Following in the footsteps of other big companies like Adobe and Accenture, in February 2016 IBM got rid of its annual performance review system.
Now, through the “Checkpoint” system, official feedback is given on at least a quarterly basis – and it’s supplemented by a more casual, ongoing dialogue between employees.
That ongoing dialogue takes place virtually, through an IBM mobile and desktop app called “ACE,” which stands for “Appreciation, Coaching, Evaluation.” The app was released to all employees in February, and while it’s an optional tool, so far 90,000 IBM staffers (about a quarter of the company’s global workforce) are using it.
Business Insider spoke with Colleen Murphy, a leadership development professional at IBM who helped design ACE, and she said the app has four main features. Users can give feedback, receive feedback, participate in surveys, and review their feedback history.
They can ask for feedback from anyone – a manager, a direct report, or a teammate – at any time. In each instance, they have the option to submit an open-ended question about how they performed or to use the prompt that’s already programmed into the system: “Please tell me one thing I can do better with…”
The idea for ACE originally came from the Millennial Corps, a global IBM task force dedicated to improving millennials’ experience at the company. It’s part of creating a “culture of feedback,” Murphy said, a shift that’s been spearheaded by young workers, who are accustomed to instantly “liking” posts on Facebook and restaurants on Yelp.
That culture shift, Murphy said, has been the biggest challenge associated with implementing the ACE app.
“Giving and receiving feedback is not always comfortable,” she said. “We hear from a lot of people that they want feedback to grow and to improve, but providing constructive feedback is not always easy.”
To that end, all ACE users have the option to check out an IBM learning tool that outlines best practices for giving and receiving constructive criticism. For example, Murphy said, users learn to identify what the person did, how it affected them or the team, and how that person can improve in the future.
Murphy gave an example of an ideal piece of constructive feedback that a manager might provide an employee:
“Thank you for staying up extra hours last night to deliver the client presentation. As a result of your efforts, we nailed it and we won the deal. In the future it would be great if you could incorporate more storytelling.”
IBM said that, at some point, it could market ACE to other companies, something it’s done with other internal apps. Right now, however, the app is for IBMers’ use only.