‘Frankensystems’ are killing your performance review process

According to Rippling's SVP of people & talent acquisition, Darcy Mackay, 'Frankensystems' are killing managers' ability to conduct proper performance reviews - and they need getting rid of:

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Jun 12, 2024

Imagine the scene.

You’re a manager sitting down to do Jack’s annual performance review.

Last year you promised yourself it would be the last year you’d do it manually. But here you are again, starting from scratch.

And now, you’ve already hit your first stumbling block. You don’t remember where you saved Jack’s self-review, and you forgot to ask his peers and direct reports for feedback. So you’ll just email them now and get all their feedback in one place later.

Did Jack meet his sales targets? Let’s check the spreadsheet. You should benchmark this against last year’s targets.

Who was his old manager?

And where did you save this year’s goals?

If you had this all data accessible you could figure out if he’s due for a promotion.

When did we last adjust his compensation?

What’s the market rate for his position now?

Do we even have the budget to give him a raise?

The familiar signs of failure

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, for many this will.

Once or twice a year, HR departments go into an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ state, as they try to figure out how employees are measuring up.

Then after all this stress, it’s radio silence until the next round.

During the quiet time, the heavy lift of maintaining high performance rests on the shoulders of managers who often lack the resources to effectively develop their teams year-round. As 81% of HR leaders report, their performance management strategy isn’t effective.

But ineffective managers aren’t the only villains in the annual performance review saga.

It’s also the technology they’re forced to use to track their team’s progress – tools that are part of a fragmented performance management tech stack that I like to call a “Frankensystem.”

Born from the unchecked sprawl of SaaS solutions, these fractured monstrosities make it impossible to bring together all the data that shows how employees are really performing.

Frankensystems tend to resemble point solutions pieced together in a ragged web of human capital management apps or off-the-shelf “all-in-one” tools with shallow functionality, inadequate automation, and incomplete integration.

Whether managers are dealing with performance review point solutions or all-in-one Frankensystems, the pain points are the same: disconnected data streams, permissioning nightmares, and a myopic focus on annual reviews that overshadows ongoing performance management.

The result is a fragmented view of employee performance that leaves companies scratching their heads and creates a ton of work for managers just trying their best to develop talent.

What has to change?

But if sporadic check-ins and imprecise ratings don’t turn people into a star employees, what will?

I argue it’s a culture of data-driven, strategic talent development – one that’s steeped in continuous feedback from an employee’s first interview to their last day.

Companies aiming to cultivate always-on talent improvement need to ditch their Frankensystems so they can focus on what really matters: growing talent in real-time with continuous feedback, aligning skills with strategy, and making informed decisions that propel their businesses forward.

Here’s how to slay the Frankensystem once and for all and create a responsive, modern, and fully-integrated performance management system:

Provide role-specific access to review cycles and performance data

Frankensystems make it complicated to set permissions that allow for the right privacy and access to insights. In the era of modern performance management, managers and leaders should have access to the performance data they need without compromising security.

To achieve this, work toward implementing granular permission settings based on role, department, or seniority level, ensuring leaders can view necessary data while protecting sensitive information.

For example, Jack’s indirect manager may want to review his sales performance to see how it compares with his peers, but shouldn’t have access to Jack’s compensation history.

Granular permission setting might involve delegating review cycles to specific business partners and leaders, limiting manager access to sensitive data, and enabling collaborative review drafting to eliminate unnecessary back-and-forth.

Implement continuous feedback cycles

To expand beyond one annual review, companies need to begin integrating continuous feedback mechanisms into their daily operations.

This shift in mindset will allow managers and people leaders to drive always-on performance conversations, strategically align employee skills with business goals, and make smarter decisions about which team members need support, a promotion, or an offboarding strategy.

Implementing continuous feedback cycles requires setting up automated workflows for regular performance reviews across the organization, including quarterly cycles and specific milestones – like Jack’s first 90 days, major project completions, or management anniversaries.

Analyze performance data to drive talent strategy decisions

Leaders need to be able to connect the dots between an individual’s performance and broader talent initiatives. For example, the VP of sales will want to track Jack’s sales numbers, customer satisfaction scores, and project timelines to see how they’re contributing to revenue targets.

A modern performance management system enables leaders to analyze and understand deeper trends in their recruiting, onboarding, and ongoing engagement strategies.

This may involve integrating performance data with other employee data, like compensation and tenure, to identify patterns that correlate with high performance.

It may also give managers the ability to filter and sort data (including historical performance data), to see the impact of various factors on employee performance.

To maximize talent effectiveness, look across the entire employee lifecycle

If your still managers spend most of their time on the administrative side of initiating review cycles, tracking down scattered employee data, and struggling to run the reports they need to address talent issues proactively, a Frankensystem might be to blame.

Beyond the mountain of admin work they create for managers, Frankensystems can also cause more permanent damage.

Ultimately, they can seriously impair the health of the organization’s talent and employee engagement strategies.

Remember. Performance management challenges can’t be separated from the broader employee lifecycle. They often hint at deeper issues, such as outdated recruitment tactics or ineffective manager training.

If it’s not easy for managers to spot issues proactively during their reviews, how can they take action in time?

A holistic performance management strategy that spans recruiting, onboarding, and retention is key to developing and retaining a robust talent pool.

Addressing talent effectiveness requires a full view across the entire employee lifecycle.

We can’t fix performance problems without revisiting our recruitment or management strategies.

Without a comprehensive performance management system we can’t hope to retain top talent without understanding our teams’ experiences – from career development to compensation adjustments – as a cohesive whole.