Memo to HR: Why performances reviews suck

Posted September 13, 2011 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

There’s probably one HR process that sends a shiver down most managers backs: the performance review.  According to a recent survey in the Globe and Mail, 53% of respondents felt performance reviews were a total waste of time.  20% felt they were a necessary evil and only 27% felt they were helpful.  What’s really fun to read are the comments made on the poll.  Having sat through my share of horrible performance reviews, I did actually find myself working in a place where I looked forward to my review times.  That’s because they didn’t do performance reviews… they did performance PREviews:  forward-looking discussions designed to help you manage your career and align your development to said goals.  So, for everyone in HR, here’s my take on why people complain about in their performance review processes and for those managers that would rather take a performance “preview” approach, some tips:

Performance Reviews suck when they…

  • Use number scales where the rating you get is completely subjective and you leave with no clear idea of what a 5/5 looks like or why you got a 4.  Or worse, why you got a 4 and your lazy-ass colleague in the next department got a 5 (oh yeah… it’s because his boss is a pushover).
  • Are more than 3 pages in length and only look at past performance, not future career aspirations.
  • Are arbitrarily tied to compensation.
  • Are shoved down managers throats on an annual basis, usually at the busiest time of the year.
  • Are only done annually (because, after all it’s not like anything will change in your life over a year!) with no performance discussions or career discussions happening in between.
  • Are delivered by managers who have had no coaching or training in how to have a performance review discussion.
  • Are used as a punitive measure in the organization vs. a developmental tool.  It’s particularly great when, in December, you’re hearing about a screw up you made last January.

A Performance PREview…

  • Allows your employee to tell you what they’re enjoying about their work and what’s getting in their way (what they don’t like as much);
  • Gives you an opportunity for you to hear about what the employees goals and ambitions are;
  • Ties development opportunities to specific career objectives and plans that you create together;
  • Is a collaborative discussion, not one-sided;
  • Encourages, motivates and inspires both you and your employee.

Sometimes, as managers, you’re just stuck having to toe the corporate line and complete some archaic performance management form for administrative purposes.  But frankly, that doesn’t stop you from having your own performance “preview” conversations with your employees.

If you’d like help structuring a performance preview session, get in touch with me and I’m happy to share with you the one I use.  As someone much smarter and better paid than me once said: management is about doing things right… leadership is about doing the right thing.  As a leader, you can fix what isn’t working.  Your employees will be happier and so will you.

Happy leading!

UPDATE: My friend Marie also blogged about the Globe survey.  Take a look at her take (and more research to back up why performance reviews suck).

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