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Performance reviews: Scrap them?

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HC Online | 18 Jan 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
After performance-reviewing the performance review, some more innovative organisations have decided to do away with the process altogether.
  • Michelle Dowding | 18 Jan 2012, 04:03 PM Agree 0
    I can't see how scrapping a performance review is a positive thing! Performance reviews give staff the opportunity to negotiate rewards based on their performance. By abolishing these, less staff will be inclined to ask for a raise (fear factor). I also cannot see how a weekly self-evaluation is a better alternative. I know companies in Australia who do not conduct performance reviews and the staff their would do ANYTHING to have these implemented. If done correctly they should be an excellent management tool and a motivating experience for staff. If done incorrectly by management, I can see how they would be damaging but that is more an indicator of poor management skills than that performance reviews are not working.
  • bronte jackson | 18 Jan 2012, 04:21 PM Agree 0
    I am not surprised at all to hear of scrapping of performance reviews. I could see the writing on the wall ages ago. Hardly any businesses seem to get a benefit from them, they don't seem to impact the bottom line, motivate staff, create better relationships, develop capability, skill up staff, or assist with implementing strategy - all the things they were designed to do. If the activity you are pursuing doesn't do what it is intended to do then drop it! I do concurr with Michelles point though. I think in Australia it has been because of a great immaturity on the part of organisations and leaders that has prevented Performance reviews having the intended effect. Most organisations implemented them as they would a new software tool, using standard process management techniques to implement them not recognising or wanting to put time or resources into the strategic support and skill development required to make them work. Training on how to operate performance review software or processes replaced training on how to have discussions about performance, how to give and and receive feedback, how to resolve conflict, design action plans for development goals, coaching, counselling and mentoring that both managers and employees required for such a delicate human process to be done well. Surprise, surprise treating a human process as though it was an operational one hasn't worked.
  • Rita Ahuja | 18 Jan 2012, 11:08 PM Agree 0
    I agree with Bronte,management needs to be invest in training and mentoring managers to coach them how to give and receive feedback. The failure also lies in having subjective responses than objective measures which are clearly outlined in the beginning. Needless to say that performance reviews cannot be linked to salary revisions solely and they have a big role to play in the personal development of individuals.
  • Geoff Balmain | 19 Jan 2012, 10:26 AM Agree 0
    Agree with Bronte, most employees respond better when their manager engages with them, setting clear expectations and providing guidance and coaching when needed. The danger with Performance Reviews is they tend to be retrospective rather than a live document that encourages discussion between manager and employee.
  • Julie Dittberner | 19 Jan 2012, 02:01 PM Agree 0
    The owner of my previous employer came to me one day and said, "I want you to develop a Performance Management Program that does NOT include a performance appraisal, yet I want to achieve the same outcome. Supervisors and employees do not like the performance appraisal process." I had never heard of this, so I did some research to determine if other companies had implemented such a thing. I didn't find any best practices, so I invented the wheel. It turned out to be a win-win and is still in place to this day!
  • Conor Collins | 20 Jan 2012, 07:02 AM Agree 0
    The main problem (I believe) is that appraisal reviews have become too formally standardised. Assessments being based under formal headings, the reviews being overly subjective. Agreeing objectives with individuals and departments in advance greatly improves the assessability as it can be more easily measured against achievement of objectives. I don't agree with scrapping annual reviews, just improve on their implementation. The more periodic meetings between the reviews, the better. As circumstances change, targets should change accordingly. Every bit of help should be given to assist realistic targets being met. It's in all parties interests that objectives are achieved at the end of the day. The format of the reviews is of minor importance compared to their effectiveness. Otherwise it is just a distaction, a PR exercise. 'Justice' is seen to be done. The traditional review process could be easily improved allied with a reduction in the time and resources, currently associated with it.
  • Diane Mason | 23 Jan 2012, 03:02 PM Agree 0
    I see both sides of the argument, but we too have done away with Performance Appraisals, but only after consultation with employees and management to see what were the postives and negatives. Our strategy is now moving toward Personal Productivity and Development Planning with more coaching, and not just skill and knowledge development, but personal quality development. Somehow, it's always been called a Performance Appraisal, but many times it's more about the employees behaviour where an issue or opportunity is available for discussion. So, right at this moment, I am preparing our new process and training, which will also include other methods of recognition and reward. This is being very positively received with further consultation with Executive Management and Employee Representation. Actually, there was not a single request for a Performance Appraisal and an almost audible sigh when we made the suggestion that we might not continue with these!
