By, Stuart R. Levine

Published in, Forbes

Are your performance evaluations improving your organizational culture? Do you think evaluation systems really engage people, make them feel heard and help them to grow? An overwhelming number of companies review their people infrequently, usually on an annual basis, and in a way that is not engaging or effective. Yet, engaging employees is crucial, especially with today’s multi-generational, technology driven and app savvy workforce.

Workers today create economic benefits in new, innovative and creative ways. The technological revolution means employees can produce value, and interact with customers and each other, in non-traditional mediums that performance evaluations never contemplated. For decades, under the theory of “you get more of what you measure”, quantifiable metrics have been employed to track how well an individual is achieving stated goals, which were generally tied to the organizational objectives. These historical systems, however, consume management and employee time, often without providing a commensurate payoff. In fact, they can undermine performance as people focus on their ratings, over personal growth and organizational mission.

Instead of a fill-the-form exercise viewed as a burden, there are newer approaches to employee evaluation today that are an opportunity to dramatically move the needle towards a high performing culture of engagement. Traditional appraisal systems have been backward looking, and often focused on what was wrong, usually without giving the employee the needed tools to improve.

Improved feedback systems focus on mentoring, and teach people how to give and receive feedback. The focus is shifting from “managing talent” to creating an optimal culture where talent can thrive. The goal is creating a workforce with independent judgement, high levels of expertise and problem solving skills, the ability to deploy technology and increase collaboration. Furthermore, numerous studies show that once certain levels of compensation are attained, the real motivating factors are feelings of achievement, purpose, and empowerment. Employees need to know they are valued and trusted with the organization’s assets and customers.

When a company commits resources so that all employees have the opportunity to learn and improve, they see that their organization values them and supports their growth. When employees improve their skills, the entire organization will realize the tangible benefits. One of our health insurance clients provides an example. We assisted their leaders with the implementation of a top to bottom educational program to give employees new feedback and coaching tools. People learned how to effectively give and receive feedback, and to become good at coaching and being coached. This high touch learning experience shifted the culture to one that was more constructive and engaged, and prepared the workforce for the rapidly changing business dynamic of health care reform.

Using feedback to inform mentorship and peer-to-peer coaching is crucial. The culture will then reflect that feedback is a positive force for improvement. The coaching embodies the expectation of achievement, and a good coach generates energy, trust, and confidence. When someone is well coached, they improve in competency, confidence, and follow through. A good coach asks questions to help the person envision a future that expands on their present potential.

Organizations need to worry less about tracking and rating, and focus more on inspiring employees to stretch their skills which will shift the corporate culture in a positive direction.