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For many companies as each year ends, the time comes for employee performance reviews. Time to see if we can find our employee performance reviews from last year, or head over to Human Resources to get a copy. For managers, time to dust off the performance reviews from last year and see if anything’s changed.
If you’re like most of us, you haven’t kept a daily diary of your accomplishments, so you have to construct an account of the last 12 months from long-buried memories in just a few days. You don’t bother listing your close calls, almosts, and never-weres — you need to put a positive spin on your year.
Do Employee Performance Reviews Work?
You might go into the performance review feeling you did a “more-than-adequate” job, even if you can’t quantify it exactly. Then again, you might approach the review with a sense of foreboding. You’re not well prepared. Maybe you feel like you’re going to get slammed. Maybe you wish the shoe were on the other foot. Maybe you wish everybody would just forget about it.
Most of us know employee performance reviews as a broken process. Lately, there appears to be a groundswell of support for the idea of doing away with performance reviews. According to an article in a recent Wall Street Journal, many HR professionals are “frustrated that managers don’t have the courage” to give constructive feedback.
In an interview from July, 2010, UCLA business professor Samuel Culbert said that employee performance reviews should be dispensed with altogether because annual reviews don’t promote candid discussions about problems in the workplace or their potential solutions.
Going back to 2006, the Harvard Business School’s “Working Knowledge” page ran an article by James Heskett, one of the HBS faculty, in which he called into question the main objective of employee performance reviews. Professor Heskett asked, “Is (the objective) to weed out poor performers? To recognize the so-called A players? To provide the basis for compensation decisions?” He concluded that we don’t do a good job of establishing or communicating objectives.
W. Edwards Deming, one of the gods of quality, called the performance review one of the “deadly diseases of management“. You’re not going to find a much stronger indictment than that.
It’s been a few years since I’ve had a formalized performance review. The manager in question got much more out of the typical performance review because he always had the performance of the group in mind. He linked my performance to that of my teammates, which helped create and maintain a team ethos.
Unfortunately, his type of performance review wasn’t the norm. Too often, employee performance reviews are an exercise with no apparent purpose, except to satisfy a regulatory requirement or follow a decades-old policy. We go through the motions but don’t accomplish anything. By conducting employee performance reviews the way we do, we miss so many opportunities for improvement.
We all deserve better from this “process”.
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I’m currently conducting a performance review poll on LinkedIn. Please drop in (it’ll only take 10 seconds, if that) and register your opinion. Or, post a comment below.
What do you think? Do employee performance reviews work for your company or your group? Or, do you think the performance review should’ve been retired with the mechanical adding machine and green eyeshades?
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- Light, Joe, “Human Resource Executives Say Reviews Are Off the Mark”, Wall Street Journal (Nov 7 2010) – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704405704575596723632340284.html
- NPR Staff, “Annual Job Review Is ‘Total Baloney,’ Expert Says”, NPR-dot-org (Jul 8 2010) – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128362511
- Heskett, Jim, “What’s to Be Done About Performance Reviews?”, HBS Working Knowledge (Nov 27 2006) – http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5563.html
- “Management’s Five Deadly Diseases – a Conversation with Dr. W. Edwards Deming”, Encyclopedia Brittanica Educational Corporation , 1984 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehMAwIHGN0Y. (Video is approx. 15 minutes long.)
- Peralta, Eyder, “Top 10 Performance Review Euphemisms”, NPR-dot-org (Nov 9 2010) – http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/11/09/131189907/top-ten-performance-review-euphemisms