In the conversation part of the review process, you would then have the opportunity to explain why these things are valued.

And, personally, I like the conversation part better. One of the companies we studied in “When Millennials Take Over” does their performance management only by small group meeting. It’s simple. If you want to advance in the organization, then you will have performance feedback meetings, which come in the form of you buying lunch for your peers and they give you feedback on your work. You get to decide who goes to that meeting, though it’s also made clear that if you want to advance on the pay scale, you should make sure to invite your harshest critics to those meetings, and not just your supporters.

I sat in on one of these meetings during our research, and it was pretty cool. The person who called the meeting was up front about an experiment he tried that really worked against their culture. He realized at some point it wasn’t how they did things there, so he stopped it and went back to the standard approach. At that point, the person who had seemed to be his harshest critic jumped in and thanked him. She explained that his experiment was making it hard for the rest of the people in the system to “play their chess moves six or seven moves out,” which was really critical to their success. By going back to the original system, he was helping everyone succeed.

Performance management shouldn’t be about judging people as good employees or bad employees. It should be about improving the performance of the system. That’s why your performance management system should be tied to culture. This gives you the opportunity to explain to people not only what’s expected of them, but why it is expected. When people know that, you’re much likely to get consistent behavior moving forward. When all they know is they got a 3.9, so they only get a 1.5% raise, I’m not sure the performance of the system is really going to improve.

Recently, Jamie Notter hosted an all-Millennial panel to discuss ways to engage their generation, and performance reviews was one of the topics of discussion:

Jamie is an author and culture consultant at Human Workplaces who uses culture analytics and customized consulting to drive growth, innovation, and engagement for organizations around the world. He brings 25 years of experience in conflict resolution, generational differences and culture change to his work with leaders leveraging the power of culture. The author of two books — "When Millennials Take Over" and "Humanize" — Jamie has a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in OD from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.

Jamie is an author and culture consultant at Human Workplaces who uses culture analytics and customized consulting to drive growth, innovation, and engagement for organizations around the world. He brings 25 years of experience in conflict resolution, generational differences and culture change to his work with leaders leveraging the power of culture. The author of two books — "When Millennials Take Over" and "Humanize" — Jamie has a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in OD from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.

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