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Partners HealthCare CIO on revamping the performance appraisal

Finding the right talent can be a challenge. Another? How to keep good talent once you’ve got it. For Jim Noga and Partners HealthCare, a healthy turnover rate hovers at around 10% to 12%. “If you start to get up to 15% to 20%, you probably have a problem you need to deal with,” said Noga, vice president and CIO of the Boston-based nonprofit. Noga is trying to “aggressively manage” that statistic. How? One way is by revamping the performance appraisal process and incorporating company values such as collaboration into the evaluation process.

Jim Noga

Take a closer look at  what Noga said about talent and this performance appraisal revamp when he spoke at the Society for Information Management’s annual gathering a few months back:

We’re really driving values this year. And, something nonprofits don’t typically do, we’re starting to drive talent and performance management — understanding that if you don’t deal with the problem people in your organization, eventually it really erodes the morale of the team. I’m a big believer if you have a high-performing team, you attract high-performing people. So it’s important to have a highly-talented organization.

We’ve revamped our performance appraisal system, not that performance appraisal is the be-all and end-all. But, besides the technical skills, a good component of what people are now evaluated on are things like team building or respect for each other. We have about eight core values the manager is expected to score people on.

We’ve also gone to a different scoring system. For those of you who’ve dealt with numeric scoring systems [0 to 5, for example], it seems like half the discussion [boils down to whether] an employee was a 4 or a 4.5 and the back and forth debates were over these decimal points. So we now have three categories: We have exceptional, successful and inconsistent. We tell people successful is a really good place to be. Even if you’re successful, you may be exceptional at times, but we’re really reserving the exceptional category [for the cream of the crop] and looking at ways to reward those [employees]. Probably 10% to 15% of your talent is in that exceptional category. The majority is in the successful category.

We call the last category inconsistent. Our executive vice president, he was at one of my IS [information systems] departmental meetings, and we were explaining this. He’s pretty transparent, and I didn’t expect him to say this, but he said, “And if you fall into the inconsistent category [this year], and next year you’re in the inconsistent category, we’re going to ask you to leave.”

So it was a seismic shift, at least for Partners, in terms of talent and performance management. And it’s not meant to be punitive. It really is to seek out the good talent and reward the good talent and that’s important from a retention perspective.

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