Before office dinosaurs ruled the business world, managers interviewed and hired employees based on who they thought would perform best in the job. They also had the freedom to fire those who weren’t performing and to give raises as they saw fit based on performance. As the company grew, HR departments started helping managers with the hiring and firing process. In theory, it all made sense and usually worked well. HR professionals were trained at screening candidates, following applicable laws, and describing corporate benefit plans. Managers even liked that some of the tedious process of interviewing was no longer on their plate.
Even more formidable than the dreaded Vendor-Consoliraptor, this fearsome Hiringasaurus-Rex gained more size and power, causing many managers to lose control of the process of hiring and firing employees in their departments. Soon, this huge office predator was the hardest to kill of all office dinosaurs.
At a large company, a typical hiring manager only gets to interview candidates that HR approves, must pay the candidate a salary based on HR-approved compensation plans, and then must measure the employee based on the HR annual review process (more on that later). To make it worse, the hiring manager no longer has much authority on firing, often having to stick to rigid HR documentation processes. In an environment of rapid technical change, it is easy to see how these legacy processes will kill any real innovation.
Budgets are nearly always annual, so some clever manager years ago decided that raises should be annual as well. Consequently, if pay was only going to change once per year, then it must have made sense to review employee performance once per year also. Several years ago, it was typical for software development cycles to be based on annual releases. At the time, the pace of change was slow enough for this to be acceptable, and measuring success of development teams on an annual basis matched software releases and budgets.
Today, Agile software development is the new trend. Large development projects are broken into several sprints. This iterative process allows for a measurable deliverable every couple of weeks. It seems obvious that a programmer could and should be reviewed, hired, or fired on a much more frequent basis than Hiringasaurus-Rex would possibly allow.
Software development is not the only field in which projects are now measured much faster – just look at what has happened with marketing. Today, web page statistics, social media analytics, and email click-through metrics allow for nearly instant feedback. But again, with marketing personnel being reviewed annually, it doesn’t seem to match the requirements of the job.
My suggestions for taming this office dinosaur are as follows:
- Develop a review system that can be iterative, based on performance of key projects, sprints, or product releases.
- Use 25-50% contractors for any roles with fast-changing requirements and/or for jobs that should be measured in days rather than years: IT, Marketing, etc.
- Work with HR departments to better align hiring, firing, and review processes with the business. Providing more flexible job descriptions, pay rates, and review schedules would be a great start.
- Kill the annual review process entirely for jobs that no longer make sense to review annually.
- Change compensation plans for these jobs to include bonus compensation that can be earned frequently during the year.
- Where it makes sense, build performance metrics by which each employee can be measured. Work with HR ahead of time to build in faster methods to weed out non-performers based on your metrics.
Hiringasaurus-Rex ruled for decades, but the new pace of innovation will quickly make these old HR policies obsolete – or the companies who keep them extinct. Good luck killing your beast.