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A Sea Change for Annual Reviews

by Miki Saxon


Years ago I wrote about how to make annual reviews painless and effective — more a review of the the year’s accomplishments and setting goals for the coming year than a critique of work past.

It worked because mini-reviews, coaching and conversations during the year were frequent.

Typical annual reviews were fraught with fear and loathing.

For decades, General Electric practiced (and proselytized) a rigid system, championed by then-CEO Jack Welch, of ranking employees. Formally known as the “vitality curve” but frequently called “rank and yank,” the system hinged on the annual performance review, and boiled the employees’ performance down to a number on which they were judged and ranked against peers. A bottom percentage (10% in GE’s case) of underperformers were then fired.

Jack Welch championed a lot of very bad stuff (e.g., work/life balance, HR), but the negativity of rank and yank is near the top, if not number one.

(As for GE’s stellar results keep under Welch keep in mind that businesses like GE Financial practically printed money until it all blew up.)

But times are changing.

According to Raghu Krishnamoorthy, the longtime GE exec in charge of Crotonville (GE’s in-house management school) “Command and control is what Jack was famous for. Now it’s about connection and inspiration.

And to that end, GE has developed a new in-house app that basically does what I and others evangelized a decade and more ago.

The new app is called “PD@GE” for “performance development at GE”  There’s an emphasis on coaching throughout, and the tone is unrelentingly positive. The app forces users to categorize feedback in one of two forms: To continue doing something, or to consider changing something.

If you don’t have the luxury of an app you can simplify it even further.

  • Care about your people.
  • Interact with your people.
  • Talk with your people.
  • Challenge your people.
  • Help them grow and advance — even when that means they leave for a better opportunity that you can’t provide.

Read what GE is doing and adapt it to your own group — whether your company does of not.

Flickr image credit: Mark

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