Baker McKenzie has scrapped performance ratings for all business services staff in favour of performance discussions with peer feedback.

This change, which is also being piloted for fee-earners working in the firm’s London office, is in the final stages of evaluation this year with over 1,300 staff across the global network.

Baker McKenzie plans to roll this change out across the fee-earning staff on a global basis, pending the results from the pilot in London at the end of this financial year.

Instead of an annual appraisal, staff and fee-earners will instead have a mid-year performance discussion with “a focus on feedback across the firm”, which can come from peers or subordinates. Each person would have at least five “feedback providers” during the process.

“In the past you had a performance discussion and the company performs ratings. Now, we are having a performance discussion,” Baker McKenzie global chief talent officer Peter May told The Lawyer. “What tended to happen is that no matter how well the discussion went, it came down to a conversation about performance ratings. In my experience colours the discussion. By taking away the performance rating piece, you can just focus on the discussion.”

The shift was confirmed to staff around nine months ago, as the firm attempted to start providing ‘real-time feedback’ to employees.

“It’s a longer-term process because it’s about change within the firm,” May commented. “You have a higher quality conversation that actually does improve people’s performance. Separating the remuneration process from the discussion process means that we can have a better conversation.”

May has confirmed that this change in performance review will not impact remuneration at the firm, but free managers from the problem having to put employees in a performance spectrum.

“What would often happen is that you would squeeze people into a certain category or rating and you’d end up with mid-performance ratings – quite a demotivating experience. Even though they [employees] perform well and have had a good year, the restrictions in the system and other people’s performance may mean that you have to give people what look like mediocre ratings.”