2 fundamental reasons performance reviews fail
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Performance reviews are awful. They are so difficult to get right, yet companies continue to cling to them as the only way to measure individual employee success.
While many organizations have adjusted to account for newer, better tools, they still face problems with effectively measuring improvements or addressing behaviors. The reason is, regardless of the tool used, there are fundamental mistakes many organizations make that will doom the success of any evaluation method.
Here are two major reasons performance reviews fail and simple steps to fix them now.
It may sound simple, but if the manager and employee do not start off on the same page, their expectations could be completely out of whack by the time the evaluation comes around.
According to an Adobe survey as reported by the Society for Human Resources Management, 34 percent of millennials have cried because of a performance review. My clients as well as those in the survey all noted that it was often because of what the managers consider completely unrealistic expectations.
In general, managers walk into the review expecting to give positive and negative feedback and a raise consistent with known budget parameters. The managers are giving that feedback with the impression that the feedback they have provided throughout the review period and a general understanding of the financial health of the company is already clear to the employee.
However, as noted in the survey, many employees who were driven to tears during a review conversation were completely surprised by the information they were hearing.
To address this disconnect, managers must be allowed and encouraged to communicate clearly and regularly with their employees about individual performance as well as budget and culture information related to raises and promotions. Neither HR nor managers can assume that any information is understood or obvious to an employee unless it has been clearly and repeatedly discussed with each employee.
Any difference in how performance reviews are administered will be known and discussed by employees. Whether it is a difference in the raise allocations, the schedule for the review or inconsistent communication methods among managers, the way a review and the related raise are rolled out are critical to success.
Further, inconsistencies in the implementation of accountability measures is also critical to the success of the review. In other words, even if everyone gets a great review, if employees perceive that co-workers are being held accountable in different ways — either for positive encouragement of great behavior or negative feedback on unproductive behavior — it will undermine the success of the performance management system.
To ensure consistency across the implementation, rollout and accountability associated with performance reviews, leaders, managers and HR need to work together before, during and after the process. Specifically, guidelines surrounding how to present the review, provide feedback and hold staff accountable should be provided to managers and the managers need to be held accountable for following those guidelines.
As noted in this New Yorker article, perceived inconsistencies and evaluators not being held accountable for their delivery of evaluations increases the anxiety associated with and decreases the usefulness of evaluations.
The bottom line is, regardless of the tools companies use or the frequency of the evaluations, the performance review system will fail if expectations are not clear and evaluations methods are not consistent. By taking these simple steps to get the fundamentals in line, organizations can more clearly assess the performance management system and their employees.
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