top of page

Arbejdsglaede? Performance Reviews?

No, it’s not an auto-correct failure. Arbejdsglaede (pronounced ar-byes-gler) is a Danish word literally meaning “work gladness or joy”. There are similar words in other Scandinavian languages, as well as Dutch (arbeidsvreugde) and German (arbeitszufriedenheit), but no-where else.

Not for a minute do I think workplaces in that part of the world are constantly joyous or happy but given the amount of time we spend at work, I believe it is something people should strive for – but how does this relate to performance reviews?

Over the past few years I have watched with interest as the HR industry raises challenges, approaches and thoughts on the good old performance appraisal process, which includes an annual review, ratings and scales – a process that many dislike. There has to be a better way than this archaic process, and it would seem that the dialogue out there suggests that quite a few people agree!

What is evident is the traditional ratings and annual review process is increasingly frustrating with employees ‘enduring’ the process, and managers seeing it as a chore – it puzzles me why companies continue to push it. I say this for several reasons:

  • Anxiety – one thing that is consistent about the year-end review process is the level of anxiety people feel. Human nature comes out play – fear of failure and judgment is rampant. How can this be seen as productive or contribute to a healthy work environment/experience?

  • Moment in time – let’s be honest, we all know that an annual review is not actually based on a year’s performance. Most of our recall, examples and discussions will be based on the past few months. We start every year well intentioned to capture performance on a regular basis, but honestly, how many of us do?

  • HR driven – “HR says…” Yup, we’ve all heard it. This is usually why we go through this process. HR is trying to manage and align business and employee performance, while also lining up other elements like remuneration reviews and succession planning. It’s as if managers want to get this all out the way at once, and then move on. Where is the actual buy-in?

So what can we do to change this frustration and return some joy?

Shift Ownership.

A key principal of achieving Arbejdsglaede is that employees don’t wait for their boss (or HR in this case) to make things happen. They take ownership, do small things and own their happiness at work. In the longer term this leads to owning their career, performance, learning, growth, success… the list goes on.

There is a need for people to create a way to achieve their personal Arbejdsglaede especially when it comes to managing their careers. As individuals, this can be inspiring to others, but in a team the potential could be enormous.

Here are some practical ideas for businesses to help individuals achieve ownership:

  • A platform. It’s important for people to be able to create a career portfolio they can own and drive. You provide the guidance, skills and competency framework, that can then be built and added to by the individual;

  • Never stop learning. Generate an appetite for learning among employees, providing fresh ideas and bite size resources on a regular basis. Again, putting the onus on the individual to actually use them;

  • It’s all in the words. Shift the wording of your rating scales to allow people to still know where they are at, but in a non-threatening manner. For example, instead of having rating 5 as ‘below required performance’, try something like ‘I need help!’, while also providing a way to acknowledge when a skill is brand new – make it exciting, encouraging and a way to facilitate communication.

  • Real time. As people learn and grow, capture this throughout the year to keep focus areas relevant and energized. Get this habit going and you will soon have up to date, relevant information being managed by the individual.

Let this approach allow you to avoid process for process sake, adding new energy to career management through upbeat communication, innovative ways of achieving goals and getting your people out of boxed thinking.

Finally, as the employee, the message is simple, own it, make it awesome and inspire others along the way! As a business, achieving this as a team will have significant benefits including better culture, more focus and higher performance.

bottom of page