A management expert in Australia made headlines last year by telling companies they should ditch employee performance reviews. Now he has another proposal that is sure to be controversial in HR departments: Companies should get rid of reviews that measure employee satisfaction and engagement.
"They take three months to plan and three months to analyze, so once companies get the information, it's six months old already," Jon Williams, a managing partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers told the Australian Financial Review. "They're a centralized human resource process that was not designed around employees. They work well for one person — those in the HR administrative center — to say they have a complete picture of how the organization is working. That's great if that's the person you're trying to keep happy."
Other prominent consultants have criticized the standard performance review as focusing too much on ferreting out the weakest employees, rather than finding ways to put the skills of the strongest performers to better use.
Williams says that paper reviews amount to "tick the box" solutions that hardly gauge the real issues that workers are facing in the office. That's particularly true for large organizations with employees at multiple sites.
So what's the solution? Williams suggests companies harness the power of 21st century technology — smartphones, tablets — to get regular but less comprehensive feedback from workers that they can respond to more quickly. Doing an annual survey means a company misses out on important issues that employees confront throughout the year.
Williams advice has had some effect in the past. His denunciation of performance reviews recently led National Australia Bank to abandon the practice.
But the HR community down under clearly isn't sold on ditching employee satisfaction surveys yet. Peter Wilson, president of the Australia Human Resources Institute, compared annual reviews to an annual check-up with the doctor.
"Having a full health check, as a person does, going through all the areas, all of the problems is important for organisations," he said. "I don't think short, sharp, informal reviews is enough."