The Problem With Performance Reviews in an Organization

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I’ll be honest – I don’t like performance reviews. There are so many things that I see wrong with them, and how organizations don’t use them to their full capacity.

First, getting a review on how you are doing once a year doesn’t cut it. How are you supposed to improve during the year? How do you know what you are doing wrong if you are only told once a year? Managers too often rely on the annual review to actual work with their subordinates on improvement and what they are doing wrong. It is the incorrect way to approach the situation. Manager should tell their employee immediately if they are doing something wrong, so they can fix it and work on their improvement. And what are the chances the manager is going to remember from the past year all of the bad and good things a person has done? They won’t. Reviewing performance should be a constant thing. Work with the employees to let them know what they are doing wrong, and work with them to fix it. Use the annual review to look at the things that need to be corrected, and what the employee has done to fix them.

Second, performance reviews all too often focus on the negative. I wrote recently about focusing on the positive. I think performance reviews should look at what the employee is good at – what their strengths are, and use those sessions to helping the individual improve those strengths. How many times in a performance review have you been told what you’ve done right, or what you are good at? And how much of the time focused on the positives instead of the negatives? Everyone has strengths. It is up to the manager to discover their subordinate’s strengths and put them to work. Obviously, you can’t focus just on the positives. If an employee has a behavioral issue, that needs to be dealt with right away. Or if they are lacking a skill needed to do their job effectively – that needs to be addressed through training. But also look at the positives, and what the employee is good at, even if you discover their strengths aren’t suited for their current position. It will improve them – and yourself and your organization – in the long run.

Third, use performance reviews as a session for planning your development. It is in your benefit as a manager, and to the benefit of the employee, if you work together to develop a plan for developing a person and helping them achieve their career goals. Talk about what interests the employee, what their strengths are, and what they should focus on, and talk about the additional training necessary to help them reach their goals. Set goals for the upcoming year, and make those goals meaningful. Don’t set worthless goals such as “generate 50 more TPS reports each quarter”. That isn’t an improvement. Improvement is personal and focuses on your strengths. Set up a plan of what to focus on in the upcoming year.

Poor management and stifling corporate policy get in the way of making the performance review process useful. Make it a continuous process that focuses on the employee’s strengths, behavioral modification needs, and planning for their development.

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