Thursday, January 22, 2009

Performance Appraisals: Stay or Go?





I have been giving some thought lately to the value of performance appraisals as I am in the middle of redesigning a few as we speak. Over the last few months there have been many blogs and articles written on the need to get rid of performance appraisals. Samuel Colbert, from the Wall Street Journal wrote on article back in October 2008, entitled, "Get Rid of the Performance Review." (I would link but you have to be a subscriber).


His reasons for getting rid of appraisals and my comments follow:


1) Two people-two mind-sets: I agree the boss is the reviewer and the employee is sometimes on the defensive. Can you say training and set expectations?


2) Objectivity is Subjective: I agree that there is a lot of subjectivity that CAN plaque appraisal feedback. However, if the managers are trained and the form has been designed properly with expected behaviors and job related competencies then that reduces subjectivity.


3) One size does not fit all: I agree with this so make sure performance appraisals are job specific meaning you probably need more than one form for all employees.


4) Personal Development is impeded: I disagree. Colbert thinks the manager gets in the way of development because he knows the weaknesses of the employee. I think most managers want their employees to be more productive, so pointing out career development is on their best interest.


5) Disruption to teamwork: Maybe. If you have true teams in the workplace then make sure team members have the ability to rate each other's performance and part of the rating includes ability to function and perform in a team.


He goes on to say that appraisals do not lead to improvement. I say they can if they are done correctly but that sure does take a lot of work. Now is not the time to get rid of appraisals. We have to be more focused on performance today than we have ever been.
His answer: A performance PREVIEW that focuses on the future instead of a performance REVIEW that focuses on the past....now that is interesting...thoughts???

5 comments:

Bryon Abramowitz said...

Cathy,

When I first read Colbert's article back in October I chuckled at his views. I can't say that I disagree with his position on things, but I also don't necessarily agree with his rationale for his position either.

The once a year performance appraisal process is an antiquated hold-over from legacy business practices. With the shift in workplace demographics where a larger percentage of the employee population are GenX, GenY, and soon Millennials this practice is rapidly changing.

I've always found it interesting that a CEO & CFO of a public company get a performance appraisal every 90 days (and very public at that), yet the rank and file are formally reviewed once a year. By the time the review is completed, the beginning of the time period in review is at least 13 months past. Numerous studies support the notion that performance reviews are biased towards employee performance towards the end of the period being reviewed.

I've always practiced continuous feedback with 90 day evaluations and 45 day checkpoints for my staff. As a result, when I complete an annual performance appraisal there are no surprises, and any performance and/or development issues are addressed well before the delivery of an appraisal. This way the discussion is not on what was done right or wrong, but rather how they're progressed over the past 4 checkpoints. No surprises, and discussion becomes more proactive rather than retrospective.

I've found that younger workers appreciate the more frequent input and expect that the trend will gain momentum as we see more GenX/GenY leaders in our companies.

What are your thoughts?

Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR said...

Bryon:

Excellent points. I think that the genx/genyers that are in our workplace EXPECT a lot of feedback so your process is an excellent one as they need that "check" more often. I think you have to address behavior as close to when it occurs as possible to have your desired effect (motivation or improvement) whether the behavior is good or bad. So, yes, I agree with all your points and thanks for commenting!

Cathy

Brentano the Consultant said...

Organizations don't take the time to facilitate the following process with their managers. They focus on having a common, annual process fulfilled. So, I take a grassroots approach with managers on "STAR"s.

(S)hare the org/unit goals, how the job tasks are linked directly or indirectly to fulfillment of these goals, how co-authored objectives and defined behavioral competencies deliver effectively on these goals, and how you will execute a process of observation & feedback.

(T)ake the time to frequently observe and share developmental feedback geared toward getting the employee pointed to exceptional levels.

(A)ccomdate or (A)dapt performance plans to meet changing organizational needs, to exploit new opportunities, or to set stretch assignments.

(R)ecognize, (R)eward or (R)emediate specific performance levels. It's easy to make the connection known and driven home.

Doing this throughout the year makes an annual review a mere document formality and is relatively conflict-free. More important, you are steadily building a high-performing team. What generally follows is higher performance on unit metrics, higher employee retention, getting on the radar in talent reviews, higher customer loyalty, higher likelihood in keeping your doors open in an economic downturn, etc.

Brentano the Consultant said...

Organizations don't take the time to facilitate the following process with their managers. They focus on having a common, annual process fulfilled. So, I take a grassroots approach with managers on "STAR"s.

(S)hare the org/unit goals, how the job tasks are linked directly or indirectly to fulfillment of these goals, how co-authored objectives and defined behavioral competencies deliver effectively on these goals, and how you will execute a process of observation & feedback.

(T)ake the time to frequently observe and share developmental feedback geared toward getting the employee pointed to exceptional levels.

(A)ccomdate or (A)dapt performance plans to meet changing organizational needs, to exploit new opportunities, or to set stretch assignments.

(R)ecognize, (R)eward or (R)emediate specific performance levels. It's easy to make the connection known and driven home.

Doing this throughout the year makes an annual review a mere document formality and is relatively conflict-free. More important, you are steadily building a high-performing team. What generally follows is higher performance on unit metrics, higher employee retention, getting on the radar in talent reviews, higher customer loyalty, higher likelihood in keeping your doors open in an economic downturn, etc.

Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR said...

Brentano:

I like a process. I think you are right we have appraisals and more forms and discussions but often what is missing is the process which has key elements build in as your STAR model demonstrates. Thanks so much for posting that for us!