HC Online chats to Michael Minns, who founded Michael Minns Human Resources in 1983; he believes that the time has come for performance appraisal to be scrapped.
“Performance Appraisals simply don’t work, they never have and they never will,” Minns says. “In fact, they do more harm than good."
Minns refers to performance appraisals as a tool of a weak corporate management system.
“The traditional performance reviews are championed by weak managers,” he says. “They are simply a way handing over managerial responsibilities to a periodical, centrally organised paper trail generated by the HR department."
“The only true, tangible and lasting outcome is that performance appraisals de-skill managers,” he adds.
This is the broad overall concept that led Minns to establish ‘The Australasian Society for the Abolition of Performance Appraisals’. “We have two levels of membership, Corporate and Personal and membership has grown every year since the society was formed in 2000,” he says.
According to Minns, appraisals are damaging because they impose a ‘30 day sentence’ upon employees.He also criticized their employ by ‘data rationalists’ as the basis of calculating bonuses, pay rises, promotional potential, and eligibility.
In some cases the performance appraisal is used as a tool to determine an organisations training needs. However, the needs of the business alone should determine what training will or won’t occur. “It is simply poor management practice” he says.
“Some people think that giving downward feedback is the answer to every possible human performance problem. However, there is no such thing as constructive criticism.” Minns says. “This approach focuses on the past, on what has already. Instead we should be giving feed-forward thus concentrating on the infinite variety of opportunities that the future offers. The key is to focus on behavioural correction as opposed to dwelling on mistakes of the past."
Perhaps the most bothersome aspect of performance reviews for Minns is their sporadic utilisation. “Some places have computer based appraisal conducted once a year where the two people involved do not even meet each other” he says. “Yet managing is a day to day, eye to eye, body contact activity and one size does not fit all.”
Let managers manage
“Large organisations tend to have large HR departments and the larger the HR department the more de-skilled the managers are. I would have the smallest possible HR department,” Minns said “ I would make managers responsible for hiring, firing, training, performance management and all other HR management activities and I would keep payroll in the accounts department.”
He continues: “The true role of a HR manager is to do the job so well that they make themselves redundant. Yet time and time again we see HR managers empire building probably because their salary level is, in part, determined by the number of people they manage. This quantum measure no doubt being integrated into the performance appraisal system. The line manager should be held accountable for the output and effectiveness of those they manage.
“Further, managers must add value to the work of their immediate subordinates. If they don’t add value then they must be adding costs and the position of the manager should be reviewed and perhaps abolished. It is as simple as that.
“There are at time some special HR projects to be embarked upon, these should be handled by outside contractors as they have a beginning and an end and are not full time HR roles."
He also feels that HR should not be responsible for the workplace culture. “That is the sole responsibility of the leader who through acts of commission and omission designs, implements and maintains the workplace culture. Nothing more, nothing less,” he says.
“Yet time and time again we see HR departments being rebadged and renamed using the words ‘People and Culture. This raises the question 'What does the GM or CEO do?'
“Culture is the engine room of the organisation; it tells the world who and what the organisation is and how it does it. The leader has a clear choice: A workplace culture by design or by default. A leader’s choice.”