Saturday, November 14, 2015

Performance Reviews: Productive or Destructive?

Performance reviews could be productive if they really were used as a tool for developing people.

Often performance review or the umbrella term "Performance Management" has a negative connotation because it tends to label processes that the business sees as, at a minimum, administratively burdensome and at worst simply dreads. There is a danger of not having a process to "develop and nurture" performance, bias and favoritism are common in the workplace. It seems to be that the traditional approach with the one-size-fits-all process is more bureaucratic than it should be. So does a performance review more productive or destructive in your organization nowadays?


Performance reviews could be productive if they really were used as a tool for developing people. Many organizations have regular one to one review, following up and discussing the individual needs to develop with mutually agreed actions to take their performance to the next level. Treat employees as customers, to collect their feedback proactively. Unfortunately, in many cases, these reviews are instead a tick in the box exercise done once per year routinely without a tailored solution to fit each individual’s specific need to grow. In reality, many of current performance review programs have been ill-designed with little or no training support while using administratively easy-to-use systems that, worst of all, have little or no connection to the strategy or operation of the business. Many employees know very little about their strategy and have become disenchanted with the entire process.


Performance reviews also become destructive if there are no clear standards of what defines good performance. There has to be a scale of what is expected and which is well communicated to everyone within the team. Ambiguous standards left to the discretion of each manager make the process weak and at times painful. “Good, Better, Best” ranking just doesn't cut it when your definition of the best is an 180 degree from the other one’s criteria. Top and functional leaders need to team with HR and create a sustainable process including objective performance goals, "mid-year" or other pre-reviews, and add the ongoing positive feedback and documentation, then the foundation of a sustainable and successful effort is set. The real challenge is the leader must recognize his/her responsibility to develop the team. Measuring performance is part of this responsibility.


It’s all about having rigorous and sustainable evaluation process to be applied fairly and equally for all. The worthiness of the overall system, from the EMPLOYEE'S perspective, will rest on how accurate and how well the performance feedback is given to the employee throughout the entire performance year and the validity of the eventual skills development that directly relates to their job/career advancement and, from a BUSINESS/TOP MANAGEMENT perspective, how well the management objectives are directly tied to the achievement of the company's overall business objectives and strategic plan goals, and fairly related to compensation. The process shouldn’t be too rigid, inviting employees’ self-assessment and collecting feedback from them to continue improving the performance review effectiveness.


Provide pragmatic management training program for managers: (a) how to write a good objective mapping business goals, (b) how to evaluate and rate typical performance results achieved against the objectives, and (c) how to provide employee feedback on the performance results achieved and the competencies used to achieve them on a timely basis throughout the entire performance review period.  throughout the performance review period, there should be ongoing informal performance feedback as the key work results of the employee are achieved or on a known regular basis. Therefore, the end-of-the-performance period discussion should be more of a summary discussion that concentrates on talent development. Competencies or skills vary greatly from level to level so identify: (a) mindset - culture influence, problem-solving creativity  b) technical job -both quality and quantity and (c) management skills for each level and job- high professional and high potential, etc.  If the improvement areas in the current job are significant, the development should concentrate on them. When there are no major improvement areas, the development can concentrate on the next most likely job.


Take bias out of the process and use a set of 21st-century standards to evaluate your talent employees with forward-looking and holistic perspective. The performance review shouldn’t be just an annual routine, but an ongoing activity with more frequent and relevant performance reviews that line executives will "buy into" because it helps them achieve THEIR, and thereby the company, annual business objectives. Talent managers need to shift their mindset from developing performance management processes or implementation to developing a holistic performance management solution that adds value to employees, organizational goals (both short-term and long-term) and business results. These are essential aspects of developing very innovative, intuitive, fast and visual approach to improving employee engagement, capabilities, and performance.

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