The New 'Performance Matters' Program

By Jan Becker, SVP-Human Resources, Autodesk

Every year, Autodesk conducts an employee engagement survey with our 7000+ employees. We’re extremely fortunate at Autodesk in that we have consistently had participation rates of 93-94 percent in each year of the ten years that we’ve been doing the survey. Our overall employee engagement scores and our management effectiveness scores have come in at about the 75th percentile (as compared to the benchmark companies we compare ourselves against).So we feel we have strong engagement overall.

But the responses and scores are just the beginning of the process. Each year, every team reviews their results and puts in place action plans based on the priorities that emerge. 

At the executive level, we use the data to make a number of decisions to help develop and refine strategy and programs. The survey is a comprehensive, highly quantitative tool that gives HR the data and credibility needed to support making the case for change: whether in addressing specific leadership issues, whole new programs or the company’s culture. For example, when we are considering promoting a manager to the Director level, we will look at that manager’s effectiveness scores in the survey as part of determining if they are ready for the promotion.

Performance Management

A second program I’d like to touch on is an area that every HR organization seems to struggle with: Performance Management.
A few years ago, our performance management process featured a formal rating and ranking system and written annual performance reviews. It was a traditional approach. In many cases, the review was the one real opportunity that employees had for performance feedback.

Through the employee engagement survey managers and employees expressed a ton of frustration with the process. They wanted a less “punitive” approach; one that would feel more inspiring. At the same time, our business environment was rapidly changing and we needed more agile and nimble processes in a number of areas in order to compete effectively.

So in 2012 our HR team developed a brand new Performance Management approach. The new “Performance Matters” program encourages employees to own the process and take initiative in getting performance feedback to better understand how they are viewed and where they can grow.

Rating and rankings and formal reviews were eliminated. In that place, we now use a “9 box performance grid”. The grid helps managers assess how well the employee accomplished his/her goals as well as how they were achieved. Managers use the grid to determine where employees need to grow, to calibrate employees across teams and organizations, and in determining merit and bonus awards. 

Written reviews have also been eliminated. Instead we encourage managers and employees to hold regular performance conversations, with a focus on the employee’s development and goals. 

We’re now two years in to the new process and I am thrilled to see how well it is working. Managers and employees don’t miss the former rigid rating scale and written reviews. They feel more ownership for the performance management process. And the focus on ongoing conversations between employees and managers has led to increased dialogue, better quality conversations on employee development and efficacy in handling performance issues. 

We still have work to do to ensure that managers and employees fully understand their role in the new process, Constructive feedback is difficult for some people, but I feel we’re on the right road to making our Performance Management process feel more positive, less punitive and more employee-led.

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