General Electric has long been the model for employee review schedules. Employees were graded on a strict rating system, with the dead weight at the bottom regularly removed.
Allowing for failure.
Janice Semper, the HR executive who is leading the changes said, "It's not realistic to expect perfectionism anymore." Semper is right, although it really never was acceptable to expect perfectionism.
Perfectionism has a long reputation as being a good thing-which is why people used to (hopefully the don't anymore) respond to that "What's your biggest flaw?" question with "I'm a perfectionist." Perfectionism, in reality, is crippling and prevents advancement. If we wait until everything is perfect, we never move forward.
While a company needs success in order to succeed, they need failure to get to that success. Does your company allow for failure?
New pay strategies
GE hasn't landed quite yet on what their new pay strategies will be, but since they are no longer expecting perfection out of the box they are trying a few different things.
Traditionally, GE handed out raises once per year, now they are thinking about mixing that up.
While I'm all in favor of giving raises at other times during the year, when you do away with an annual process, many employees get overlooked. Remember, you need all your employees to be happy in order to have a successful company. If you allow too much flexibility into the process, a manager can use up all the money allotted for raises on one star, leaving everyone else out in the cold. While it's good to reward stars, your B players are valuable too.
We'll see what GE settles on-and it may end up being different i different divisions, depending on needs.
Revamping annual reviews.
According to the Wall Street Journal, GE's current process can take five months to complete. That's on the ridiculous side, so it's no wonder they are looking to change that.
GE is thinking of following other company's leads and having a manager check in with employees more frequently. In reality, having an annual review process doesn't prevent frequent check-ins, and you should always have regular meetings with your employees, not just annually.
But, with a program that was so rigid, it seems tha managers were so busy doing the annual review they didn't have time to do frequent check-ins. "The idea is to help workers improve faster and shift gears when they mess up,"says the WSJ. This makes absolute sense. If you're changing your culture to allow failure, you've also go to acknowledge failure and learn from it, otherwise, you simply have a pile of useless junk and processes.
Coworkers providing feedback for each other is a popular new trend, with many new companies providing apps for just that. GE is jumping on the bandwagon, to allow employees to communicate feedback with each other.
While I applaud openness, I'm always cautious with peer to peer feedback systems. Coworkers rarely know exactly what their cohorts are supposed to be doing, nor do they understand successes or failures as the boss does. The result can be misguided feedback. I advise GE to procede with caution in this realm.
Overall, it sounds like GE has recognized that times change and they are working hard to get in front of the change. Stop and consider if your business needs to do the same.
GE has found that requiring perfection means no opportunity for failure. If you can't fail, you won't try new things. Today's highly competitive business environment says that you have to try new things.