CIOs Need To Understand That Reviews Come With Risks

The standard review process for employees comes with a great deal of risk
The standard review process for employees comes with a great deal of risk

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As your company’s CIO, one of your jobs is to evaluate the performance of your direct reports as it relates to the importance of information technology. How you go about doing this and how often you do it have been the subject of much debate over the past few years. However, I think that we can all agree that the system does not work that well You don’t like doing it and your direct reports really don’t like participating in it. There has got to be a better way!

What’s Wrong With The Way That We Do Staff Evaluations

So how do we handle staff evaluations now? If your IT department is like most IT departments, once a year you’ll met with your direct reports and you’ll end up assigning them a grade to indicate what you thought of their performance over the last year. There is a fundamental problem with the way that we handle evaluations right now. The folks who study such things tell us that by assigning our staff some sort of ranking, what we are actually doing is triggering a “fight or flight” response in them. What happens is that they react in exactly the same way as if they were facing a real threat in the wild.

One thing that I suspect that we’ve not spent a lot of time thinking about is how these evaluations affect our staff. It turns out that the answer is not well. Even though you may not saying anything overt to your employee, the ranking system is going to cause them to feel undermined and disregarded. This feeling will then cause three things to happen in your employee. First, they will ignore any feedback that you give to them. Next, they’ll push back any stretch goals that you suggest for them, and finally they won’t listen to you when you present them will examples of positive role models.

Ultimately, it’s the performance rating system that seems to cause the most problems. This system of ranking your employees tells them that where they fall on the performance scale is based on their innate abilities. In other words, they will never be able to become any better than they are today. The rating system more often than not surprises employees – they thought that they were better than that. Studies show that 90% of employees are unhappy with their rating. The result of this is that after the evaluation, these employees experience a 23% drop in workplace engagement.

A Better Way To Evaluate Your Staff

The good news here is that more and more companies are realizing that they have a problem on their hands. What they’ve detected is that their current evaluation system is causing a drop in morale. Given that this is a problem, these firms are now facing the challenge of trying to find a system that works better. They still need to provide employees with feedback on their job performance; however, they need to find a better way of going about doing this.

The first thing that firms are doing is eliminating the annual evaluation meetings and their associated ranking systems. Now what the person with the CIO job is being encouraged to do is to have frequent conversations with their direct reports. The goal of these meetings is to have the CIO find ways to coach their staff in how they can proceed up their career ladder.

When firms use a scale or rating system what happens is that their best and brightest employees start to become obsessed with what their rating is going to be this year. The goal is to get away from doing that and instead have the person in the CIO position schedule more frequent meetings in which you talk with your direct reports about what kind of impact they are having on the company and what they could do better. Getting rid of the rating system can help to remove a key distraction and can mitigate a lot of the internal competition.

What All Of This Means For You

As CIOs one of the jobs that we are called on to perform is the annual rating of the people who report to us. We don’t look forward to this task and likewise the people who report to us don’t either. We accomplish this task by having an annual meeting with our staff and assigning them a ranking value. It turns out that this does not go over very well.

When our staff discovers that they have been assigned a ranking value, their reaction is one that is very similar to the “fight or flight” reaction that we see in animals in the wild. The evaluation system causes bad things to happen to our staff and ultimately causes their productivity to fall. A much better way of accomplishing the same thing is to do away with the system that is in place today. Instead, start having more frequent meetings with your staff to discuss their job performance and find ways to help them advance in the company. Doing this will allow them to spend more time focusing on their jobs.

No, I don’t think that any of us are going to be looking forward to having a career or job performance discussion with our staff any time soon. However, these are important discussions to have and so we need to perform this task. However, we want the outcome to be that our people become better at what they do, not that they become nervous and distracted. Consider moving away from the annual “big meeting” and replace it with more of an ongoing discussion. Give this a try and see if your IT department becomes even better than they are today.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How often do you think that these more informal meetings should be held with staff?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

No, hiring someone is probably not something that you do every day of the week. However, when you do do it, considering the importance of information technology it is a very important task. You really need to pick the right people to join your IT department if you want to keep its performance high. This of course leads to the big question of what is the best way to select the right person. A great number of us tend to rely on people who are recommended to us by people whom we respect. However, is this really the best way to go about making this important decision?

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