retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Every now and again we need to forget about complex topics like e-commerce or GMOs and remember that so much of what makes business succeed or fail is simply people…and how they are managed.

Whether you run a department, a store or an entire corporate team, you understand that truth. People perform based on motivation, involvement and feedback (among other things).

Well, the last leg of that stool - feedback - is the subject of a long overdue conversation and it’s one that for countless reasons every company should be considering.

Consulting giant Accenture recently announced that it is largely doing away with performance reviews. The move represents new thinking and the growing importance of the Millennial generation.

Thanks to the technologies they have grown up with, Millennials are accustomed to rapid and constant feedback. Experts have long predicted that Millennial employees will never understand the notion of waiting for full-blown review once or twice a year.

Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s CEO, elaborated on that in a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Post this past Sunday. “For the millennium generation," he said, "it’s not the way they want to be recognized, the way they want to be measured. If you put this new generation in the box of the performance management we’ve used the last 30 years you lose them.” (Emphasis added.)

But in truth, this change goes way beyond our younger workers. As Nanterme makes clear in the interview, annual reviews are far more burdensome than helpful. They are widely disliked by staffers and management. It’s hard to argue that point. I’ve sat on both sides of the desk during performance reviews and honestly it is hard to recall which was more distasteful.

Measurements or forced rankings of staff produce far more angst than impact. “We’re not sure that spending all that time on performance management has been yielding a great outcome,” Nanterme said.

Understand that the Accenture chief isn’t saying that performance doesn’t matter. Just the opposite - the change is in the process, which Accenture must hope will lead to a climate of fast feedback and constant improvement.

Nanterme made one other point that managers at all levels should ponder. “What I learned is that leadership is about letting it go. Trust people. The art of leadership is not to spend you time measuring, evaluating. It’s all about selecting the person.

“And if you believe you selected the right person, then give that person the freedom, the authority, the delegation to innovate and to lead with some very simple measures.”

In practice that appears to mean putting much more time into screening and hiring and far less into micromanaging and reviewing. That’s hardly a new thought, but it’s one that once again needs attention.

A few weeks back I wrote about breaking yourself out of zombie-like thinking, of simply doing the same things over again. Right now there are countless managers reading this and thinking up reasons why this type of performance assessment change cannot work, starting with all the reasons why your workplace is so different than Accenture’s.

Well, your workplace is different, but that doesn’t make this idea any less important. If we truly are only as good as our people and if feedback is essential to improving performance, then improving the feedback mechanism seems an important step to take.

It’s certainly worth some feedback (and discussion) in your company.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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