HR Leaders - Moving from annual appraisals to continuous discussions is simpler than you think by Barry Flack

I want to consign the annual appraisal to the history books or the corporate torture museum set up in memory of unproductive, inhumane HR practices of the last 100 years. I’ve started this conversation already, if you want to flip back to my first blog - HR leaders - Why decluttering your performance management is the best decision you can currently make.

My desire is that no human being should suffer the ignominy of such a gamed discussion that defines their personal complexity into a pile of little boxes, each ranked with a static category such as a 3.1, or an average performer or other such like corporate BS.

As the evidence, linked to the emerging use of neuroscience in our field, tells us emphatically (although our HR Policy-makers do tend to skipped over):

· Uncertainty is the worst state for the human brain and it causes us more anxiety than the certainty of bad things.

·  If we find out that things we have been told in the past aren’t true, the Prefrontal Cortex switches to high alert triggering feelings of anxiety and looks for further signs of deception.

· When we are overwhelmed by unfamiliar concepts, it triggers our Amygdala making us feel anxiety, fear, fatigue and anger.

So, why is this blunt instrument so enduring and why is a change to a more productive alternative still proving hard for many of our existing enterprises?

Firstly, too many of our organisations are still addicted to the phenomenon of command and control management practices. We still attempt to steer the organisation at every possible turn from the centre. This crude but enduring philosophy, effective for 100 years in a world that no longer exists as vibrant markets replace predictable, mass production ones, baffles me.

Secondly, and as a component part of this outdated thinking, a legacy service of the HR department has seen an overemphasis on data gathering and classification to support corporate fiscal responsibilities such as regulation, risk and compliance. The exponential growth of the Reward department has seen a like for like increase in ways to make sense on a spreadsheet of the complexity andever-surprisingg nature of human beings.

Thirdly, with technology in mind, the first generation of Performance Management modules from our dominant HCM providers unhelpfully automated a process that shouldn’t have been there anyway, thus slowing down the evolution of any new thinking on the subject.

So organisations who get it already are those willing to challenge their prevailing views on what good looks like in dealing with their people, see that the complexity of humans requires a deeper understanding and are utilising modern technology platforms to develop a framework at scale.

A further criticism I would level is that we have overcomplicated many of our legacy approaches to people in business but thankfully this can be overcome. Starting with a view that the process is about shoehorning people into a predetermined number will, as shown, continue to produce toxic outcomes. If we start instead with the premise that creating positive conditions for individuals to connect and for constructive, performance discussions to flourish is a good thing, then overlaying that with technology, such as that on offer at Clear Review, then we will begin to create the right conditions to manage the transition. Focus first on a framework, drive productive conversations that dial up the best in people and the data we historically worry about will naturally flow. Whilst I think we should continue to challenge the need for a ratings-first approach and associated nomenclatures as a productive activity, we can at least start to move forward with a capability that can collate data inside a framework primarily centred on facilitating productive discussions. That is the right way to approach the problem.

Utilising the Clear Review platform allows you to do this, with the added functionality to still give you aggregated outcomes that keep even the most risk-averse Reward professional happy. Want to know more than check them out here.

Until next time. Make the move today from appraisals to a digital framework of continuous performance conversations.


If you haven't already, you can read part 1 here.


Barry Flack is a distinguished global expert in HR and recruitment currently working with a range of organisations and HR Tech vendors in adapting to the changing nature of work.
He brings a 25-year track record in a diverse range of organisations including a hyper growth start-up, high-tech, telecoms, utilities, financial services and most recently in a fashion retail organisation launching in the USA. Outspoken and compelling in his writing, he blogs at and various HR publications, speaks regularly at conferences and is referenced as a thought leader on Talent Acquisition and People matters. Recently appointed faculty lecturer on a prestigious global digital recruitment programme in Madrid.