Superficial, inflexible, too formal… Annual evaluation interviews, born in the United States in the 1980s, have a bad reputation. Adobe, General Electric and L’Oréal have already done away with them. Consultant Charles-Henri Besseyre des Horts shares some ideas about how to reinvent these manager-employee exchanges in our rapidly digitalizing era.

Encourage frequent meetings

At its inception, the annual interview was designed to fairly evaluate each employee’s performance and contribution.  Employees, however, often feel they are being treated unfairly, since their opinions are rarely heard. Today’s companies need to conform to the three guiding principles of the new generation: adaptation, agility, rapidity. The annual interview, then, is really no more than a snapshot of a moment in time. Setting up exchanges “on demand” will help employees feel more valued. The result: both their confidence and their performance will be enhanced.

Have meaningful conversations

Whether they occur every month or three times a year, more frequent interviews are the key to successful communications. On a practical level, these exchanges are a way to take stock of current projects and adapt the company’s goals to existing circumstances. As a result, they allow bosses to put a more flexible and more efficient management style into practice. Finally, when conversations are less formal, employees will feel freer to express their opinions, honestly assess their own performance, or explain why a particular objective has not been met. Such discussions will encourage them to take on more responsibility and to be more autonomous. As for managers, they will focus less on giving orders and instead will be involved in a more participatory process.

Connect with employees online…

Goodbye convoluted intranet exchanges! The Internet is the perfect mechanism for personalizing human-resources services. Several programs are available to help employees prepare for their interviews: Oracle Resource Manager, HR Access, Segid RH… In addition, employees can fill out their vacation forms directly on their mobile phones, pay their taxes with just a click, and participate actively in the life of their company. Some groups, like the auditing and consultancy firm Mazars, have already implemented the latest systems. Since January 2018, the firm, which has 3,300 salaried personnel, has enabled direct feedback through a digital tool that receives and sends comments between managers and employees. This is a real step forward, but it has its limits, because nothing can really replace face-to-face communications.

… but not just online!

Even though computer software and artificial intelligence facilitate exchanges within a company, they remain “necessary, but insufficient”. In-person meetings between a manager and an employee are still essential if a company is to operate smoothly. A question about a pay slip should be discussed, and not left up to an algorithm. Ultimately, eliminating annual interviews and replacing them with more flexible communications will reinforce the roles of human resources and the director of human resources, the real creators and leaders of this evolution.

Charles-Henri Besseyre des Horts livre des pistes pour réinventer ce temps d’échange avec les collaborateurs dans un monde en pleine révolution digitale.

Charles-Henri Besseyre des Horts
Emeritus professor in the management and human-resources department of HEC, he created the part-time Executive Specialized Masters program in human resources, designed for managers as well as heads of companies. He is also president of the French Human Resources Management Association (AGRH).

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