‘Tis the season for performance appraisal bashing – or at least re-configuring. Why do I feel like one of these evenings I’ll see a “very special holiday performance” on TV in which the Evil Manager gets visited by the ghosts of performance appraisals past, present and future?
Recently on TLNT, two excellent writers took the pro and con look at traditional performance appraisals.
On the pro side (and the Ghost of Appraisals Past) is Steven Hunt with his “Enough with the BS – Performance Appraisals Can Add a Lot of Value”, in which he provides empirical data from several un-biased researchers on the value of performance appraisals, concluding:
“Should we stop doing performance appraisals because people don’t like them? Claims that we should do away with performance appraisals because people don’t like them are misguided. First, it is misleading to say that people hate performance appraisals. To the contrary, many employees express frustration when their company delays or fails to conduct their performance review.
“What is more accurate is to say that people don’t like poorly designed performance appraisal processes. This is not the same as not liking any performance appraisal process. Second, just because some people may not like something is not adequate reason to stop doing it. Most people I know don’t particularly like going through the financial budgeting process, but that doesn’t mean we should stop creating budgets. Whether people like it or not, having a consistent performance appraisal process is critical to effective, efficient, and fair workforce management.”
Then on the con side (and the Ghost of Appraisals Present) is Jason Lauritsen on “Talent Management Insanity, or Why the Performance Appraisal Must Die”:
“But we do a lot of things to our employees that don’t always like, so maybe that’s not enough cause to destroy the performance appraisal. If you want more reason, you need to take a step further and look at the actual performance data being captured and how it’s used in most organizations….
“You may be thinking that if we kill the performance appraisal, what do you do in its place? Here are some alternatives.
- Do nothing. If your managers know how to manage, they don’t need an artificial process of performance management. They are doing it on their own every day because it’s the only way they can successfully drive the results you demand of them. My suspicion is that if you simply eliminated the performance appraisal, you will improve organizational performance by eliminating the wasted time and emotional energy that is lost in this process.
- Have performance conversations. Performance management really boils down to a simple question: did you do what was expected of you? Performance management isn’t about forms and ratings. It’s about meeting expectations. So, teach managers how to have conversations with employees to clarify expectations up front and to measure performance against those standards on the back end.”
I’ll put myself in the role of the Ghost of Performance Appraisals Future. The answer to the performance appraisal conundrum lies somewhere in the middle. There will always be a role for the formal, annual appraisal, but that meeting will become far less fraught with tension, worry and fear (for both the manager and the employee) when the annual review becomes a summary of the frequent, timely and regular feedback and praise the employee has received throughout the year.
It’s this balance between the two – the analytical balanced by the emotional, the formal process balanced by the informal recognition – that gives employees the direction, encouragement and communication they crave throughout the year.
Which performance process do you subscribe to – past, present or future?
About Derek Irvine
The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.