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Bobsut@stanford.edu

Rich wanted this posted here, thanks!


Bob

f Performance Review is achieving results below our expectations, we need to send a clear message: Review, you'll need to focus, step up your efforts, and get with the program. Otherwise we'll have no choice but to "wish you well in your future endeavors." I don't know how we got to this point. Performance Review showed such promise in earlier times. Review was once an indispensible player, a trusted broker of feedback between managers and employees. I remember the times when Review was associated with salary increases, bonuses, even promotions. A time to step back from the everyday grind and reflect on the accomplishments of the past months. Now nobody has even a kind word or two to say about poor old PR. It's sad. What went wrong? Was it the slowing economy? The commoditization of the workforce as business turned its focus to finance? Or is everybody spending so much time on facebook at work they can't have a normal conversation any more? What ever happened to trust and loyalty to the business processes that served so selflessly in the past? Well, that's life in business, I guess.

rich solomon

@greg. Thanks, I was not familiar with the one-minute manager. (Now I realize I've been one-minute-reprimanding myself all day for posting to the wrong thread).
Deliberately structured, quickly executed exercises are useful for getting to the root elements of a situation and keeping execution on pace. I also feel strongly that there's a need to sometimes step back and practice a more comprehensive, contemplative (strategic?) assessment of the larger picture, as a well-considered performance review would accomplish.

ecartlidge

Bob, how does the high tech firm you refer to handle goal setting and success or failure of meeting or not meeting goals? What is the frequent lower stakes feedback?
I agree that performance reviews are not effective, however if they are used for goal setting and rewarding desired behavior you need to put in place a process where that is measured periodically. I would not classify that process as lower stakes feedback. The newest hot HR concept, pay for performance is even more destructive to morale.
Traditionally annual salary increases are tied to performance reviews. A better approach would be to disconnect that process and give employees annual salary increases using an annual
COLA approach. I have seen that done in collective bargaining agreements where performance is evaluated separately from the annual review process.

Doug Fine

My favorite performance review with the VP of HR of a large New Orleans hospital. He sat behind his desk and pushed a completely incomplete performance appraisal form towards the corner of his desk where I sat. He might have said a few things. Don't remember if I signed it or not, but probably did if it involved a pay raise. VP of HR. I was one of his directors at the time. Had me scratching my not-so-bald (then) head back then. D.

jik

"There are better ways for creating open & honest communication between managers & employees."

Even with the best manager and best employees, open and honest communication is hard, for one simple reason: time. My manager and I both know, I mean *really* know, that talking to each other regularly, about what my team and I are doing and the things for which we need help from him, is essential to our success. But when each of us is being pulled in ten different directions at the same time (which tends to happen more the better you are), there's always an excuse to put off the one-on-one until tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Furthermore, even when one-on-ones happen regularly, they tend to be mired in the specifics.

A good performance review process is designed to give managers and employees an opportunity to spend several hours focused on the big picture in a productive way without feeling guilty about it, i.e., without feeling, "Yes, I know it's a good idea to talk about this stuff, but there's so much I have to get done for the company RIGHT NOW, that I feel like spending time analyzing my performance and doing career growth planning is detracting from my 'real work'."

A mandatory performance review process makes it clear to employees that the process IS "real work" and needs to be treated as such. This tends to be forgotten even by the best people, let alone the people who are NOT the top performers and need to be reminded of this even more.

"Anything that goes into an employee's permanent record is not going to do it."

If an employee is concerned about what's going into his permanent record in his performance review, then there's something wrong with the employee's performance, something wrong with the manager, or something wrong with the performance review process at that company.

If there's something wrong with the employee's performance, then it *should* go into his permanent record. Like it or not, in our litigious society, companies *do* need to protect themselves.

If there's something wrong with the manager or the performance review process at that company, which I admit is all too common, that's orthogonal to the question of whether there is something wrong with performance reviews by definition, which is what is under discussion here. As I noted in my previous comments, just because it's hard to do right, and just because so many companies do it wrong, doesn't prove that it should be abandoned completely as a powerful management technique.

CaptainCanada

Good points from all, however they miss the big picture.

Performance Reviews exist to protect the company from its employees and to add a veneer of objectivity to the employee rating process.

At work we're now into PMP season and along with the effort to 'quantify' everything we do is an equally important activity to think up ways to dumb down our accomplishments so as not to raise to high of a bar for oneself next year.

Jake

Personally, I like the conflicting & passive-aggressive nature of performance reviews. I like receiving retro-active job duty changes. I like receiving the blame for a poorly executed project - a project that occurred before I join the company. I like being told that I exceeded expectations on all of my deliverables but I will be rated as a Meets expections because I was recently promoted so they can not give an exceeds right away or they cannot afford it or whatever...

Jake

@jik: There are better ways for creating open & honest communication between managers & employees. Anything that goes into an employee's permanent record is not going to do it.

Personally, I like the conflicting & passive-aggressive nature of performance reviews. I like receiving retro-active job duty changes. I like receiving the blame for a poorly executed project - a project that occurred before I join the company. I like being told that I exceeded expectations on all of my deliverables but I will be rated as a Meets expections because I was recently promoted so they can not give an exceeds right away or they cannot afford it or .....

