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How Adobe Got Rid of Traditional Stack-Ranking Performance Reviews 175

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Bob Sutton reports that in 2012 Adobe moved from yearly performance rankings to frequent "check-ins" where managers provide employees targeted coaching and advice. There is no prescribed format or frequency for these conversations, and managers don't complete any forms or use any technologies to guide or document what happens during such conversations. They are simply expected to have regular check-ins to convey what is expected of employees, give and get feedback, and help employees with their growth and development plans. 'The aim is to give people information when they need it rather than months after teachable moments have passed,' writes Sutton. Donna Morris, Adobe's senior vice president for People and Places, says her team calculated that annual reviews required 80,000 hours of time from the 2000 managers at Adobe each year, the equivalent of 40 full-time employees. After all that effort, internal surveys revealed that employees felt less inspired and motivated afterwards—and turnover increased. According to Sutton, Adobe's bold move seems to be working. Surveys indicates that most Adobe managers and employees find the new system to be less cumbersome and more effective than the old stack-ranking system where managers must divide employees into groups — for example, maybe 15 percent of people can be assigned the highest rating. 'That goes against our core value of being genuine,' says Ellie Gates, director of management effectiveness at Adobe. 'Our goal should be to inspire people to do their best work.' Since the new system was implemented, voluntary attrition has decreased substantially, while involuntary departures have increased by 50% because the new system requires executives and managers to have regular 'tough discussions' with employees who are struggling with performance issues—rather than putting them off until the next performance review cycle comes around. 'It is reducing unnecessary cognitive load, while at the same time, nudging managers to engage more often and more candidly with direct reports to help them develop their skills and plan their careers,' concludes Sutton. 'It also bolsters accountability because managers have far more responsibility for setting employee compensation than under the old system.'"
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How Adobe Got Rid of Traditional Stack-Ranking Performance Reviews

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