Adobe shares “Check-in”, its annual appraisal replacement

DDP USA/REX/Shutterstock
DDP USA/REX/Shutterstock

Adobe Systems, one of a number of high-profile companies to ditch annual appraisals, has made its “Check-in” materials freely available online, five years after it overhauled its performance management process.

The US software giant dropped its “heavy” performance review process in favour of a focus to get line managers and employees to talk more often about what matters most, namely: clear expectations, performance feedback and career growth.

Last month, Adobe surveyed 1,500 US office workers on what they thought about annual appraisals, and found that annual reviews were time-consuming with little perceived benefit.

On average, managers spent 17 hours per review, but more than half of office workers said performance reviews have no impact on how they do their job and are a needless HR requirement.

Other findings included:

  • Ratings and reviews are stress-inducing. Nearly six in 10 say performance reviews are stressful, having their performance ranked against peers is upsetting, and their managers “play favourites”.
  • As a result of reviews, many people said they cried (22%), looked for another job (37%) or quit (20%). Millennials were even more likely to look for another job (47%) or quit (30%). Close to two-thirds of millennials said they would switch to a company that didn’t have reviews even if pay and job level were the same.
  • More than half of office workers and two-thirds of managers wish that their companies would get rid of or change its structured performance review process; for millennials this proportion was even higher.
  • Most people said they want qualitative feedback “in the moment”.

The full findings of Adobe’s US research is shared below.

Donna Morris, executive vice president for customer and employee experience at Adobe, said: “Check-in is the result of really getting feedback on what was working and what was not working relative to our performance review. And the feedback was far from glowing. Rating and ranking is like going to a school in which you’re not able to study for the exam.”

Stressing that there was “no way” Adobe would go back to performance reviews, Morris added: “People think of Check-in as liberating.”

Rating and ranking is like going to a school in which your not able to study for the exam.

In the first year, the company estimated it saved 80,000 manager hours, the equivalent of 40 full-time employees, required by the previous process. With headcount growth since then, the company estimates it now saves more than 100,000 manager hours per year.

Adobe – best known for the image-editing software Photoshop and the PDF, the portable document format used for many online documents – said it was making its Check-in materials open-source to show leaders and HR professionals a different approach.

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