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Q&A With Cynthia Quigley, CPA, CFF

Insights from the Accenture's Finance Capability & Knowledge Management Lead.
Sarah Herrmann ICPAS Assistant Director, Member Outreach


CQuigley-300The dreaded annual performance review. Often draining and distracting for employees and managers alike, much has been written and said about how to make the process less painful. But rather than less painful, what if performance reviews were more powerful?

Illinois CPA Society member Cynthia Quigley, CPA, CFF, shares her insights into how Accenture has revamped its performance review process to be a positive experience—and a powerful career catalyst—for all.

Q: What has Accenture done to reinvigorate performance reviews?

Fundamentally, Accenture is focused on helping people achieve their best performance. Our internal research told us that our employees were looking for more coaching and real-time communication. We knew to attract and retain high performers we needed to modify our performance management process to spend less time talking about people and more time talking with them.

So, we moved away from an annual process of ratings and rankings to more ongoing, forward-looking conversations focused on a person’s natural strengths, their team, their progress, and their career opportunities at Accenture. And part of our approach now focuses on educating our leaders to be good communicators that work alongside their people to set work priorities, define and play to their strengths, collaborate more effectively, and take ownership of their careers.

Q: What impact has this made on culture, motivation, and team dynamics?

By moving away from purely managing performance and focusing on helping people achieve their best performance, we have witnessed a shift to a more energized, collaborative, and engaged workforce. We are experiencing a work environment with more productive conversations, with employees making meaningful connections with their leaders and peers, understanding what is expected of them, and defining career goals. Our people are beginning to operate at the intersection of what they do well and what they love, resulting in higher quality of work and performance.

Q: What is the biggest organizational change you’ve noticed because of the new review process?

There is a greater focus on individual career development—conversations are richer, more holistic and forward-looking. We are not ignoring past performance, but instead taking those insights and rather than just labeling and rewarding it as in the past, we are understanding the whole person. We are taking employees’ skills, strengths, and aspirations into account to help grow their careers in ways that are mutually beneficial to them and the company. Our employees realize they can take actions with their supervisors to grow within their current teams or look for opportunities in other parts of the organization.

Q: What advice do you have for managers looking to better their teams and the review process?

Creating an environment where employees receive ongoing, forward-looking, and meaningful feedback is critical to successful performance management. I have witnessed that when employees know what is expected of them, know the areas in which they excel, and have ongoing coaching and support, they are more engaged and perform better overall.

One of our goals is to develop a culture where feedback is a positive experience, where people don’t wait for feedback, but ask for and welcome it. Providing employees with candid, real-time feedback allows individuals to adjust and accelerate their work performance throughout the year, avoiding the pitfalls associated with traditional annual performance reviews. This naturally translates into greater success for a company.