Are traditional performance reviews dying?

The 7 most expensive words in business: “We have always done it that way.”

One of the more deadly idioms in the world of commerce essentially implies that the standard template that organizations have operated off of will suffice. If you want a different result, make a different choice – but it first starts with your line of thinking.

Management have all too often used this as a bell curve, or the vitality model as a mechanism to clear out what they deem the bottom 10% of employees – and sometimes gets disguised as ulterior motives from upper management.

According to the 2013 Employee Recognition Programs survey, 49% of human-resource professionals believe their performance-review process needs to be re-evaluated. One study found that in more than one out of three instances, individual appraisals were detrimental to employee performance. Coupled with workplace stress and anxiety at an all-time high – there is a clear need for the evaluation process to evolve on both ends of the workplace spectrum. In fact, Accenture recently announced they were disposing of their annual performance review and replacing this worn out system where managers will provide feedback on a more regular timeline.

While the onus has traditionally been placed squarely on management to quarterback these reviews, employees can take a proactive approach to mitigate all this unnecessary worry by penciling in times to meet every month.

Among the problems with performance evaluations: Managers have incentives to inflate appraisals; even accurate feedback can feel biased and unfair; and organizations don’t do a good job of rewarding good evaluators and sanctioning bad ones. – The New Yorker, The Push Against Performance Reviews

If you want to drive stronger performance – it might be time to rethink the template and flip the script on the out-dated performance review that has begun to lose its value.

Look forward – not back

Countless studies have shown that performance reviews are damaging the employee-manager relationship instead of enhancing it. Performance reviews by their very nature are supposed to be a comprehensive overview on the body of work an employee has presented thus far with the underlying goal of fuelling better performance. While reflection is important for any aspect of growth – it’s important to get back on the same page and discuss future goals and objectives. Brining up the past can cause a strain on the relationship. Besides, what good will come from discussing something that happened five months ago?

Level set from day 1

“Level-set” sometimes has a connotation as an overused business buzzword, but it just might be the very concept that saves your team from future migraines and misalignment among responsibilities. The first month with a new team member is critical for their development period. Both sides need to understand what is expected of them, what their deliverables are and how they will be accurately measured.

Schedule evaluations frequently 

The key issue with performance reviews are the frequency to which they occur – 6 months to a year is absolutely ridiculous to accurately measure progress, which is also why so many pertinent points fall through the cracks during this time frame. Without steady checkpoints, the review process could just be based on the last 2 weeks of the review timeframe. This is where employees can show the initiative to schedule informal monthly meetings over a coffee – it doesn’t have to be a litany of performance reviews like it’s a scene from Office Space.

Schedule a monthly coffee or try a walk and talk. Walking meetings are phenomenal because people are more energized, alert and the change in scenery helps improve their thinking.

Attach a call-to-action

Take a page from every modern marketer’s workbook and apply a solid call-to-action to your meeting. This is a phenomenal opportunity for both parties to discuss next steps and evaluate a clear objective moving forward.

Don’t just let the conversation end with an awkward lull – take advantage of this discussion to employ some prospective next steps for the team dynamic, what both sides can improve on and when will be an agreeable time to meet again.

Conversation is a two-way street

Performance reviews sometimes get deemed as a personal attack on an employee, when really it presents itself as an excellent opportunity for honest discourse. As an employer, try asking questions such as “how can I help to make your job easier?” or “what don’t you like about my management style?” It opens the floodgates for genuine dialogue on how both sides can monitor progress and plan together – while effectively providing valuable insight to each other.

If you are in the process of bringing on talent from a larger organization – it would be wise to heed this advice as you re-evaluate your position on employee evaluation. Don’t put your company, or your product at risk of failing – download our free eBook for 9 top industry secrets on how to hire – and retain top Product Management talent.