Kathy Pembry

  • Former Head of Human Resources – Middle East and North Africa

  • Aggreko


Kathy Pembry is the Former Head of Human Resources for Middle East and North Africa at Aggreko.

At the recent Compensation & Benefits Forum 2020, Kathy shared a case study about ‘Abandoning the Traditional Performance Appraisal: A Regional Perspective’. In this presentation, Kathy elaborated elaborated on:

  1. Planning phase of eliminating performance reviews;
  2. Implementation of alternate performance management methods: The challenges and barriers to execution; and
  3. Presenting the results and the impact of eliminating performance appraisals.

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The annual review which has been the traditional approach for most organisations is based on reflecting back over a twelve-month period on an employee’s performance. This is usually an hour in duration for the reviewer and reviewee. In today’s workplace where adaptability and competitiveness are key factors in an organisation’s success, one hour a year to look backwards and not to look at current and future performance does not feel logical. Especially considering the recent events, leaders, now more than ever, need to stay connected to their teams’ performance.

Having researched several international and local organisations, more and more are adopting more frequent discussions with team members, varying their areas of focus from business and career growth. In a case study, Cargill who moved to more regular discussions reported that 69% of employees felt they were receiving more useful feedback. Managers also stated they had more time to talk to employees.

With the ever more popular use of video platforms and applications, the ability to implement across a region is not as challenging as before. Therefore, being able to give real time feedback can only benefit organisations in managing performance and making business decisions.

In the current COVID-19 pandemic, HR Professionals and Leaders are required to be more mindful of maintaining contact with team members. Many employees will be more concerned with the fragility of their jobs, and therefore the importance to maintain a focus on performance including wellbeing and regular discussions will be more important than ever.

An organisation’s culture will impact the approach and focus of the discussions. In a review, IBM when embarking on changing the way of their performance review process, asked 380,000 employees in 170 countries for their feedback. The result was to develop an app for employees to use so that employees would receive feedback on a quarterly basis. In another report, Cigna moved to feedback coming from the whole team and not just the supervisors.

Speaking to an HR leader from Amazon, the company links the content of the performance review to the quarterly Talent review. Many of the HR systems have online access to reviews where employees can receive feedback at any time.

A review also stated Deloitte’s move to more frequent discussions. They had previously spent 2 million hours a year on their earlier format of performance reviews. They have now moved to focusing on accurate snapshots of performance in the moment.

The evolution of video platforms has made it easier to be connected to employees. Therefore, being located in different geographic areas in not a limiting factor.

The key to implementation would be planning the move to more frequent discussions. Including the business and having employees from the business on the project team for the whole journey. It should also take into consideration the current frustrations with the existing review process with a view of what not to replicate for the to be status. One company found that employees did not like a single performance rating, and the organisation moved to five ratings in different areas as a result.

A communication plan is key in utilising as many types of communication mediums taking into account languages, regional use of applications and social media. Leaders also need to play an active role in being advocates for the move to more regular performance discussions.

Regular and clear expectations of what behaviours employees are expected to demonstrate. Regular contact with team members feeding back on their current performance. Listening to team members to provide support where needed. Communicating in real time any change or fluctuation to business priorities.