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Human Resources to Growth and Support: A new take on Annual Performance Reviews. (Vol. 2), by Andrea Francis

On our continued journey towards a more values-aligned Human Resources department, Wabanaki REACH is exploring new ways to take on traditional HR practices and disentangle them from the idea that humans need to be constantly productive. One area we are reevaluating is the process of performance reviews, which can perpetuate biases and hinder progress towards a more cohesive organizational culture. In this month’s installment, we will explore how this endeavor exemplifies our organization’s commitment to its mission and principles.

In the past three years, REACH has been able to increase the number of staff to take on more responsibilities and take over much of what has been done by a dedicated board and group volunteers. It is no easy task and we have certainly been busy. In addition to our bi-weekly check-ins with leadership at REACH, we've come to the decision that there is a need to find out the well-being of staff on a more comprehensive level. Historically, performance reviews don’t have a good reputation and can be punitive in nature. Although this may be the case, reviews have some useful qualities and can be used to foster cohesiveness for a values-aligned organization. In addition they can collect important information for the organization and the employee.  

In order to implement this kind of process, it is important to understand our purpose for an annual or bi-annual review. As a committee we know we want this to be a supportive process rather than a way to rate employee performance. Equally important, we also have to dismantle  the conventional “employee performance review”. 

Conventional annual reviews are challenged by:  

  • Power dynamics between leadership and staff, do not uphold our Wabanaki values, worldviews or priorities and devalues potential contributions of an individual
  • Failure to acknowledge cultural values especially in an organization that is indigenous led. 
  • Bias that favors certain groups of people over another that can lead to distrust of leadership, discourage creativity and obstruct advancement.

We want to foster a different kind of review process with qualities that demonstrate:

  • A sense of inclusivity of diverse perspectives and values, including that of the staff members and leadership.
  • Authentic and trusting communication and relationships between staff and leadership.
  • Identification of unique strengths and talents of staff that lead to professional growth.
  • Elevation of voices and perspectives of staff that will lead to more robust decision making, strategic development and organizational growth. 
  • Our commitment to our mission, vision and values. Our organizational culture is guided by these and alignment strengthens our shared common vision.
  • Clear expectations that are values aligned and promote accountability and transparency.

As we delve into this process, it is apparent that “Human Resources” has been about using people to gain profit and productivity. We live in a society that upholds a “grind culture” of always producing, creating and hustling. Wabanaki REACH is an Indigenous led organization and we as Indigenous people are experiencing historical trauma that most times we are rarely aware of. The pandemic exacerbated that deep trauma. Consequently, we all need to begin to acknowledge that we should be kind to ourselves and to each other. We have a chance to change paradigms as an organization and supporting one another instead of extracting is a great place to begin. One way Wabanaki REACH will start is with a new process of strategically supporting our staff called the Vision and Development Bi-annual check-in.  

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