The demise of the performance review?

I feel like I have been blogging about the problems with performance reviews for years. This subject is nothing new to HR professionals. But all of a sudden, it is the latest hot topic, with companies everywhere getting rid of ratings, finally seeing the light about stack ranking, or getting rid of their review process in its entirety.

Where I work, we removed ratings two years ago. And not particularly because of the neuroscience angle, but because they didn’t drive anything or link to anything. The ratings were just there. Part of the accepted process. Best practice, probably.

We have a rule in our HR team. A test if you will. If we can’t articulate the reason for something that we do simply and to a non-HR professional, if we aren’t doing anything with an output or using a particular process or activity to help us improve things or make a decision, then we consider getting rid of it. Ratings failed the test.  Instead, we replaced a quite structured performance dialogue with a coaching style approach.

Ratings lead to nothing much at all in many organisations. But their very presence looms large over the meeting all the same. Becomes the focus of the discussion. A point for debate or conflict.

The feedback after we removed them? The reviews were harder to do. Because they changed the nature of the conversation. There was less structure. Not quite so much of a form to follow.

I’ll take that particular version of harder.

Here’s the thing. Performance reviews, as we typically implement them, are flawed and long overdue an overhaul . But in challenging this particular problem, let us not jump on bandwagons, or create conversation vacuums.

You can’t just remove performance reviews, you need to replace them with something better.  Ideally, something that specifically suits your own organisations, its leadership maturity, your particular culture and your unique challenges. When you strip away where reviews go wrong, the underlying principles, the underlying needs are unchanged. Employees want, need, deserve feedback on their performance. Employees and their managers need to have honest dialogue about how things are going now, and what needs to happen in the future. Employees desire personal growth and development, and that too needs discussion.

If you want to remove reviews or change reviews, make sure it is because it is the right thing to do and not because someone else is doing it, everyone is talking about it.

What you replace them with, needs to be tailored, just for you. And merely changing a process will not solve any underlying problems, that is just treating symptoms rather than causes.

So before you kill off the performance reviews over at your place, there are two questions to ask.

Firstly, what is it that is actually broken that needs to be fixed?  And secondly: is our culture, are our leaders, ready to make this change?

Killing annual performance reviews is currently big news.  But I can’t help but think the rumours of their demise are greatly exaggerated, for now at least.

1 thought on “The demise of the performance review?

  1. Yes Gem – yes. Now I’m on the “bin ’em” side of this but also on the “not an excuse to ignore people even more” campaign.

    When was the last time the person being “appraised” was the one to build, create, drive and consult on this particular aspect of corporate life?

    It’s almost always been a “done to” thing and so when we take it away, we’re undoing – sure. But there was at LEAST one perfunctory conversation a year some folk’s boss couldn’t ignore. Now they can ignore them all year ’round.

    So HR, let’s rid the world of pointless reviews and ratings. Managers let’s remind you there’s still a duty of care to your people to check in on them. People – it’s YOUR role / job / contract / project / endeavour. What would you love it to be about? If you get the bit clear you might just get what you need to help you feel a part of something worthwhile.

    The “best practice box marking bureaucracy” is dead.
    Long live the “the let’s get the best for / from me” conversation.

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