Annual performance reviews a good idea?

Way back in 1966 – the only time the English football team has properly passed a performance review – The Frost Report ran a sketch that skewered the British obsession with class. Arranging John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett by size is funny enough (Corbett is barely half the height of Cleese) but it soon emerges that they’re also arranged by social status. Some of the famous lines, which are almost a national institution in themselves, run:

Barker [the man in the middle]: ‘I look up to him because he is upper class, but I look down on him because he is lower class.’

Corbett [the small man]: ‘I know my place.’

It was this skit that came to mind when news broke that Accenture is following Deloitte in axing annual performance reviews. In the Source hivemind, as various staff reminisced about past reviews, it was swiftly recast with consultants:

“I look up to him because he is a five, but I look down on him because he is a three.”

“I know my place”

But now, the sadness is that consultants – or at least those who work for Accenture and Deloitte – won’t know their precise place in the pecking order.

It’s no secret that consultants like measuring things, so we’re concerned that there’ll be plenty who’ll miss a more quantitative approach to the annual performance review.

We’ve all encountered those who, without even so much as a humblebrag, manage to work in just how highly they’ve been rated in the last round of reviews. These are the sort of people who fear that a softer touch might indulge delusions of adequacy among their inferiors.

There’s a certain irony – lost on no one – that firms which have spent years pushing their clients towards metrics and break-downs are now thinking that perhaps this century (some fifteen years in) requires a new approach. It’s even more striking after revelations about exacting workplace barbarism at Amazon which, if the alleged [our legal team would like very much to stress alleged] exposé proves true, would show a rather different side to 21st century, big company HR. And while most readers thank their lucky stars that they don’t work in an environment like that, perhaps consultants feeling underevaluated will start priming themselves to jump ship.

So how can consulting firms keep their hypercompetitive alphas happy? Handing out fitness trackers and publishing real-time rankings of the average stairs climbed or the longest time without leaving the building? Maybe those of a more masochistic bent would like to really feel the burn and know how many school plays and date nights they’ve missed.

Or perhaps, given that numerical rankings are pretty reminiscent of a lads’ night out, managers should stop pretending, learn from the success of services like Tinder, and make swiping right their next move.