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Not everyone agrees that formal appraisals are necessary. SAS, an international 8,000-employee software company headquartered in Cary, N.C., eliminated formal appraisals entirely about three years ago, says HR director Jeff Chambers.
Instead, the company pursued a system for a continuous dialogue on performance. "We told employees, ‘You have a right to feedback, and you can ask for it,’ " says Chambers.
Before he became SAS’s HR director, Chambers was a labor and employment attorney with the company. "I inherited the new system from my predecessor and I was its biggest skeptic," he says. "I was afraid that some managers would never give feedback or would have the attitude, ‘You’re doing fine unless I tell you otherwise.’ "
Despite his misgivings, the system has worked very well. "Whatever you come up with has to fit the company culture, and this fits ours," says Chambers. "We have a lot of trust in our employees to do the right thing and to push to do their best."
HR occasionally facilitates meetings with some of their "tech people who aren’t good at this and would rather send an e-mail" or when an employee comes to HR because of a lack of feedback. "We don’t have to do this very often," says Chambers. "I can count on one hand the number of times we get involved."
He says the company’s biggest challenge was "getting people out of the mindset that this had to happen once a year" and getting them to understand that performance feedback should be an ongoing process. "Good managers know this already," says Chambers.
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