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Of Performance Reviews and Mobile Devices

By Sonjui L. Kumar Email By Sonjui L. Kumar
October 2013
Of Performance Reviews and Mobile Devices

Tips on Human Resources trends of the times

Every few months we highlight trends that affect small to mid-size businesses. This article focuses on two hot topics in the labor and employment arena, changing the traditional performance review and instituting a policy on the use of mobile devices. Most managers would agree that their personnel, whether performing sales, technology, or administrative functions, are the key to any successful organization. High turnover or an unhappy staff can be a big hurdle to building a strong company, so here are some noteworthy developments related to maintaining a productive and satisfied workforce.

Say Goodbye to Annual Performance Reviews
The traditional performance review model requires all supervisors to review their employees on an annual basis using a company-wide rating scale. The thinking is that a standardized review will provide an objective ranking that can then be used to hand out promotions and raises fairly. Plus, the lawyers have always required a well-documented personnel file that neatly tracks negative or positive feedback in case of a lawsuit or at the time of termination. The rating scale also provided an easy tool for identifying employees with potential within the organization and those that needed to be let go.

Well, the basis behind those theories has been debunked. Many companies, large and small, have completely moved away from the annual review by immediate supervisors, opting for more agile, values-based feedback systems. The idea is to give an employee assessments as you go and as needed, even daily if appropriate, and in close proximity to the actual performance. Additionally, a ranking system by its nature will leave some people at the bottom, which unnecessarily disincentivizes a percentage of the workforce. Managers are also being trained to focus on an employee’s “fit” with their peers and the corporate culture rather than individual performance, based on the notion that a team player with mediocre skills can be much more valuable in the long term then a superstar with their own agenda. There is also a push to separate longterm career plans from the day-to-day performance issues of the employee. Considering the increased mobility of today’s worker, the identification of future management has become, for many HR managers, an anachronism with limited utility.

Mobile Devices: Implementing a BYOD Policy
The mass use of devices (smartphones, notebooks, and other wireless gadgets) has led employers to consider or implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. Allowing employees to pick up email wherever they are or access company documents from their iPads is good for business while giving employees flexibility outside of work hours and office constraints. However there are a number of risks that go along with the use of these devices, including exposing a company’s entire system to a cyber-attack, compromising the confidentiality of customer or company data, and violations of laws related to protection of medical or personal identification information. A device in the wrong hands can be an easy gateway to a company’s most valuable asset, its proprietary information. An additional issue is the employee’s privacy. Although employees may have no expectation of privacy when using a company email system, that expectation may be different when it comes to their activity on an iPhone. Imagine the situation of an employee who is being abruptly terminated: the company can easily cut off access to their email account, but what about the data that was previously downloaded to their smartphone. Can a company access and delete that data without violating the employee’s privacy rights? An important first step for most companies is to implement a BYOD policy that outlines the company’s expectations with regard to devices.

The policy should at a minimum address:
• the types of devices that are not allowed;
• password protection and other required security measures;
• company’s access remotely and physically to data stored on devices;
• sharing of devices that contain company information;
• immediate reporting of a lost or stolen device;
• use of personal email accounts for company business;
• transfer of company information to personal emails;
and finally
• the critical “no texting or emailing while driving” policy.

Sonjui L. Kumar is a founding partner of KPPB Law and focuses her practice on serving as general counsel to closely held companies and succession planning for family and closely held businesses.

Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice.

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