Accenture Canned Annual Reviews — Should You?

As Accenture ditches annual performance reviews, learning leaders in all companies need to be prepared for how such a shift can affect their jobs.

As of September, Accenture will say goodbye to annual performance reviews in favor of continual assessments for 330,000 employees. This switch has proven popular among other large companies like Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. as a way to keep employee retention rates high and increase understanding in the workplace.

In the wake of this policy change, learning executives find innovation and room for change as well as challenges that accompany the lack of structure. For instance, they have to work closely with managers to keep a better pulse on what’s going on at the local level. Manager training and more informed learning leaders can lead to better business and happier employees — the goal of the policy change from the beginning.

Accenture chief human resources officer Ellyn Shook said the firm made this change to prioritize its employees. Shook said she and many of her peers believe this change will improve employee knowledge and allow CLOs to better understand what learning opportunities an organization lacks.

“Our leaders will spend more time coaching and talking with employees,” she said. “Performance achievement provides a holistic view of performance and potential that will inform the talent decisions we make, such as rewards and career progression.”

This shift creates more freedom for employees and a higher level of trust. Instead of adhering to “closed-door rating meetings,” the new continuous review system will feature “frequent coaching conversations,” Shook said. Essentially, managers will transition from talking “about” people to talking “with” people.

Jim Barnett, CEO and co-founder of employee engagement company Glint Inc., said open communication and development opportunities are two key parts of successful engagement. Employee engagement surveys as well as performance reviews are important parts of filling in learning gaps.

Yet Barnett said there are pros and cons to the continuous review system. Learning leaders will face new response times and a different kind of feedback structure. This includes working more closely with managers and paying more attention to employee needs and desires.

“The beauty is they’ll be able to spot trends quicker,” he said. “The challenge is you have to respond quicker. If you’re going to ask people for feedback on a regular basis, you should be prepared to respond to it, too.”

One of learning leaders’ biggest challenge will be staying on their toes so they can anticipate and plan around unexpected results or needs they observe. “We have a generation of millennials who are willing to give that feedback and demand and want that feedback,” Barnett said.

Joan Burke, senior vice president of Marketo, echoed Shook and Barnett as she illustrated the need for informative feedback. “Wouldn’t you rather know the issues and take some actions rather than be blind to it? Feedback is a gift,” she said. “When we withhold it, we are doing disservice to that person because we’re stopping them from reaching their full potential. Bring it on, because it can only help us.”