Another update from the Jungle…
Annual performance reviews often cause a spike in anxiety and disgruntlement. No one likes completing the forms and few enjoy the results. Worse is that annual reviews provide only a once-a-year snapshot of an employee’s performance. Instead of the annual forms, grading employees on a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, consider switching to a process of constant feedback.
Constant feedback is not a new idea. One of my favorite practitioners of this method was General Robert T. Frederick. In World War II he commanded a joint U.S.-Canadian unit called the First Special Service Force (the Force) which fought in North Africa and Italy.
General Frederick set high standards of performance because the Force was an experiment in unconventional warfare. To ensure that his standards were met, he provided constant feedback to his officers and men. In 1944 while fighting in Italy he developed a unique method for assessing their performance.
Before a battle, General Frederick would meet with his officers to review the plan of attack. After the meeting, General Frederick would leave the Allied line and infiltrate the ground to be attacked. From this vantage point, he would observe his troops as they attacked the enemy.
After the battle ended, General Frederick would rejoin his men for a debriefing. That’s when his subordinates received their performance reviews. Any officer not leading from the front could expect an unfavorable review. Any officer or enlisted man who showed initiative during the attack could expect to earn a commendation and often a recommendation for a bravery medal.
Of course, no one needs to go to war to emulate the feedback method practiced by General Frederick. Consider switching from the annual performance review to providing constant feedback that is tied to particular projects or activities at your company. Better informed employees will be more effective in meeting the company’s goals.
If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented. For more information on the management style of General Frederick (and the escapades of the Force), look at The Devil’s Brigade, by Robert H. Adleman and George Walton (1969) or The Black Devil Brigade, by Joseph A. Springer (2001).
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