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  • Mark Shaw

Can performance reviews add value?

In the July 2015 issue of HRMonthly I was asked to argue a case that performance reviews can add value.

I stated by saying that if I was asked whether traditional performance reviews add value, my answer would be an emphatic “no”.  They are generally overly complicated, bureaucratic, subjective and most managers tell me are significant time wasters and add no value at all.

I argued that with some adjustments, performance reviews can provide valuable feedback to individuals and capture important corporate data for training plans and remuneration decisions etc.

Everyone knows that generally 80% of all employees do a pretty good job and don’t cause the problems so why ‘fit’ them into a normal distribution curve (Bell Curve).  Why not just insist that performance reviews only focus on discussing how to make a positive difference in your job? In fact, I’d argue stop measuring and discussing performance and start measuring and discussing engagement.

Rating and rankings can’t convey the full meaning of a person’s performance.  Imaging being told by your supervisor “your performance is 2/5 because you only completed 10 tasks in the period”.  Imagine how much more meaningfully is “You were 20% less than budget, how can we improve that” Now discuss ways to improve.  This logic can apply to all performance or engagement measures.

People hate filling out forms.  Use technology to replacing them with a simple, quick and easy process and people will readily see the benefits.  These systems exist and are proven.

Finally remember to create a separate policy setting to manage the 2%-ers who manipulate traditional review processes.

In my experience, systems designed using these contemporary principles lead to measurable improvement in productivity, reduced costs and everyone benefits.

Contemporary writers including Di Armbrust, Tim Baker, Sam Culbert, Roger Ferguson, Ted Mouradian, Dan Pink, Professor Paul Thompson and Graham Winter also believe value is only added through upgraded approaches.

  • Be challenged.  Ask your managers and employees “Is our system simple and meaningful enough for you?  Does it add value to you?”  If the answer is “no”, redesign your system until they say “yes”.  Make some changes. I.e.

  • Discuss engagement rather than performance 

  • Drop the use of bell curves and/or 5-point rating scales

  • Replace rankings and ratings with a continuous improvement discussion

  • Manage the 2%-ers under a separate policy setting

  • Make better use of technology to transition from forms to simpler user systems 

Now reviews can add value.

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