Are Traditonal Performance Reviews Right for You?

Jocelyn Bérard, M.Ps. MBA is the Vice President of International Leadership and Business Solutions (Vice-président Leadership et Solutions d’Affaires  —  Internationale) at Global Knowledge Canada

Is the traditional performance appraisal worth much? Some firms don’t think so and are now using a business-oriented management model.

Annual performance review. Employee appraisal. Job evaluation. Whatever your company calls it, this process, most often perceived as the domain of the human resources department, can conjure up equal parts angst, confusion, and distrust. And that’s just on the manager’s side of the desk. Why is this? And why are employees anxious about the review process? It could be they feel reviews are arbitrary, and they have no real input, or that their contributions are meaningless.

Clearly, a large number of people in any given organization see little value in HR-driven annual performance reviews. And who can blame them? The term alone sends the wrong message on two counts. First, the emphasis is backward — the accent is on the review instead of upfront goal-setting and employee engagement, where it belongs. Second, waiting an entire year to discuss performance is, frankly, nonsense.

But until recently, most organizations did things that way just because they always have. The fact is, many well intentioned initiatives are simply misdirected. Here are a few examples:

Forced Rankings

Popularized in the 1990s by General Electric’s then CEO Jack Welch, the notion is if you’re not an A or B performer or are not advancing toward becoming one, you’re out. In the sense that a company needs to manage performance, it’s a good idea. But in reality, the emphasis is misguided. An arbitrary company quota may mandate managers to remove you regardless of circumstances, even if you’re a good performer with good potential. It also allows weak leaders to hide behind the system instead of taking proactive steps to address an individual’s performance problems.

Combining Performance Management and Compensation Discussions

In many cases, managers speak with employees about their performance at the same time they hold discussions about pay. This is a mistake. Combining these topics in a single conversation often shifts the focus from performance to compensation and can impact the quality of the review. From an employee perspective, the discussion can become rife with stress and emotion; from a corporate perspective, fair compensation relative to company performance can be misconstrued by the employee. Smart companies link performance management and salary but hold focused discussions around each topic separately.

Related Courses
Performance Management
Align for Results
Provide Feedback to Gain Momentum

Republished with permission from CA Magazine.

In this article

Join the Conversation