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Performance Reviews – Here to stay?

A lot is being written about the potential demise of performance reviews. A lot of experts, consultants and prognosticators feel that the traditional performance review is on its way out, or at the very least, it should be on its way out as it is an antiquated approach. I have been involved with performance management for the better part of 19+ years (yowzers that hurt to write that!) and feel somewhat qualified to weigh in on this issue.

Performance Words

Personally, I really don’t have a probably with performance reviews and I feel if done in the right context with properly trained managers they can be quite valuable. I am not a fan of lengthy forms that make managers write a small novel in order to have a proper performance review done.   My take/approach on performance reviews is that they provide a great baseline and are an essential roadmap that the manager and employee can refer to throughout the year that clearly outlines what is expected of the employee and how it aligns with broader departmental and organizational objectives. Simply put, an effective performance review (form) should include:

  • The identification of the organizational &/or departmental goals and objectives
  • The employee’s individual goals/objectives (with clear linkage to departmental level goals)
  • Measurements/KPI’s of these goals
  • Supported with coaching/feedback

So, if I were to design my own form, it would essentially be 1-2 pager tops, with a focus on these elements and supported with regular coaching. I believe all the discussions around development and career goals can and should be separate from the actual performance review itself as the review is to discuss just that, performance and not career planning. Now, I get it – if performance isn’t up to par, then the other discussion about future career goals can’t take place. But again, the performance discussion is the right time and place to talk about this performance gap and its (potential) impact.

Now, for those that advocate that you can get rid of performance reviews all together, I think that may be possible but a lot has to change organizationally and culturally speaking. At minimum, performance reviews provide a guaranteed annual check in between manager and employee. There is a measure of visibility and accountability with a performance review and I believe that is needed in most, if not all, organizations. If you are going to advocate to get rid of performance reviews, then you better make damn sure you have a coaching culture at your organization. Essentially, with no performance reviews, you need to make sure that your managers are TALKING to their employees on a regular basis and providing specific feedback to them. If not, at minimum, you still need a performance review to help guide these discussions.

Based on my experience, there are very few organizations that can make the claim that they have such a strong corporate coaching culture that they have been able to scrap performances reviews alltogether. Such a fundamental shift requires strong leadership at the top, highly effective organizational communication and accountability and a desire for change. Those elements are extremely difficult to align at the best of times; therefore, I believe performance reviews are here to stay…at least for a while. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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