"If you have a set of goals and if you only ever talk about them formally once a year, as many companies do, you're not going to be set up for success," Russell explains. "The more you talk about them, the more ingrained they are with your staff and managers, and the more likely you are to achieve those goals."
The TEKsystems survey found that 83 percent of IT professionals say that formal feedback is either extremely important or important to their success. About half of employees say they receive formal feedback once or twice a year, with 37 percent of IT professionals reporting that they get formal feedback on at least a quarterly basis.
Survey respondents say they value informal feedback even more, with 93 percent of IT professionals agreeing that regular, high-quality informal feedback is important to their success.
Yet, only 14 percent of IT professionals and 12 percent of IT leaders say that informal feedback is given when performance deviates from expectations, according to the survey. Moreover, 15 percent of IT professionals and 8 percent of IT leaders say that informal feedback isn't given at all.
And when informal feedback is given, it's not always very good; the survey found that only 43 percent of IT professionals and 49 percent of IT leaders rate the quality of informal feedback as excellent or very good. Some 27 percent of IT professionals actually rate the quality of feedback as poor or very poor.
"Employees are hungry for the informal conversations so the goals that the organization has are top-of-mind for employees and they know when they're meeting them and when they're not," Russell says.
Assessing value to the business
The process should start by knowing and clearly articulating those goals and how each IT worker helps reach them, says Dan Roberts, president of Ouellette & Associates Consulting Inc. in Bedford, N.H. Those defined goals should shape the metrics that are then used to evaluate technologists, he says.
"The skill sets and competencies are changing, so we have to assess our people in new ways, provide new frameworks, to see where they are with these new core competencies," Roberts says. "More and more they're being measured around relationships, how they're perceived by the business."
One of Roberts' clients, the IT department in a large pharmaceutical company, has a report card that considers business-unit satisfaction levels, which it then uses to assess how well IT teams are delivering on stated goals. "The metrics are changing from the heads-down technology metrics," he says. "Now it's on business results and the business value they're bringing to the organization."
Stephen Olive, CIO at Philips Healthcare in Andover, Mass., says his 500-member IT department sees itself as a strategic partner, so he's judging success on what IT is doing for the business and what value it delivers. "That pulls you away from your traditional performance programs," he says.
While Olive still considers cost and schedule when thinking about employee performance, determining whether IT workers meet those standards is now a smaller aspect of how he evaluates their performance, he says. Like other managers, he now looks for and measures on more esoteric factors, such as teamwork and cooperative behavior as well as understanding business goals and how to achieve them.
Olive points to the rollout at his company of Salesforce.com, which recently went live to 750 users. The success of that IT project is being measured by managers' and users' testimonials on whether the application helps them do their jobs better or more efficiently, "and you share that with your IT employees, so they know we're making an impact on the business."