Ugh! Performance review time

A recent HR Magazine article presented some interesting statistics from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) that speak to the general satisfaction level of the performance review process by employees, managers, and HR professionals:

  • 66% of employees say the performance review process interferes with their productivity.
  • 65% say it isn’t relevant to their jobs.
  • 90% of HR professionals don’t believe their company’s performance reviews provide accurate information.
  • 95% of managers aren’t satisfied with their organization’s performance management processes.

One prime example from the article is that of Adobe Systems Inc. Like most companies, Adobe had been using a traditional forced ranking system that one manager described as a “soul-crushing exercise.” Not only soul crushing, but also the internal research at Adobe noted an increase in voluntary turnover of less-than-happy employees right after reviews each year. Ultimately, they scrapped the entire system and replaced it with more frequent, informal conversations between managers and employees, without the ratings. When Adobe did this in 2012 it was considered a fairly radical move. However, the number of organizations that are either dropping the rankings of employees or throwing out the entire performance review process has grown from 4% in 2012 to 12% in 2014, according to a CEB survey of Fortune 1000 companies.

So, if the old system has been tossed, what should the replacement look like? The suggestion is to start out with mutually acceptable goals that meet the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Phased) criteria. Once those goals are set, the process then includes monthly conversations on progress. In this way, the manager and employee are talking regularly about progress or the lack thereof. If a red light comes on, there may be a coaching opportunity on a real-time basis — not six months later at “performance review time.”

At the same time, if things are going very well or better, there is a real-time opportunity for positive feedback. William James, the father of American psychology, once said, “The deepest craving in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” And whether it is acknowledgement for a job well done or recognition that a situation needs to be corrected, employees get the benefit of immediate feedback.

In either instance above, the feedback is NOW. If opportunities for improvement become apparent, both the manager and employee participate in whatever intervention would make the most sense. We have a saying in our business: People support a world they help create. Depending on the situation, the intervention could be additional job knowledge, a mentorship, a university class, or other training program. The point is that this takes place now when it’s needed most, not six or 12 months later during a review.

So, if you do still have a formal annual review meeting, rather than rehashing the past 12 months, both the employee and manager can be discussing the future. The discussion can revolve around the vision for future growth and development, and what might be necessary for the employee to move to the next level. It should and can be an encouraging meeting.



Another perspective

For those of you who would like to take a look at the whole process from another, highly interesting perspective, I would recommend you pick up the book Work Rules! by Lazlo Bock. He is the senior vice president of people operations at Google. In the book he goes through both the growth of Google and the evolution of their process. You will not be surprised to learn that it is incredibly data driven. Any open-minded manager or HR professional will be sure to walk away with both valued insights, as well as implementable ideas.

Good luck on that next review!

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