Economist 2/17/16

  1. A survey in 2013 by Mercer, a consulting firm, of 1,000 employers in more than 50 countries reported that 94% of them undertook formal reviews of workers’ performance each year and 95% set individual goals for employees; 89% calculated an overall score for each worker and linked pay to these ratings. It is true that a number of big companies have announced that they are abandoning annual performance reviews; this month IBM did so, joining Accenture, Adobe, Deloitte, GE, Microsoft and Netflix.In reality,Employee reviews are being modified, not abolished.Four changes are proving particularly popular. First, companies are getting rid of “ranking and yanking”, in which those with the lowest scores each year are sacked.Second, annual reviews are being replaced with more frequent ones—quarterly, or even weekly. Third, pay reviews and performance reviews are being separated. And fourth, some performance reviews are turning into performance “previews”, focusing more on discovering and developing employees’ potential than on rating their past work.
  2. Some of the arguments being advanced for the new-style reviews are hoopla.eloitte says its new system is about “speed, agility, one-size-fits-one and constant learning”. The consulting firm’s employees sit down once a week with their “team leaders”. But good managers should give their charges constant feedback anyway. Adding another regular meeting to everyone’s calendar sounds like a formula for time-wasting. “One-size-fits-one” assessment is meaningless: a vital part of assessing people is measuring them against their peers—particularly when you have to think about who to promote or how to divvy out bonuses. It sounds nice to focus on people’s potential rather than their past performance. But how do you assess the former without considering the latter.Social scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that performance reviews are distorted by two things: office politics and grade inflation.
  3. BERNIE SANDERS has had a good start in the Democratic primaries, coming a very close second behind Hillary Clinton in Iowa and walloping her in New Hampshire. But the race is turning from those two overwhelmingly white places to a slew of southern, western and urban states where blacks and Hispanics carry more political weight. In 2008, 30% of the Democrats who took part in caucuses in Nevada, which this year take place on February 20th, were either black or Hispanic.Minority voters made up at least 30% of the electorate in half the states that will vote on Super Tuesday. So far, these groups have tended to favour Hillary Clinton (the Congressional Black Caucus recently endorsed her).Mrs Clinton will hope that black turnout will be as high as it was in 2008, when Barack Obama was running. But Mr Sanders will benefit if Democrats have shifted left.
  4. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports in its 2015 year in review that last year shattered the record for firearms discovered in carry-on bags, with a total of 2,653. That’s more than seven per day. The overwhelming majority (83%) were loaded.The previous record was set in 2014, which topped the record set in 2013, which beat the record set in 2012.Last year, undercover TSA agents managed to smuggle concealed guns and bombs past security 96% of the timeMostly in the South, and particularly in Texas. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had the most gun discoveries, followed by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.Also in the top ten were smaller airports in Dallas and Houston, as well as the international airport in Austin, Texas.
  5. IN RECENT days there have been a few articles bemoaning the woeful finances of Britain’s millennials. For instance, this piece in the Financial Times talks about why millennials (supposedly) go on holiday instead of saving for a pension.Also, it turns out that young people actually save a rather large chunk of their income. Most articles on this topic are fairly free of data (it’s hard to find). But data from National Savings and Investments (NS&I) show that in 2014-15, 16- to-34-year-olds saved 9% of their income, compared to the overall average of 8%.NS&I gave us data from 40-odd surveys, going back to 2004. In not a single year were the savings rates of young people lower than the average savings rate. For 16- to-24-year-olds the savings rate has been stable for the last decade. For 25- to-34-year-olds it has been on a secular increase.

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