Morgan Stanley's new adjective based performance review

For years, employees from a number of Fortune 500 companies have been subjected to the tyranny of the annual review. According to the Human Capital Institute, the annual performance review is the second most disliked work activity by managers, after firing employees.

Morgan Stanley, the American multinational financial services corporation, announced that it would be removing its long used 5 point scale to determine employee performance, and replacing it with a system whereby supervisors will be asked to pick words that describe each employee. This comes at a time when banks are attempting to make big changes to accommodate the professional and workplace desires of the millennial generation who increasingly favor unconventional Silicon Valley over traditional Wall Street.

The Wall Street Challenge

For decades, success on Wall Street followed a simple formula: Grind out 90 hour marathon work weeks, and complete menial tasks in exchange for a shot at the leadership helm. Today, millennials, who make up as much as 40% of the job market, realize that a job in finance is not as lucrative as it once was. With its cutting edge innovation, Silicon Valley is quickly replacing Wall Street as the center of the job market.

In part, the problem lies with the over bearing and bureaucratic hierarchical structures of yesteryear. Employees simply feel that the very traditional financial industry does not offer the same opportunities to grow, learn and develop their diverse talents in the workplace. In fact, a chart by Business Insider shows that the headcount in a number of investment banks has dropped by 21% over the past five years. It seems, no matter what banks offer as a new workplace incentive, whether it’s faster promotions, more money, more time off, more free food, or even more opportunities to go surfing, the fact remains that big banks simply do not possess the creativity that startups bring to the world. Young people want many different experiences throughout their careers, and this means new college grads will use their first jobs as stepping stones to their second jobs, their second jobs as stepping stones to their third jobs, and their third jobs, etc., into job-hopping infinity. In fact, the average tenure in a job across all industries is now less than three years.

Business Insider

Morgan Stanley, which has been ranked as the third best bank to work for on Wall Street, has been attempting to update the way in which performance evaluations have been done for the past decade. However, instead of focusing on how attractive the company can be, the main objective should be to provide a stepping stone toward another career. An article in the economist outlined how some consulting firms, such as McKinsey, make it easy for big firms to poach their people, by putting potential employers directly in touch with consultants who tick the right boxes for a vacancy. The idea is that this will make McKinsey a more attractive place for millennial employees to work, constantly refreshing the firm's intellectual capacity.

Holistic performance management

In the past, annual reviews based on a five point scale helped Morgan Stanley determine how their employees performed. But, the system needed a change. Going forward, instead of assigning numbers to employees, evaluators will now be asked to come up with a list of adjectives that describe each employee. The aim is to give more direct feedback and better steer staff members toward areas of improvement.

It's about giving people more information and something they can do more with” [..] “It's more candid and memorable”.
Peg Sullivan
Peg Sullivan
Global Head of Talent Management

The company will also be putting in place a dashboard that compiles all the information needed by supervisors to evaluate employees. This will allow Morgan Stanley to get insightful analytics into the performance of individuals in their company, and predict when employees are likely to leave.

The timeline for the reviews will also change. Instead of having yearly reviews, managers will sit down with each one of their employees on a bi annual basis. At the beginning of each quarter, team members will do full 360 degree reviews with their closest colleagues and managers. From this, managers will then decide on promotions and compensation. Employees will be evaluated not just on how much money they bring to the firm, but rather on a broad array of factors meant to measure their overall contribution.

We don't just think about what they've contributed commercially...We think more holistically: their risk management, their leadership skills and what they've contributed to our culture."
Peg Sullivan
Peg Sullivan
Global Head of Talent Management

The need to build transparency

As Morgan Stanley tussles with the fact that their millennials will leave for the tech pastures, revamping and experimenting with the way they develop their talent may help the Wall Street bank create an attractive work environment for new hires.

Today, employees crave continuous, meaningful feedback, and see it as a vital part of their work contract. Impraise enables companies to customize their performance management process to fit their unique workplace needs. Whether, like Morgan Stanley, you've decided it's time to get rid of ratings or like Facebook, your people have voted to keep ratings, Impraise allows you the flexibility to choose what's best for your work culture.

Download our 2019 Guide to Modern Performance Management to gain some insight on how to improve and tailor performance reviews to fit your company culture.

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