“If performance evaluations were a drug, they would not receive F.D.A. approval,” because “they have so many side effects, and so often they fail.” – Robert Sutton, Stanford Professor and co-author of just published, Scaling Up Excellence. (Source)
It’s no secret that most employees, and even most managers, dislike the annual performance review. I remember doing a performance assessment in a previous job and being stumped on almost every question. Without encouragement to track any of my successes or challenges, with an incomplete view of all I had worked on and scant input from the people I had worked with, the task felt hopeless and intimidating. I worried about getting negative feedback from my manager and how it would impact my overall evaluation and future opportunities. Performance reviews didn’t inspire me to achieve more or get better. They only caused anxiety. The Washington Post very recently reported on how people respond to critical feedback stating that, “The research is a reminder not only of how much people dislike criticism, but of how dangerous performance review tools like rankings and ratings can be.”
“The best kind of performance review is no performance review” – Aubrey Daniels
In a post last July on Adobe’s blog, HR Executive, Donna Morris (SVP, People and Places at Adobe), looked back on the company’s first year after they made the bold decision of abolishing the annual performance review. Fittingly pleased she reported, “we’re saving 80,000 hours of our managers’ time by removing an archaic process; and our attrition is down year over year.” The company’s new focus on motivating and inspiring each individual was working.
There is a paradigm shift occurring in the HR world on how companies view talent and their needs in terms of attraction, retention, and employee engagement. Josh Bersin, Founder and Principal at Bersin by Deloitte, aptly states, “The old-fashioned performance review is slowly going out the window. In 2014, companies will aggressively redesign their appraisal and evaluation programs to focus on coaching, development, continuous goal alignment, and recognition.”
Thought leaders on this topic are finding performance reviews no longer deliver what people want and are dreaded by almost everyone. Here are reasons why they just don’t work.
Performance Reviews Are….
Infrequent – It’s easy to forget all of your accomplishments, successes, even failures to learn from, when you’re only being reviewed once a year. Patty McCord (previously, Chief Talent Officer, Netflix) states that performance reviews “didn’t make sense—they were too ritualistic and too infrequent.” (Source). When feedback is not given often or on the spot, the opportunity to recognize is lost. Aubrey Daniels, clinical psychologist turned management consultant, made a great analogy. “Think of a sports team: A coach doesn’t wait until the end of a season to give his players feedback.” And neither should managers.
Weakness Based – Once a year performance reviews tend to focus on calibration and employees’ shortcomings rather than on coaching and reinforcing strengths. This can lead to negative year-end surprises, a decline in morale and higher attrition rates. Donna Morris (Adobe), expressed her concerns on the matter: “When you’re a company of 11,500 people [and you experience] an increase [in attrition] of a few percentage points, you’re talking 100 to 200 individuals leaving who were likely great contributors. That has implications around your productivity and your performance as a company.” (Source)
Antiquated & Vague – If performance reviews can be traced back to the 1930s, it’s safe to say that most companies don’t work the same way anymore. This is especially so with the Millennial generation entering the workforce in large numbers. Gen Y workers, who will be greater than a third of the US workforce in 2014, crave specific and meaningful feedback. Taproot Foundation confirms this belief: “Millennials, who in ten years will make up the majority of the workforce, require mentorship, growth opportunities, and useful feedback from their managers.” We can’t continue sticking to old, mundane traditions if we expect to progress.
Don’t Promote Growth – Most performance reviews are focused on ratings and rankings to determine compensation therefore managers mostly spend time justifying pre-determined ratings during these discussions. This adversarial dynamic ensures there is not much productive discussion about growth, development and career progression. Culbert explains this further saying, ”performance reviews demoralize the workforce because they focus too heavily on flaws in employees’ performance, rather than on building their strengths. The result is stagnant performance and a team of demoralized employees who are not getting the support they need to grow and develop.”
Performance reviews not helping you continuously grow and develop at work?
