Trimble conducts its performance-review sessions over tea!

Trimble does not use either the bell curve or the rating system to review the performance of its employees

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Global giants from GE to 3M or even Indian multinationals such as the Tata Group and the Aditya Birla Group stick to traditional rating systems when it comes to their employees’ performance reviews. Most businesses either rate their employees’ performance on a scale of five or they follow the bell curve system, where 10 per cent of the employees are categorised as ‘high performers’, 80 per cent make up the ‘average performers’ and the remaining are termed as ‘low performers’.

However, Trimble, an American software, hardware and services technology company, chooses to follow a totally different system to measure the performance of the employees.

Trimble’s India team comprises 1200 employees, and interestingly, for all of them, performance reviews are conducted during conversations over tea!

“Performance review days are quite special for us, and actually celebrated. We call them ‘T-Time’ (Trimble Times) conversations at Trimble,” reveals Dhanujnath MP, head- people experience business partner India, Trimble.

“Other forms of performance review tend to restrict the individual. They end up emphasising and highlighting the weaknesses of the person rather than the strong points. We wish to highlight the strong points of our employees”

Rajan Aiyer, MD, Trimble India

These ‘T-Time’ conversations witness the managers sitting with their subordinates over a cup of tea and literally having a conversation about their performance. “It is unlike the typical formal and official sounding performance-review discussions, where people are judged on their work. Our sessions are more about discussing the key issues and talking about building careers at Trimble,” reveals Dhanujnath.

During these conversations, the managers and the employees chat over the quarterly performance of the employees. The managers give feedback to their employees, and problems, if any, are duly discussed and clearly conveyed to the employees. It is more of a feedback-based review system, and the conversations between the employees and their managers are a reflection of the same.

Employees are neither rated nor ranked post the sessions. The managers either mark the employees as ‘on track’ or ‘off track’.

As long as the employees are ‘on track’, everything is fine. However, the ones that are ‘off track’ or show signs of going off track, are given extensive training to retain them, and are put on a performance improvement programme (PIP).

Managers use these tea conversations to try and guide the employees in the right direction or offer them career tips so that they can grow in the company. There may be cases where the employees may not agree with the analysis of their respective managers. “Employees are allowed to disagree with their managers and have the liberty to express their disagreement too,” shares Dhanujnath.

To identify the high potentials and high performers in the company, the managers have the option to indicate in the review whether the employee is ‘ready for a change’ or ‘not ready for a change’. This helps the Company identify the top high potentials and draw up a career-progression chart for them.

“Employees are allowed to disagree with their managers and have the liberty to express their disagreement too”

Dhanujnath MP, head- people experience business partner India, Trimble

These T-Time conversations that happen every quarter, serve as a unique performance- review system. Dhanujnath further reveals that managers at Trimble are trained every month by the HR team on how to conduct these T-Time conversations or reviews effectively.

Talking to HRKatha, Rajan Aiyer, MD, Trimble India, says, “Our T-Time conversations conversations are the true mark of the culture of the organisation, which has remained the same from the very beginning.”

Why does Trimble choose to have such a unique system in the first place?

Aiyer, who has been with the Company in India from the very start, explains, “Other forms of performance review tend to restrict the individual. They end up emphasising and highlighting the weaknesses of the person rather than the strong points. We wish to highlight the strong points of our employees.”

Aiyer goes on to add, “We do not want to put people into different boxes and assign a rating to them”.

Trimble believes that other methods forcefully tag people as low performers or high performers or confine them to different categories, and Trimble does not want to foster that kind of a culture at all.

“Our performance-review system focuses more on qualitative rather than quantitative analysis,” concludes Aiyer.

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