Human Resources

HR Needs 21st-Century Training and Performance Management

By Morag Barrett

In yesterday’s Advisor, guest columnist Morag Barrett made the case for why HR must be brought into the 21st century. Today she elaborates on what this means for performance management and training.

Barrett is the author of the bestselling book, Cultivate, and coauthor of the forthcoming The Future-Proof Workplace (Wiley). She is also the founder and CEO of SkyeTeam, an international HR and leadership development company. Originally from the United Kingdom, she has worked with more than 3,000 leaders in 20 countries on 4 continents.

Performance Management Becomes the Performance Moment

In the 21st century workplace, performance management experiences a workplace makeover. Instead of a focus on goals and annual feedback, organizations, teams, and individuals are aligning around purpose, culture, and values. The annual review and once-a-year conversation (if you are lucky) is gone in favor of real-time feedback that empowers and engages each person in the moment and treats him or her for what they are—adults.

Companies like Kelly Services, Dell, IBM, and GE are doing away with the traditional 20th century approach. In a recent article, one Deloitte manager was quoted as saying “Performance reviews were an annual investment of 1.8 million hours across our business that didn’t meet our needs anymore.”

The individual focus of performance management and rewards is at odds with the team- based approach that is required going forward. In the fast-paced world of the 21st century, 12-month goals seem ludicrous, especially when manager and employee changes are happening regularly, let alone changing priorities and projects. Organizations are struggling to predict their market and business 3 to 5 years out, and annual cycles are becoming less defined. Instead, the planning horizons are coming closer, rolling 12-month cycles are the norm, and agile practices are needed.

It’s time to think and plan, in ‘dog-years’ rather than in calendar years. Short-term goals and milestones ensure meaningful feedback and progress in bursts, while aligning to the overarching purpose and culture.

Rewrite the Training Policies

Most companies only provide training for a select few and exclude contractors or part-time workers. With a growing number of freelancers and contract employees, this policy seems ridiculous. The implication is that part of your workforce gets to see the secret song sheet by which you operate, and everyone else has to hum along as best they can. Progressive organizations, like Deloitte, aren’t just opening up their learning to their employees (whatever flavor they are)—they’re also opening programs to their customers and communities. Now there’s a 21st century idea!

Thank goodness more enlightened companies are throwing out these preposterous time-sucking processes and replacing them with adult-centric daily conversations. It’s time we consigned some of our approaches to the history books where they belong.

Treat your employees for who they are—adults. Provide them with challenging goals and resources to achieve them. Then set them free to deliver the results. Where expectations are not being met, have the courage to provide the tough feedback, and give them an opportunity to step up; if they choose not to, or can’t, you can decide to part ways. Either way, it is a much more respectful and effective partnership.

We All Want to Learn

In our work with thousands of leaders across the globe, we can vouch for the fact that only a very small percentage of people are seeking to get by with minimal effort. Most employees want to do a good job, enjoy their work, build great relationships, and feel like they’re connected to something bigger than themselves.

We dare you to take action. If you can provide a futureproof workplace that engages curiosity, there will be no stopping you. We know where we’d choose to go to work!