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In most workplaces, ongoing feedback is scarce and typically comes around in the form of performance reviews only once a year. At TalentCove we understand the worth of receiving regular feedback from managers and peers. Even a small, but specific comment such as “you did great work on the P&G presentation, keep it up”, can nurture an engaged and motivated team. Regular and specific feedback fuels employees’ desire to want to do more at work. So, what better way to improve workplace culture than perfect the art of giving effective feedback?
Providing valuable feedback is an important skill to master, but it is not always simple.
Here are our top tips for giving good feedback:
1. Be Positive –Feedback is about improvement and should inspire the person to want to get better at what they do. The tone should always be positive and the feedback should be specific. Give frequent positive feedback to reinforce things that are being done well. This creates safety and receptivity for when you provide corrective feedback.
2. Do It Often – “Employee reviews are a process that should happen all year-long,” says Paul Falcone, author of 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews (Source). Don’t just acknowledge the big successes. Celebrate the small wins, too!
3. Act Swiftly – The sooner you relay feedback, the more productive it is. When feedback is shared in the moment, it is more meaningful. Delaying until a quarterly or yearly performance view is often as ineffective as not giving any feedback at all.
4. Be Genuine – It feels good to get feedback, but if it isn’t genuine, it could cheapen the experience and possibly give the receiver the notion that they are not truly valued. According to Towers Watson, the top rated driver of employee engagement was “the extent to which employees believed that their senior management had a sincere interest in their well‐being.”
5. Ask for Feedback. It’s near impossible to improve on something if you’re not receiving feedback yourself, right? Don’t hesitate to ask the person you gave feedback to what they enjoyed or how you could improve for next time.
Have any good feedback tips of your own? Share them in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
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The most important thing you can do to achieve more at work is to know what you are accomplishing and sharing your progress. Get more done and get the recognition you deserve!
In my previous management role at a global enterprise software company, Craig was a top performer in my team. He always made sure I was updated on the progress he was making at work and regularly sought feedback from me and his peers on how he was doing. No surprise then that Craig received plenty of recognition and had consistent impact and success at work. He made my job easier as his manager and he made the team stronger.
Now there were others who did good work, like Andrew in our Toronto office and Sarah in Newtown Square, but they didn’t seem to get the same kind of recognition. Despite periodic 1:1 conversations, I remember sitting down with them for their year-end performance reviews and feeling frustrated. There was always insufficient data about the full range of their accomplishments over the course of the year and little specific feedback from other team members. Those discussions left everyone unsatisfied with the process.
The reality is that most managers have a hazy understanding of what people are accomplishing regularly and team members are unsure of how to communicate their progress and get recognition for their work. Experience has shown that self-directed employees who take initiative about communicating progress and proactively seek feedback from colleagues and managers, get recognized and have more impact at work than those who don’t. Their transparency also makes teams more productive, performance-driven and effective.
Spend less than 30 seconds a day…
Our mission at TalentCove is to make it quick and easy for people at work to be more productive and get the recognition and feedback they deserve.
Capture what you’re accomplishing, share your progress with your team when you want, and get recognition with day-to-day and informal feedback. It’s that simple. Plus, all your information is always in one place and accessible: anytime, anywhere.
A Growing Movement
Thought leaders and companies we admire are embracing this approach. Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg called Netflix’s famous ‘Freedom and Responsibility’ Culture Deck (6,966,376 views and counting), “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley”. The emphasis is on increasing employee freedom and responsibility rather than more process, encouraging people to achieve sustained excellence, while valuing their colleagues’ skills and behaviors. This is the future of the workplace, and more and more companies – big and small – are adopting it.
With more distributed teams, a higher proportion of contract workers and an ever greater share of millennials (those born after 1980, and will constitute 36% of the US workforce this year), a work culture of self-directed progress and continuous feedback will be the norm. To attract, engage, retain and motivate the best people, teams and companies will need to adapt.
This is the future of work – and it’s in your hands.
–Fawad Zakariya, Co-founder & CEO
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