HR trends in the news – The end of appraisals, and Unlimited Leave
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There’s been some HR trends in the news recently that might be music to both employers and employees’ ears.

First of all, the CEO of Accenture announced the death of the appraisal at his company (employers cheer!), and Netflix has joined the ranks of ‘those companies that offer unlimited leave’ (employees cheer!). Sounds like HR as we know it could be changing before our eyes, no?

Well, to get that question out of the way, perhaps not. Let’s take a look and see why.

The end of the staff appraisal?

So Accenture have heralded the end of the performance review. Time to rip up those pesky appraisal forms, right? They were taking up way too much space in the ol’ personnel file anyway.

But hang on, let’s take a closer look at what Accenture is doing. It’s not really the end of the performance review completely, rather the end of the appraisal as we know it. Instead of gathering staff once a year to discuss their performance, the team at Accenture is going to have more regular meetings with their staff to discuss how things are going.

I mean, think about it; as mentioned on HR Zone, the idea of only checking in on an employee’s performance once every year or so is ‘absurd’. Only doing it annually can waste a great deal of time, not just filing away all that annoying paperwork, but ensuring that you cover all the agreed goals too – and then try to remember what they are throughout the year!

This HR trend follows on from the concept usually seen more recently in the public sector, where 1-2-1 reviews are held on a much more regular basis.

So, how should small businesses manage performance?

Whilst an annual, or just periodic, appraisal might seem like a great way for small businesses to manage their staff performance when they have very little time on their hands (and if you want to know how to manage them, see our guide here); taking the time to manage, or at least take note of, your employees’ engagement with the business regularly can be a real benefit.

Also, when you’re in a small business, the amount of travelling you need to do to speak to staff is (usually) much smaller – so the regular 1-2-1 meeting might actually work better for you.

Is it the end of appraisals though? No not really, it’s probably a good idea to have them in place in order to review past performance, recognise achievements, deal with any issues arising and revise or  set new goals for a certain period. However, letting employees know how they’re getting on more regularly is important. As the CEO of Accenture said “People want to know…am I doing all right? Nobody’s going to wait for an annual cycle to get that feedback”.

Unlimited leave – another gimmicky HR trend?

We’ve seen extended parental leave before, and unlimited holiday, but Netflix has recently introduced unlimited parental leave for their employees too. Is this trend for unlimited leave just a gimmick though?

It might just be the case, as according to information on Netflix’s leave policy, workers must first approve anything over 30 days with HR, and also must liaise with managers throughout their absence to ensure work goes smoothly; so it’s not quite as straightforward as it might appear at first glance.

If employees are expected to liaise with managers throughout their leave, can it really be counted as ‘time off’?

Can this HR trend work for small businesses?

Is unlimited leave a package only the largest of companies can really afford? We’ve been through this previously, but it’s worth re-iterating here.

It might be the case, but if you have a workforce that you really trust, it might be the way to encourage them to stay with you in the future. After all, as we’ve mentioned previously, other than the obvious benefit of having more time off staff will feel much more respected when you trust them to take as much leave as they want while still getting their work done. This improved work-life balance is sure to mean they’ll feel more engaged with the company.

However, there are a couple of things you might want to think about too. First off is the lack of disconnect between home and the office. With no clear division as to when they’re expected in and when they aren’t, employees might start to take their work home with them – in fact potentially damaging the work-life balance you’re trying to provide. As shown with the Netflix example above, what might appear to be time off, might not exactly be so care-free.

Next, you’ll need to take more time to train them in their responsibilities, as you will lose a bit of control as to how they work for you. For example, they must understand when they can take time off, and you’ll need to help them understand how their time off will affect the business too. Therefore, you will likely want to invest energy in communicating more effectively with staff what your business goals are, should you not be doing this already, as well as communicating very clearly to all staff about the purpose and details of any change in your policy on taking leave.

Finally, is it really much of a benefit for employees too? This article from Vox presents a strong case against, citing decision paralysis when confronted with that much holiday, and the fact that staff might become too concerned about how much leave they are expected to take, rather than just taking what is rightfully theirs.

So it might not be the end of HR as we know it, but just another couple of new HR trends that are bucking the traditional approach. Will they stick? We can’t tell at the minute, but all we can say is that ditching the standard approach to annual appraisals might be more realistic than giving unlimited holiday for small business at the moment… Especially when in the UK we offer statutory holiday as standard – something you don’t find in the US.

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