What could replace staff appraisals?

Is the staff appraisal about to join the fax machine in corporate extinction?
It’s possible.
The appraisal has always been a source of frustration or mirth. As one employee said: ‘My old manager would ask me to write my own appraisal for him to sign.’
Unsurprisingly, his approval rating tended to be outstanding.
I had a different but equally meaningless experience in a supermarket. My entire year on the shop floor was dealt with in three minutes. The assistant manager – trying to ‘get through’ everyone that morning – accepted my box-ticking scores, adding only an entirely random ‘area for improvement’.
He apologised for this. It was made up but he said he had to do it, to ensure the data collection was complete.
The data gathered from this brief three minutes had little relationship with the truth. So what had been achieved?
But change is in the air. As Lucy Tobin reports in the Evening Standard, both Accenture and Deloitte have given up on their appraisal systems. Pierre Nanterme, the former boss of Accenture, said: ‘We are not sure spending all that time in performance management has been yielding such a great outcome.’
The sense of understatement is overwhelming.
There can be value in a formal evaluation process. They can protect staff from discrimination and firms from unfair lawsuits.
But, as Tobin points out, they’re a subjective process masquerading as an objective one. ‘Steve regularly buys his boss a drink at the local, flies through his appraisal, gets promoted. Rob’s doing so much work his boss looks lazy. So he gets a warning for something woolly and – the office establishment hopes – starts looking for a new job.’
So businesses are now thinking again – pondering alternative productivity-rating methods of evaluation through data.
But, Tobin suggests, might it not be time for companies to walk away from it all; to leave behind the annual appraisal system and its siblings, the annual performance review and the individual assessment.
Do we in fact invent these systems because the only alternative is the terrifying thought of actually getting to know our staff?
When it comes to understanding our staff, for instance, how about forgetting the data – and talking with them? It’s called relationship.
This is what the emotionally-intelligent manager does.
Less boxes ticked – but more understanding gained.