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"At Accenture, we're on a journey to revolutionize how we help our people be their best. And, it involves moving performance "management" backstage and bringing performance "achievement" center stage. We're building on what we do best - which is to grow and develop our people." Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture, in HuffPost.
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Living up to the 'Let there be change' motto on their website, Accenture, a leading global professional services company, has been at the forefront of redefining performance reviews and feedback within the corporate landscape.
Their approach combines innovation, technology, and a deep understanding of the modern workforce.
Let's explore how Accenture has transformed the traditional performance review process into a more dynamic, continuous, and holistic system.
By mid-2023, Accenture had 733.000 employees. This headcount is massive for any company to conduct an annual performance review process wherein all the employees are ranked and evaluated compared to other employees.
Not only that, rankings and comparisons create a negative mindset among the people in your company.
So Accenture switched to a new approach based on real-time, frequent, forward-looking coaching discussions that help employees:
Accenture moved from the traditional annual review system to a more fluid and ongoing feedback mechanism.
This shift came from a critical realization: the closed-door reviews, where the employees are ranked and compared with other employees, are far less productive than meetings in which the employees receive timely feedback based on their skills and performance in critical projects.
So rather than feeding their employees with a buffet of feedback on their performance once a year, most of which would be outdated and irrelevant, Accenture encourages people to snack on bite-sized relevant feedback on their immediate projects.
"We'll eliminate the traditional closed-door ratings meeting where we talk ABOUT people. Instead, we'll talk WITH people in frequent coaching conversations. The rhythm of these discussions will be set by our people. It's highly individualized, and we know some people may desire more frequent touchpoints than others." Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture, in HuffPost.
The employees decide the frequency of these meetings, as some may want more frequent interactions. In contrast, others may wish to have less frequent interactions.
The stakeholders involved in this exercise are both the employees and their managers, at a mutually decided upon frequency.
"Performance is an ongoing activity. It's every day, after any client interaction or business interaction or corporate interaction. It's much more fluid. People want to know on an ongoing basis, am I doing right? Am I moving in the right direction? Do you think I'm progressing? Nobody's going to wait for an annual cycle to get that feedback. Now it's all about instant performance management." Pierre Nanterme, former CEO at Accenture, in an interview with The Washington Post.
Accenture's new performance review and feedback approach underscores a commitment to employee growth, adaptability to change, and a forward-thinking mindset.
Rather than retrospecting on their performance, the people should engage in future-focused conversations about how to upgrade their skills and grow as individuals in the company.
Discussions often revolve around skill development, learning opportunities, and career progression.
"Replacing traditional appraisal reviews with frequent, high-quality feedback and forward-looking career discussions for each individual will yield better outcomes for our people and for the business. [...] We are incredibly energized and excited by this change. Our organization has been uplifted. It's a real revolution." Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture, in an interview with hrSpectrum.
The idea is for plenty of support and guidance to be provided to employees so that they are not caught off guard at the time of compensation meetings.
In turn, this approach helps in building a high-performance culture.
Recognizing that each employee's career path and goals are unique, Accenture tailors performance objectives to individual roles and aspirations. This personalized approach ensures that evaluations are relevant and meaningful to each employee.
But they also make sure to align these goals with the business priorities to contribute substantially to the company's growth.
Hence, throughout the year, the people discuss their priorities and the company's expectations with their supervisors as frequently as possible.
The frequent interactions keep the managers and their direct reports on the same page and avoid any surprises at the time of reviews.
The stakeholders involved in this exercise are both the employees and their managers, at a mutually decided upon frequency.
"Performance management is extraordinarily important to get people to their very best. Do you feel good in your role? If yes, that's the perfect time for you to experiment with something new, to get out of your comfort zone." Pierre Nanterme, former CEO at Accenture, in an interview with The Washington Post.
Previously, the process consisted of peer group comparisons and forced rankings according to a bell curve.
"The difference between the earlier and present system is that employees are not compared against each other, and there is no cap on the number of people who can fall within a particular segment, which gives a more fair chance to every employee to prove themselves and get better feedback." Ananya Saikia, Former Application Development Associate at Accenture, via Quora.
Accenture has eliminated the process of ranking its employees. So the natural question is, how do they decide the compensation of the employees without any performance scores?
Accenture bases rewards and promotions on each individual's skills, role, and contributions.
There are three outcomes of compensation conversations ("annual talent discussions"):
The compensation is proportional to each employee's progress instead of a forced ranking system and comparison with peers worldwide.
Since leaders are closest to their employees and know their work best, they are involved in the compensation reviews.
If an individual lacks the right skills, there is time to guide the employee in the right direction by giving suggestions to learn and grow through training or help them take up a new role.
Sometimes, it can involve a bold conversation or decision if the performance is consistently poor and the required skills are missing. It's all about transparency and eliminating surprises.
"We recognize our people throughout the year for who they are, what makes them unique, and the valuable contributions they make through their work." Accenture, 360° Value Report 2023.
Accenture offers a social recognition tool people can use to recognize and express gratitude to their colleagues "for a job well done, a meaningful collaboration, or simply displaying grace under pressure."
Accenture reports that in 2023, an average of seven recognition moments every minute were enabled.
According to Accenture employee Siddharth Keswani, an Application Development Manager at Accenture, "Anybody can mention their colleague in the internal software for their contribution to helping an employee complete a project successfully. Accenture truly values peer collaboration and continuous circular feedback."
Earlier, Accenture followed the traditional rating and annual reviews in a less digital and global environment.
