The Efficacy of Real-Time Performance Evaluation

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This paper will review a number of questions related to real-time performance evaluation processes.  An example of such a process is the Performance Multiplier service used at Accenture.  Accenture is a management consulting, technology and outsourcing firm.  Their process allows employees to provide such items as status updates, two or three weekly goals, and seek feedback on recent work-related projects.   The items are posted using Facebook.  

This paper is organized around four questions related to the use of this new procedure.  The first question will examine whether the traditional performance evaluation is no longer necessary.  The second will compare and contrast the social network performance review process as it applies to members of different age groups. The third will look at how this new process may help managers. The fourth and final question will discuss whether social network performance reviews can help reduce the workload of the average American employee. Nordstrom is a prime example of well-functioning performance reviews.

1. Agree or disagree with this statement and provide reasons for your response. “If you have regular conversations with people, and they know where they stand, then the performance evaluation is maybe unnecessary.” Agree.  The statement was made by Robert Sutton, a management professor at the University of Stanford.  It refers to the argument that annual performance reviews are mostly unnecessary when there is a culture of constant real-time feedback between manager and employee.  He also argues that annual performance reviews are undesirable.  This is because they were developed from the top of the organization and didn’t consider the needs of employees.

2. Compare and contrast the possible effectiveness of the social network performance review to the following age groups: veterans, baby boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y. 

Veterans or members of the Traditional generation, were typically born between 1922 and 1945.  This is the generation that matured during the Great Depression and World War II.  Members of this generation are mostly retired.  However, of those still in the workplace, many are reluctant to embrace change.  The use of social network performance review could bring conflict with such members. 

The Baby Boom generation is that born between 1946-1964, according to the US Census Bureau.  This is the largest age group in the US and numbers 78 million members.  Members of this group have been characterized as valuing teamwork and consensus building.  Its members are also considered competitive and loyal to their employers.  Many are also goals-oriented and value personal growth.  After a consideration of these characteristics it is likely that the social network performance review could achieve some success with this group.  The focus on achieving goals and personal growth are strong prerequisites for the success of a real-time performance management system. 

Generation X members include those born between 1968 and 1979 (other sources may define this generation differently).  Members of this cohort tend to value a greater work-life balance.  Many of its members also value self-reliance and autonomy.  They also value learning and ongoing work skills development.  It would appear that the change to a more technology focused performance management system would be embraced by members of such a group.  This would be a key factor in its effectiveness.

The final age group is called generation Y.  This is the cohort born after 1979 and possibly as late 1999 or later, depending on which source is consulted. Even more so than the previous cohort, members of this group have grown up in a high technological culture.  Its members are very comfortable with computers and technology, in general.  At the same time, they are reported to value teamwork and collaboration.  They also seek out flexibility and are consequently, adaptable to change unlike some members of previous generations. They are also more focused on goal-attainment.  For these reasons, Yers would seem to be the one group for which a social network performance review system would experience a high probability of success. 

3. “The biggest payoff of these social network style tools may prove to be better performance by the boss.” 

The statement appears at the end of the piece.  It refers to the Orwellian nature that the more dynamic, real-time feedback process evokes.   However, the author reports research which suggests most of those seeking real-time feedback are not employees.  Managers post two-thirds of the questions using Accenture’s Performance Multiplier service.  They are usually seeking information regarding their own job performance or general questions about the business.  As such, the feedback service can be used to help managers to improve their own performance as well employees. 

4. O’Toole and Lawler (2007) states: “It has been said that Americans are increasingly overworked.” Discuss whether social network type evaluations aid or hinder the overworked American. Justify your response. 

O’Toole and Lawler (2007), a co-author of the New American Workplace, has undertaken decades of research concerning issues of worker dissatisfaction.  His work found issues of low morale and growing workloads for American workers had become increasingly worrisome. 

Social network type evaluations can help overworked Americans in a couple of ways. First, they can involve the worker more pro-actively in the management of their tasks and the workplace in general. The procedure of workers posting weekly goals and projects better focuses all employees on what the needs and priorities of the workplace are.  It also encourages workers and managers to see the workplace as more egalitarian and less hierarchical.  In traditional management roles, the employee is a more passive actor.  They are also more uninvolved in the priorities of the workplace.  The social network type evaluation allows for greater participation and this often correlates to greater workplace morale and satisfaction. This focus allows for greater autonomy and a clearer focus on the tasks that need to be completed. 

In the second case, the feedback system can allow for more efficient performance of tasks.  By seeking feedback, one is in fact soliciting input from peers and managers. Some of these peers may actually have some experience with the task being undertaken and can provide advice or strategies the employee may be unaware of.  This could allow for some particularly difficult projects to be completed more efficiently.  Also seeing that a project may need additional assistance in order to meet potential deadlines, the posting of such projects can allow managers to decide how to prioritize projects. They can also use this information to decide if additional assistance is needed. This can be critical when deciding how best to use best to use the firm or government agency’s available manpower and can help reduce individual workloads. 

Reference

O’Toole, J., & Lawler, E. E. (2007). The new American workplace. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.