Adobe Abolishes Performance Reviews. ‘Instead Of Feedback, We’ll Have Feed-Forward.’
About 10,000 employees atAdobe Systems, including 2,000 in India, have just completed what could probably be their last performance review. The global product services company plans to scrap the age-old practice of being pitted against colleagues and measured up by the bosses once a year.
“We plan to abolish the performance reviewformat,” says Donna Morris, senior VPHR at the company. Still in its blueprint, the plan is to have managers give regular feedback to their teams to ensure a quicker and continuous selfactualisation, rather than wait for the year-end.
Adobe took the plunge after it entered the digital marketing space, which required a completely different gamut of customer base and marketing strategies that called for an overhaul of HRprocesses as well.
“Instead of feedback, we will look at feed-forward,” says Jaleel Abdul, HR head for the Indian arm. Not a borrowed practice, the roots can be traced to management guru Marshall Goldsmith’s theory on how instant and real-time feedback can boost performance. “Course correction is also faster and more immediate this way,” says Abdul. Companies constantly innovate and tweak their appraisal systems.
Google emphasises a 360-degree appraisal where employees are assessed by peers, bosses and subordinates. Microsoft now places greater emphasis on employee behaviour rather than on targets. But hardly any company has gone as far as Adobe.
“Performance improves with more feedback and a structured way is not often required,” says Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer for Wipro, commenting on Adobe’s plans. “However, for firms with larger staff, (annual) appraisal systems help.”
“It’s a bold move and speaks of the maturity of the organisation, but sometimes controls are required for checks and balances,” says Rajiv Krishnan, market business leader for Mercer’s human capital services. Krishnan cites the instance of a recruitment firm that years ago decided to remove targets from KRA of employees. The strategy worked very well for the first six months, but only for those in leadership levels.
“It became difficult for those below, who lacked the maturity to handle work without targets. Also one cannot give feedback on a daily basis and for virtual teams there is no way one can get monitored every day,” he says. But Adobe took that call when Morris noticed many grievances regarding appraisals every year. And often the boss would assess a member keeping his last achievements or failures in mind instead of the work done throughout the year, popularly called the ‘recency effect’.
Doing away with the annual reviews will help prevent ‘the top of the mind recall’ problem as well. Adobe is yet to fully decipher how it will work out promotions and increments, both of which will demand a relative assessment of employee performance.
Annual salary raises in all probability will continue, but these will not be on the basis of one annual review, but after tracking the performance on a regular basis. “It’s about changing culture and mindsets where the managers will have huge responsibilities,” says Abdul.
The company realises it needs to spit-polish skills of managers to equip them to give performance feedback on an ongoing basis. Training for this started first in Bangalore in 2011. Called ‘managerial essentials’, the training involved intensive coaching for managers; it is now being adopted globally.
The next phase is called leadership essentials for the top brass for strategy building. This may also require different continuous appraisal tools, details of which are yet to be finalised. Managers and employees have given the idea a thumbs-up. Could this be a glimpse of the future workplace?
Source/Credit: Devina Sengupta, ET Bureau.