However, their internal research and research by outside companies indicated that the yearly performance review process could not accomplish the primary goal of improving the performance of the employees.
"But all this terminology of rankings—forcing rankings along some distribution curve or whatever—we're done with that. [...] The process is too heavy, too costly for the outcome. And the outcome is not great." Pierre Nanterme, former CEO at Accenture, in an interview with The Washington Post.
So Accenture decided to spend their time, money, and efforts in the right way to improve the employees' performance, and they eliminated the annual reviews.
They built internal software and started tracking more frequent meetings between the managers and employees.
Here are the top 3 reasons why Accenture changed their old rating-based annual performance review system to a more tech-based performance review system, which encourages more frequent feedback:
The heavy time investment was a byproduct of the earlier review system. Encouraging managers to conduct frequent feedback sessions saved much time reviewing each employee's performance throughout the year.
"When we hire great people, we should trust them and give them the freedom to innovate - rather than managing, measuring, and administering a process. Investing significant time in annual, backward-looking performance appraisals and figuring out the holy grail of forced rankings simply don't yield the best outcomes for our people and our business." Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture.
The Millennials and Gen Z in the workforce don't prefer cumbersome review processes. Instead, they prefer fast-paced and relevant feedback on the recent projects they have worked on.
"And for the millennium generation, it's not the way they want to be recognized, the way they want to be measured. If you put this new generation in the box of the performance management we've used for the last 30 years, you lose them. We're done with the famous annual performance review, where once a year, I'm going to share with you what I think about you. That doesn't make any sense." Pierre Nanterme, former CEO at Accenture, in an interview with The Washington Post.
When redesigning the performance management system, it became clear that the company would need one system that everyone could use, no matter where they are in the world.
The Human Resources department at Accenture turned to technology and collaborated with Accenture's global IT organization called 'Fjord.'
"[Our] need was to introduce a single consistent tool that could be used across all geographical units and would be globally relevant." Accenture, Reimagining performance achievement.
So, their internal IT team created Performance Achievement, a cloud-first solution:
"IT delivered on the organizational imperative—a people-at-the-center application that focuses on where we need to take our people rather than where they have been and a design aimed at elevating performance as we grow rather than measuring it in the past." Holly Oberman, Performance Operations Global Lead at Accenture on Performance Achievement.
At Accenture, instead of waiting until the end of the year for a review, employees receive feedback in chunks frequently on the most recent work done.
As a result, the input is neither overwhelming nor feels outdated.
Accenture doesn't believe in grading employees along a curve and comparing them with their peers like a school ranking system. Research indicates that the grading system can be highly demoralizing.
"We're going to evaluate you in your role, not vis à vis someone else who might work in Washington, who might work in Bangalore. It's irrelevant. It should be about you." Pierre Nanterme, former CEO at Accenture, in an interview with The Washington Post.
Performance reviews at Accenture are not just about assessing past work but are heavily geared toward future skill and career development.
By encouraging a culture that views challenges as opportunities for growth, Accenture creates an environment where employees are not afraid to take risks and innovate.
Mentors and managers help employees identify meaningful development opportunities and actions to support their career growth.
Employees are empowered to share their career interests, and the managers help align these interests with company priorities.
Accenture evaluated the ROI of its old systems. While digitizing the entire review system by building internal software would have a high one-time cost, the return on investment would be more significant.
Decreased productivity, lower employee morale, and heavy time investments were all byproducts of the old performance review system, and a drastic change was needed. Hence, they designed an internal software that gave them higher returns in the long run by improving the performance of the employees.
"When we look at our return on investment, we not only focus on our return to shareholders or return to reinvest back into our business - but also on the return to our people. Putting our people at the center and helping them to achieve their best is part of our talent-led DNA." Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture, in HuffPost.
91% of global respondents in the Accenture Conduct Counts survey believe they can work to their potential because they are in an environment where they are treated with respect and in an appropriate manner. Accenture, 360° Value Report 2023.
Recognizing the impact of mental health on performance, Accenture offers ample resources for their people:
Zavvy lets you run a performance review process like Accenture.
The process is simple. Here is a step-by-step breakdown.
Accenture focuses a lot on aligning individual priorities to business goals.
With the goals feature on Zavvy, you can promote transparency and ensure employee alignment is in line with business expectations.
You can define parent goals and sub-goals, set goal visibility, define progress update methods, and much more.
You can easily replicate Accenture's frequent check-in ritual using Zavvy's 1:1 software.
Zavvy lets you replicate Accenture's super flexible check-ins, wherein it's up to the manager and their direct reports to decide on the recurrence, agenda, and talking points.
Managers can set the frequency, day, and recurring questions and agenda for their 1:1 cadence.
Pressing questions like "recent achievements," "radical honesty," and "priorities for next week" can be added to the agenda.
Managers can define multiple types of check-ins with their people: growth conversations, informal performance check-ins, goal alignment conversations, etc.
Skills and competencies are key pillars for performance evaluations at Accenture.
With Zavvy's career paths, you can define competency models and expectations for every role and level in your organization.
The best part about this feature is that it seamlessly integrates with performance evaluations and check-ins.
During check-ins, the competency model appears in a context panel for more focused conversations.
When setting up feedback and performance appraisal forms, you can tick off the competencies your reviewers need to evaluate. You can enable questions for every single competency included in your models.
Combining technology with research rooted in the best people management practices, Zavvy can improve performance outcomes across leading organizations worldwide.
📅 Book a free 30-minute demo to see how to craft the best performance review system that enhances your organization's productivity.