How does your annual review change your working habits? This is the thought behind this article, and NETFLIX set out to save time and uncomfortable situations. I think they did it, and it makes sense. Enjoy this part of the article, below. Remember, you can access the complete original article here.
Look at how this vocabulary is used, can you make sentences with it, or use parts of the sentences for yourself?
- To measure performance
- to get rid of someone
- Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs)
- To figure out how
- Why bother?
- play out
- consistently rewarded for being great at her job
- skills no longer apply
- severance package
- People were asked to identify things that colleagues should stop, start, or continue
What do you think about eliminating PIPs in your company, as HR?
What would you think of having informal 360 reviews, as an employee?
How Netflix reinvented HR, bit by bit. PART TWO.
Tell the Truth About Performance
Many years ago we eliminated formal reviews. We had held them for a while but came to realize they didn’t make sense—they were too ritualistic and too infrequent. So we asked managers and employees to have conversations about performance as an organic part of their work. In many functions—sales, engineering, product development—it’s fairly obvious how well people are doing. (As companies develop better analytics to measure performance, this becomes even truer.) Building a bureaucracy and elaborate rituals around measuring performance usually doesn’t improve it.
Traditional corporate performance reviews are driven largely by fear of litigation. The theory is that if you want to get rid of someone, you need a paper trail documenting a history of poor achievement. At many companies, low performers are placed on “Performance Improvement Plans.” I detest PIPs. I think they’re fundamentally dishonest: They never accomplish what their name implies.
One Netflix manager requested a PIP for a quality assurance engineer named Maria, who had been hired to help develop our streaming service. The technology was new, and it was evolving very quickly. Maria’s job was to find bugs. She was fast, intuitive, and hardworking. But in time we figured out how to automate the QA tests. Maria didn’t like automation and wasn’t particularly good at it. Her new boss (brought in to create a world-class automation tools team) told me he wanted to start a PIP with her.
I replied, “Why bother? We know how this will play out. You’ll write up objectives and deliverables for her to achieve, which she can’t, because she lacks the skills. Every Wednesday you’ll take time away from your real work to discuss (and document) her shortcomings. You won’t sleep on Tuesday nights, because you’ll know it will be an awful meeting, and the same will be true for her. After a few weeks there will be tears. This will go on for three months. The entire team will know. And at the end you’ll fire her. None of this will make any sense to her, because for five years she’s been consistently rewarded for being great at her job—a job that basically doesn’t exist anymore. Tell me again how Netflix benefits?
“Instead, let’s just tell the truth: Technology has changed, the company has changed, and Maria’s skills no longer apply. This won’t be a surprise to her: She’s been in the trenches, watching the work around her shift. Give her a great severance package—which, when she signs the documents, will dramatically reduce (if not eliminate) the chance of a lawsuit.” In my experience, people can handle anything as long as they’re told the truth—and this proved to be the case with Maria.
When we stopped doing formal performance reviews, we instituted informal 360-degree reviews. We kept them fairly simple: People were asked to identify things that colleagues should stop, start, or continue. In the beginning we used an anonymous software system, but over time we shifted to signed feedback, and many teams held their 360s face-to-face.
HR people can’t believe that a company the size of Netflix doesn’t hold annual reviews. “Are you making this up just to upset us?” they ask. I’m not. If you talk simply and honestly about performance on a regular basis, you can get good results—probably better ones than a company that grades everyone on a five-point scale.