Divergence?

As (it sometimes feels) often happens, this morning I found myself reading two articles on the same subject, each commenting on seemingly opposite trends.

Over breakfast I was browsing the latest issue of the Economist, when I stumbled upon this article, which uses the recent revelations at Amazon to question whether we are seeing the revival of “Taylorist” scientific management theories, whereby tasks are subdivided and simplified, staff productivity is measured and compared, and pay (and the question of whether you keep your job) is directly linked to measured performance relative to your peers.

Soon after arriving at my office I saw a tweet from Kate at Artemis Clarke linking to an article in the Washington Post on how Accenture are abolishing their time-consuming and comprehensive annual appraisal and ranking process in favour of a more fluid, real-time system that aims to look at each employee in their own right rather than against their peers across the world.

Two leading companies steering vastly different courses.

This obvious contrast raises some really interesting questions. There is no single ‘best’ approach to performance management, but what is driving such divergence?

Many factors spring to mind that could be an influence...the degree to which tasks can be automated (or could be in the future?), how easy it is to replace lost staff, training investment per employee, value created per customer transaction, whether or not staff are directly revenue-earning, product versus service business models, or whether a business is driven by data or a has a more customer-facing model?

It will be fascinating to watch this area over time, to see the effect of technology, digital products, online services and new business models have on the relationship between company and employee.

What is most important however, in any management model, is that employees are treated as people first. The WorldBlu principles for a freedom-centered workplace are a good place to start.