I’ve been following some of the discussion about annual performance reviews—some companies are stopping them; others are hunkering down. I’m not a particular fan of doing annual reviews, because I think performance management has to happen more frequently than once a year to be of much value.
But annual reviews are better than no reviews. The important thing, in my mind, is to have open conversations with your staff members about their performance.
In two recent articles, Steven Hunt of TLNT has covered this topic. As Mr. Hunt points out in How To Ditch Performance Ratings and Still Evaluate Employees Fairly and Accurately, posted October 20, 2015, no company is actually doing away with rating employees. But some are not doing annual performance reviews. They are finding other ways to evaluate and rank employees.
Ideally, I think conversations about performance should happen about once a quarter—and more frequently with new employees. The usual staff meetings between managers and subordinates can form the setting for these conversations. If followed by a quick email to the employee afterward to confirm expectations, the performance conversation is documented in a simple manner that takes little extra time. Much easier than the multiple pages of many companies’ performance evaluation forms.
“The easiest way to rid an organization of the horrors create by a bad annual evaluation process without releasing the evil spirit of informal evaluation is to actually increase the frequency and number of evaluations you conduct. By constantly evaluating employees through the year, the annual evaluation largely ceases to exist.”
And as Dan Pontefract said in Only 55 Percent Of Employees Feel As Though Performance Management Appraisals Are Effective, Forbes.com, March 31, 2015,
“Performance management isn’t a score. It’s a frequent, ongoing coaching conversation.”
About ten years ago, one organization I worked in tried the type of calibration sessions that Mr. Hunt mentions in How To Ditch Performance Ratings and Still Evaluate Employees Fairly and Accurately. Our discussions were painful. They were painful for the managers, and they were painful when the feedback was communicated to the employees. We called the bulk of our employees (the middle 70%) “valued”—which as one person later said, wrecked a perfectly good word forever.
A year ago, Mr. Hunt wrote in Performance Management: We Won’t Fix The Problem By Ignoring It, August 4, 2014:
“We will know we have truly fixed the performance management problem when company leaders are able to accurately identify the most valuable employees in the organization, and can explain this decision to other ‘less valuable’ employees in a manner that inspires them to improve their performance and does not lead them to give up hope, quit, or call their lawyers.”
Now that is a worthy goal. Most likely, we will still be striving to attain it in another ten years.
Here are a few more good articles on performance reviews, in addition to those cited above:
What do you think is the best way to motivate average employees in your organization?