Performance, Hiring Explored at HR Summit

The topics—along with top companies—were front and center at the HR Summit & Expo Asia 2018.
By: | May 11, 2018 • 5 min read
HP and eliminating performance ratings

Since HP Inc. split from its enterprise arm in late 2015, the maker of PCs and printers has gone from strength to strength. It is now the top maker of PCs by global market share. And it involved one somewhat radical step—namely, abolishing performance ratings.

That’s according to Nicolina Marzicola, regional head of HR for HP in Asia-Pacific and Japan, who spoke about this and the organization’s new “intentional people strategy” at the HR Summit & Expo Asia 2018 at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Center on May 9 and 10. She was one of more than 100 local and international HR and business leaders scheduled to speak at the conference.

[Editor’s note: This piece was curated from stories appearing on HRE’s sister magazine and website, HRM Asia; additional coverage of the event can be found there.]

“We abolished performance ratings in six months,” said Marzicola. “We did think, ‘Holy moly, how are we going to do this? What’s going to happen when we communicate this? ’ ”

The HR team made sure to help the rest of the company prepare for the change by creating relevant communications campaigns and manager toolkits, she said.

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“Three years later, this is probably the coolest thing we did in HR—and the best thing for HP,” said Marzicola.

Essentially, eliminating performance ratings also meant eliminating the work required to produce a rating distribution, she said, adding that managers now had much more time to channel into other tasks.

“What it allowed our managers to do is to spend more time looking at the performance goals that were set, and evaluating the performance of their teams and employees,” said Marzicola. “They spend more time writing quality performance evaluations, thinking about how they are going to communicate that to employees at end of the year, and discussing performance and development goals for the next year.”

Further, she added, the response from the rest of the company resoundingly endorsed the move.

“We got so much response from managers and employees telling us the same we felt in HR: that this was the best thing ever. People were saying, ‘I feel like I’m having candid conversations with my manager about performance that’s not directly tied to a letter or a number.’ ”

Improving Screening

Internet pioneer Google is always striving to become better, including in its hiring processes. In fact, as Geeta Singh, Google’s director of people development, shared in her presentation at the conference, the company still refers to itself as a “baby organization,” despite the fact that the search engine now operates seven of the world’s most widely used internet services.

According to Singh, it is this mentality of always being humble that has allowed the company to grow continually and exponentially.

HR, or People Operations as the function is known internally (“It sounds much less administrative than HR,” she said), has also revamped several aspects of its talent practices, with the most notable change seen in the recruitment process.

“We started off spending 100 hours on just screening candidates, and a total of 20 rounds of interviews before actually making a hire,” said Singh. But as a company that is primarily science-based and highly data-driven, Singh said it was no secret everyone knew the recruitment process had to be redesigned.

“So we used data based on our internal studies and figured out that four interviews are all we need to make informed hiring decisions,” she said.

Now, Google tests job candidates based on four areas: general cognitive ability, role-related knowledge and skills, leadership attributes and “Googleyness.”

“These are the traits we believe are necessary for success in an organization,” said Singh.

Finally, Google also set up an independent committee in charge of all recruitment activities, and mandated that line managers would not have the final decision on hiring.

“This has helped us to speed up the entire interview process tremendously,” says Singh.

Career Development and Performance Ratings

In his presentation, Ken Hoskin, HR business partner for emerging markets at Facebook, recalled a time when being agile allowed the social media giant to become one of the first platforms to roll out what we now know as Facebook Live.

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“It started out as a hackathon sometime ago, where a project team was building a streaming service, and successfully piloted it in front of Mark (Zuckerberg),” Hoskin told a packed crowd on the second day of the summit.

“So we quickly put it into ‘lockdown stage,’ which means we allocate all our resources to develop it into a final product,” he said. “Two months later, we launched Facebook Live.”

“Moving fast” is one of the social media network’s five company values, with the others being building social value, being bold, being open and focusing on impact. Hoskin said these values not only drive the culture across the organization, but are at the heart of everything that Facebook does. And HR is no exception.

Today, those values are deeply ingrained in all of Facebook’s people practices.

For example, in terms of career development, the company takes a very unique, individualized approach, rather than being overly structured.

“As a strengths-based organization, we look at what people’s strengths are, then match them to the right role and career path,” said Hoskin.

Facebook also allows its people to grow and stretch beyond their primary roles. In addition to being part of a greater team, individuals who showcase the right capabilities are also allowed to take on individual projects and contribute independently. They can then alternate between both roles as needed.

The performance review process also reflects those same cultural values. At Facebook, there are two performance reviews every year, Hoskin said. While many companies have focused on eliminating performance ratings, the company has discovered that people do like ratings. However, Facebook makes its ratings formulaic so that all manager biases are removed. The ratings are then linked to bonuses and compensation.

Hoskin added that Facebook is now focusing on encouraging people to seek feedback.

“This desire to want feedback and want to improve will trickle down throughout the rest of the organization,” he said.

Keynote speakers from the conference included Jason Jennings, Lynda Gratton and Marcus Buckingham (via satellite).

Kelvin Ong is a staff writer for HRM Asia.

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