To Review or Not To Review?

The simple words “performance reviews’ can put absolute dread into many managers and staff members alike. Considering why this is, it can surely only be based on past experiences or hearsay of colleagues experiences.

Started in the Industrial Revolution when many of the roles were production based, a review was a simple measure of performance criteria i.e. number of widgets coming off the machine. Now in the knowledge wave, the question is, are they still relevant and meaningful?

Research indicates that performance reviews are not effective at improving performance and this is one of the reasons some companies are giving up on them.

It doesn’t help an employee move forward if a manager tells them what they did well and did badly last year. I am a real advocate that if a manager needs to give someone feedback, they should do that in the moment — not months later. Therein lies the issue.

If we were having meaningful conversations with our staff daily and weekly about performance against measurable, clearly communicated and agreed business goals, with honest, on point, two way feedback – then the reviews may not be required. But that is a lot of criteria to fulfill, to be able to have the confidence to ditch the reviews.

In consulting to small, medium and large size businesses over a couple of decades I would have to say the majority of managers are not having those regular feedback conversations.

The sole purpose of looking back in the review meeting is to improve the future. So, if we need to implement a process to encourage us to do that, then what business would not want to do that. The question is the process that a business chooses to adopt and how well its employees manage that process.

A business will do what feels right for them and this inherently comes from the top. Are the senior leaders engaging with their direct reports on strategy and metrics, frequently, openly and honestly? Are they enabling their managers to share clear direction and expectations to staff, with regular dialogue that is meaningful, two-way and genuinely looking for improvements? How it is tracked and documented is almost irrelevant, as long as there is some method.

Success of the process comes down to the skill of the leaders and managers. Not all can naturally conduct a performance conversation in a motivational and engaging manner. But done well – that’s what they are – motivational and engaging. Interpersonal skills can be learned and improved – some coaching is of value here. No one has it sorted.

You will note there has been no mention of pay review – that is a totally separate conversation.