Travis Branzell

I myself also believe that performance reviews are somewhat pointless. I worked for a company that did them biannually. Each performance review consisted of a form which I used to evaluate my own performance and then my boss would fill out his own performance review of me. We would sit down and compare our thoughts on my performance, point out a couple of things I needed to improve on, and that was it. What I didn't like about it is that it was mostly based around things like showing up on time, calling into work, communicating with others, etc. There was little feedback associated with my performance, or how good of a product I was producing.

I'm a huge believer in feedback, particularly positive feedback. I believe that most managers point out their employees flaws or provide insight on the things that they need to work on rather than giving positive feedback or pointing out the good things about your performance. The other thing is that most manager only use performance reviews to provide feedback, rather than providing it frequently. I believe that if you are constantly provided with feedback on your performance then you manager will better be able to help produce the product that they are expecting from you, rather than waiting for those performance review to provide insight on your performance.

Ben in CLE

"Performance reviews should be about measuring each employee against his/her own potential, not against other people."

Agree with the sentiment, but I think the employee should be measured against the job requirements more than his own potential.

jik

By the way, I looked at Culbert's "test", and it's nothing like the ARSE. The ARSE is a serious (although light in tone) attempt to measure how much of an asshole the person taking the test is. Culbert's test isn't a serious effort to measure anything; the questions clearly, obviously, and obnoxiously assume the result. It's not a self-assessment tool so much as a propaganda tool for selling Culbert's book.

Nicole

Coming from a company in the past that was so inconsistent with their review process, I get so frustrated with the thought of an annual review. With it, only a 2% raise was given and the scores across the board were average for every employee, even if exceptional work had been done previously. Reviews were just done to have on file for the almighty HR department and I know that one year my whole department did not even see their reviews.
I do think that every few months, bi-annually, or annually, a meeting should be had to reflect on a past project or performance, but especially in a company that does not take them seriously, they should be dismissed altother as I agree that they lower confidence and moral.

Bret Simmons

I scored 42. I think PA sucks. It is the biggest charade we play at work. Everyone hates them, know they suck, but we all have to continue to play the game because know one has the courage and wisdom to abolish them. Deming is still right about them.

jik

I am of two minds about the crusade against performance reviews, and I think that it to a large extent resembles the crusade against performance-based incentives.

The crux of the argument seems to be: (1) It's very hard to do performance reviews / incentives correctly; (2) When done incorrectly, they do more harm then good; therefore, (3) companies should get rid of them completely.

The obvious response that I see to this argument is, it may be HARD to do them correctly, but it's not IMPOSSIBLE, so why aren't the management gurus trying to teach how to do them correctly rather than saying they should be eliminated?

The response to THAT argument seems to be, "It's just too hard. Most companies that try to do them right are simply not capable of it. The damage to the companies that try and fail far outweighs the benefit to the few companies that succeed. Therefore, greater overall benefit is achieved by prescribing their elimination everywhere."

I find this argument compelling, and that is why I am on the fence about the whole thing. However, the reason why I am not completely convinced is that I think there are, in fact, easy ways to mitigate much of the damage caused by performance reviews and to thereby make them beneficial, and I'm confused about why these aren't being taught.

For example...

* Numerical scores emanating from performance reviews are useless and stupid. The point of the performance review is to enhance communication. Giving employees a "score" doesn't enhance communication. It does nothing to improve employees' performance. It can only do bad, never good. Just don't do it.

* Similarly, performance reviews with forced rankings are bad, bad, bad, bad, always bad, never good, don't ever do them, thank you very much. I worked at a company where the numerical review scores (see above) within each organization had to fit into a fixed distribution -- 20% top performers, 10% bottom performers, 70% in the middle -- and it was ridiculous. After I wrote the performance reviews for the people on my team and my co-managers and I did a lifeboat drill of everyone on all of our teams, my manager told us where our people's scores had to fall within the distribution, and we had to go back and edit the rankings we had assigned to them to make their final scores end up in the right place. It was ridiculous and made the whole process into a joke which no one took seriously. Performance reviews should be about measuring each employee against his/her own potential, not against other people.

* The process you use to decide who gets a promotion / performance bonus / whatever should have little to nothing to do with the performance review process. Like I said before, the performance review process should be about encouraging communication, and it can't do that if people aren't also worried about it being a paper trail for later compensation-related decisions. When one of my guys was due for a promotion recently, I wrote a business case describing his recent accomplishments and what he would be able to make elsewhere if he decided to jump ship. Out of a 1.5-page business case for his promotion, only one sentence was linked to peformance reviews -- "All of his recent performance reviews have been extremely positive" -- and that was buried on the second page.

Let me mention this yet again, since I think it's the key idea of the whole thing: performance reviews are about encouraging communication. They are about getting managers and their subordinates into the habit of talking to each other about communication, so that they can and will continue to do it throughout the year. If this is how a company really uses them, then they can be quite beneficial; if, on the other hand, the company falls into the trap of using them to "rank" employees or decide who gets raises and who doesn't, then thehy're guaranteed to cause more harm than good.

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