There's a New Theory on Weeding Out Bad Workers
Kimberly-Clark, long a bastion of entrenched workers, turns to continuous feedback
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2016 4:44 PM CDT
Employees at Huggies maker Kimberly-Clark can no longer count on a job for life.   (Brian Bohannon/AP Images for Huggies & Meijer)

(Newser) – It used to be that landing a job at Kimberly-Clark meant keeping it for life. Even low-performing employees rarely worried about their future at the US company, where salaries were higher than the usual and layoffs rare, the Wall Street Journal reports. “A lot of people could and would hide in the weeds,” said Rick Herbert, a sales director who retired in 2014. But times have changed at the company, maker of Kleenex and other big household brands, which now uses personalized data from sources such as “performance-management” software to review employees and keep them working at optimal levels. The strategy is part of a trend in corporate America to overhaul how workers are assessed, doing away with old-school annual reviews in favor of continuous appraisals.

At Kimberly-Clark, where the goal is now “managing out dead wood,” the approach appears to be working. Share prices have doubled since 2008, though nearly 3,000 of the company's 43,000 employees have been laid off. The Journal notes that other firms also are changing to more real-time oversight. At Coca-Cola, managers carry out monthly “reflections” of each worker that include the question, “Is this associate at risk for low performance?” The last recession prompted companies to scale back raises and bonuses and look at ways to improve workforce performance, according to the Journal. But some critics say the constant oversight can feel threatening to workers. And one Forbes contributor rapped performance evaluations as “just another bureaucratic crock.”