Over the past decade, there has been a growing preoccupation with measurement in the workplace. Increasingly, employees are being watched and measured on every possible level from productivity to interpersonal skills. In most workplaces, these metrics form the bedrock of annual reviews. While metrics can be useful, there are now a growing number of experts questioning whether or not this approach is in fact working. In the training and development sector, there is also a growing push to move away from pure metrics and annual reviews and back to training.
Move Away from the Annual Performance Reviews
A 2014 study by Deloitte found that “Today’s widespread ranking- and ratings-based performance management is damaging employee engagement, alienating high performers, and costing managers valuable time.” The same study reported that only 8 percent of companies believe their performance management process “drives high levels of value” and 58 percent said their approach is not an effective use of time at all. The Deloitte study also found that “Leading organizations are scrapping the annual evaluation cycle and replacing it with ongoing feedback and coaching designed to promote continuous employee development.”
McKinsey & Company researchers reached similar conclusions in a more recent report. In their 2016 study, “Ahead of the Curve: The Future of Performance Management,” they concluded:
The worst-kept secret in companies has long been the fact that the yearly ritual of evaluating (and sometimes rating and ranking) the performance of employees epitomizes the absurdities of corporate life. Managers and staff alike too often view performance management as time consuming, excessively subjective, demotivating, and ultimately unhelpful. In these cases, it does little to improve the performance of employees. It may even undermine their performance as they struggle with ratings, worry about compensation, and try to make sense of performance feedback.
However, McKinsey & Company researchers further asserted that there may be a fix to this growing problem.
- Stop judging everyone on the same scale; drop fixed ratings, rankings and annual reviews.
- Adopt more fluid objectives that can respond to annual goals.
- Give employees frequent feedback (not just annual or semiannual reviews).
- Focus on coaching employees in the present rather than rating and ranking them on the basis of work already completed.
In other words, the message is clear: ratings and rankings that pit employee against employee are out and coaching and training, especially geared to individual coaching and training, are in.
Adopt eLearning to Scale Up Coaching and Training
The most cost-effective and expedient way to scale up coaching and training is to adopt a learning management system (LMS). With an LMS, one can design, disseminate and track training courses at a low cost and with only limited lead up time. Why is this good for employee effectiveness? There are at least three major ways in which an effective eLearning initiative can drive employee effectiveness:
- Responsiveness: With eLearning, one can roll out training initiatives in response to problems as they arise. In the past, low performance issues were often only handled at the end of the year (long after they arose ). By shifting one’s focus from the annual performance review to ongoing feedback, one can respond to performance issues in real time.
- Productivity: With eLearning, employees can complete training modules on their own time in short spurts. There is no need to shut down the office for a day-long training session. Training takes place in moments that may have previously simple been wasted.
- Morale and Employee Engagement: There is no question about it: Regular feedback and training drive employee engagement more than punitive annual reviews.
Individualize Coaching and Training Initiatives
In the past, offering geared-to-employee coaching and training was difficult, if not impossible. With eLearning, this is no longer the case. First, remember those metrics? With eLearning, one can still easily track their employees’ current knowledge, skills, progress and productivity. Rather than crunch these numbers for an annual report, however, one can now use these numbers to gain insight into what an employee really needs. With eLearning, one can then assign a specific training package to an employee based specifically on the skills or knowledges they actually need to do their job more effectively. This means employees no longer waste time repeating training modules they have already covered (even if the material was acquired prior to arriving in their current position) and have more time to refine new and advanced skills (or to refresh themselves on anything they may have forgotten over time).