United States: Under Review: The Future Of Traditional Performance Appraisals: A Q&A With Michael Sayne, Director Of Legal, Labor Relations, Pilot Travel Centers LLC

Last Updated: October 2 2017
Article by Penny C. Wofford

According to some estimates, more than one-third of U.S. companies are planning to abandon (or have already abandoned) the traditional annual performance review. Putting aside the fact that very few enjoy the process, from the manager who has to complete the review to the employee who receives it, the annual review can potentially be ineffective. It focuses on past behaviors that the manager may or may not have addressed with the employee and often managers will grade-up performance, and so the review may not honestly reflect the employee's performance. We interviewed Michael Sayne, Director of Legal, Labor Relations at Pilot Travel Centers LLC about how Pilot Travel has changed its employee review process.

Penny Wofford: How has Pilot Travel changed the way it evaluates employees and why?

Michael Sayne: We have moved away from the traditional annual performance review and rating and points system. We are now evaluating team members on a four-quadrant matrix that aligns business-related performance with our customer-oriented culture. An employee team member could be a "pro" in business performance; however, without behaviors that exemplify our culture, the team member will not be successful or long-term with Pilot.

The matrix is quite simple but provides a more effective way of reinforcing our desired behaviors. The matrix allows a manager to plot out his or her entire team on one matrix and be able to more easily differentiate the top performers from those needing improvement. The emphasis is less on accountability for past practices and more so on development. Having the matrix allows managers to more easily recall what behaviors his or her top performers exemplify and those behaviors that need to be instilled in underperforming employees.

PW: What tools and training did you provide managers to change the process?

MS: We are no different than other companies in that we continually face a challenge with our managers providing feedback and coaching, and appropriately documenting it. In addition to rolling out a training plan on the matrix evaluation criteria, we recognized that we needed to make it easier for managers to provide prompt coaching and feedback. Our legal team worked with our HR and IT departments to create an application that is installed on all of our managers' tablets. The application contains template forms for managers to provide instantaneous, or at least prompt, coaching and disciplinary action. We encourage all managers to provide positive feedback, as well as corrective coaching through the application. The application allows for electronic acknowledgment, and automatically transmits the feedback, coaching, or disciplinary action to the team member's personnel file maintained at the corporate office.

PW: What have been the results of the change?

MS: We are still implementing our new matrix evaluation criteria. We started at the top with the executives of our company, and we are now working our way to the store level in our implementation plan. However, we developed and installed the automated employee feedback application on all managers' tablets about three years ago. Over the past three years, we have measured approximately a 150 percent reduction in EEO charges and increased our success rate on unemployment compensation claims to about 92 percent. Just to put that in perspective, the increased success rates on unemployment compensation claims alone equates to about $2.5 million in savings for our company annually. The decrease in EEO claims has allowed me to be more forward-thinking on other measures we can implement to improve the process and impact the bottom line.

PW: How long has it taken to implement the new review process? What would you do differently if you could go back to make the transition smoother?

MS: We are still working on the rollout of the new evaluation criteria. We have a timetable of about one year. We wouldn't necessarily approach this any differently, although we do continually emphasize the value of providing regular and timely feedback. Having the automated feedback application was an important precursor to eliminating a points-and-rating review system. We have the process necessary to provide prompt and documented feedback and coaching and we've made it easier; however, the manager still has to do it. So we regularly communicate that as a performance and cultural expectation of our managers.

We are pleased to provide you with the September/October 2017 issue of The Employment Law Authority. To view the "flipbook" version of the issue, click here. To download and print a PDF of the issue, click here.

Editor in Chief: Jansen A. Ellis; Managing Editor: Stephanie A. Henry; Articles Editor: Hera S. Arsen

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