Accenture's recent decision to drop its annual performance review process for all 330,000 of its global employees is a monumental one, to be sure. Performance evaluations have long been a way for companies to gather data on employee productivity and satisfaction, and that data can and should be extremely valuable. In Accenture's case, however, executive leadership determined its process was flawed. They didn't want evaluations that only measured employees' efforts "after the fact." Rather, they wanted a way to gather data that would guide employees to "perform better in the future." And that's now what they'll work toward accomplishing.
I bring up this example because I feel there is tremendous value to be gained when we harness and apply data properly throughout an employee's tenure at a company. Performance evaluations of some kind are necessary to hold employees accountable for their work, but as Accenture and other Fortune 500 enterprises are learning, the traditional review process is not always effective at getting the right data. So what is the right data? In my opinion, it's whatever information helps you build and maintain the best workforce possible. After all, people are your organization's single biggest asset, and they are the most important input of value into a company.
Let's look at three critical areas where you can gather the kind of effective insight that will help you assemble your best team and ensure they are as happy and productive as possible.
We've seen in Silicon Valley that while it costs less and less to start a company, the bottleneck that deters growth is access to the right talent. Therefore, one of the most critical points of data you need to track is where you are--and are not--finding your candidates.
Think of it this way: If you were drilling for oil, you'd be tracking your terrain. You'd know where you had success, and where you failed. If you struck it rich in one spot, you'd stay there and keep drilling. Your search for talent should be approached similarly. Track what works and what doesn't. Maybe you have success sourcing within a particular university, or within a large company where employees are well trained but unhappy and looking for change. You want to know where your employees are coming from, how you find them, how they find you, whether they use your career site, and what their experiences are in the recruiting process. Your goal is to build multiple pools of talent that you can continuously mine, so you never find yourself stuck with a dry well and unable to grow.
Measuring Employee Engagement
I'm a strong believer that the most productive employees are the happiest employees. So while measuring performance--however you choose to do it--is important for ensuring accountability, you should also have a way to track how happy your employees are while doing their jobs. Why? Because if you don't have a feel for the pulse of your organization's workforce, you'll never be able to retain your top performers, and you'll never understand what it is about your company's culture that makes you attractive to future candidates.
As companies like Accenture and others begin to recognize that the conventional performance review process may be flawed, a more personalized way to gauge employee performance is reemerging. Among my peer group, making performance feedback more real-time and more interactive seems to be the increasingly popular method. Rather than meeting once a year to give 12 months of feedback, quarterly or even monthly check-ins are on the rise. Giving both employees and managers the opportunity to raise issues early and work through them before they fester often leads to a better outcome. But ultimately it's not just about being happy with employee performance, it's also about the individual being happy with the job.
So how do you measure happiness? To begin with, you can use tools like SurveyMonkey or TINYPulse to anonymously poll people on a regular basis. Ask them how they're doing, how they feel about their jobs, and if they're happy on a scale of 1-10. And it's important to track this data over time to see if it's trending positively or negatively. You can even get more sophisticated and run algorithms to find out what the driver is behind the responses you receive. For example, at Jobvite, I can draw direct correlations between an uptick in happiness levels and a big sales quarter or a good run on our product development roadmap. Likewise, you might be able to note a downturn in happiness if you haven't been having enough all-hands meetings, or if a popular employee leaves the company for a "better offer" elsewhere. If you track all this valuable data, you'll learn what makes your employees tick, what puts them at risk for departing, and what you as a leader can do to bolster morale and keep your employees performing at their peak.
Finally, I think one of the most important sources of valuable data a senior manager can have is the exit interview. Oddly enough, not that many companies do these anymore, but in my opinion, they're the perfect opportunity to collect honest, grounded facts about why people leave your company.
Often, those reasons will be quite negative. Someone didn't like his boss, he didn't feel supported, or he didn't like the job itself. Those are vital pieces of information to hear. But remember that happy people leave, too. People are changing jobs more frequently than ever in modern history, simply because they're looking for continuous career growth--and it's important to hear about that, too. Bottom line: Departing employees are the only ones who will give it to you straight on their way out the door. They can pinpoint your biggest flaws, and they can also tell you who is a pleasure to work with or should be promoted. Keep track of this data, and note the trends so you can correct any repeatedly cited issues and hopefully improve retention.