  • Robin Pollock | 24 Jan 2012, 09:53 AM Agree 0
    I agree they have passed their use by date, certainly in there recognized form. Managers & employees find them onerous, stressful and, often, a waste of time; a high proportion of them don't hit the mark (how often do we have a problem employee yet when we come to performance manage, find their last Performance Appraisals were great. Hitting targets etc are measured by other means so in terms of assessing whether an employee has achieved objectives, it's usually possible to do this another way. On the other hand, there is a requirement to have something as a baseline in the event of problem employees. IR laws dictate there is fairness and onus on employer to prove employee has been treated fairly if fired because they are not performing. It's definitely time for change - we are still too bogged down in the past on this issue.
  • Linda Jonas | 24 Jan 2012, 09:55 PM Agree 0
    Hi all,
    I work for the product that Atlassian is using for their performance management these days, so I thought I'd clarify a few points here.
    Atlassian's experiment with performance reviews is documented and shared on Management Exchange: Their 'scrapping of performance reviews' involves implementing our tool called Small Improvements. We simplify the traditional approach by making the performance management agile, and we support ongoing feedback to make the annual review a lot easier. Due to its simplicity and intuitive nature, there is almost no training needed for the end user, while HR has full control over customisation and keeping track of the whole process.
    It's correct that our software has a very popular "dot rating" which can be used to replace the traditional "One to five"-rating, and it's being used during performance check-in time. It is however not a replacement for written feedback (you are still encouraged to do that), nor for the actual conversations between manager and team member. We do encourage frequent conversations, and we help you track your 1:1 meetings in our system too, but you don't use the performance-dot for this.
    It's probably most in line with what Conor and Robin say, and we do get rave reviews from our other Australian clients like Red Balloon and Quiksilver, so do check us out if you're looking for an easy way to do performance management. There's a free-for-10 user license, so you can evaluate the system in depth at no risk. Happy to give you a demo any time as well and discuss further!
    Cheers, Linda
  • Jim Morrison | 26 Jan 2012, 01:04 AM Agree 0
    Performance appraisals have an important place in any organization that wants to make promotion, selection for advanced training, selection for important assignments both fair and legally defensible. However, they must be done correctly, with a format that suits the organization’s culture and expectations, front-end contracting (performance expectations), and an honest, constructive critique at the conclusion of the appraisal period. Some organizations that consider themselves “world class” have a simple pass/fail appraisal that meets a minimum legal requirement, but their system still relies on the “old boy” network for promotion, assignments, etc. Other supposedly “world class” organizations have a simple number 1-50 system and if you’re not a 49 you’re in trouble (also next to worthless, stressful, and counterproductive). A good system has both verbal descriptions of the expected behaviors and numbers assigned to those specific behaviors observed. Specific accomplishments must support each superior rating and specific shortfalls must support each low rating. A good system has to be managed and tracks each and every rater and lets them know when their appraisals appear to be inflated in comparison with the rest of the organization. When a particular performance factor is potentially inflated, the rater has to either lower the number or provide additional documentation of the observed performance. A good system has built in checks and balances that can compensate for potential personality conflicts. A good system realizes that entry-level people might need a performance appraisal every six months. A good system has performance expectations tailored for the individual’s position in the organizational structure. A good system, while it is work, doesn’t generate stress for those who are doing a good job. A good system is durable, as in 20+ years with minimal modifications. I’m describing the USCG system designed by Dr. (then Commander) Roger Chevalier. In my humble opinion, organizations that walk away from a well-designed, well managed performance appraisal system may be headed for a loss of performance and competitiveness.
  • bronte jackson | 30 Jan 2012, 02:41 PM Agree 0
    Hi Jim,
    I agree with your description of what a good Performance Apraisal system should include. I was in HR and involved when PA's first came out in the early 90's in Australia and I have seen and worked with many good systems. It is not usually the PA software, system or tool that is inadequate, it is the users. AFter 20+ years of seeing not much improvement in this or committment within orgs to making PA's encouraging, developmental, or relevant (i.e. employees that aren't performing often get good PA's)I am not very enthusiastic about continuing with them, or hopeful that things will turn around. I agree the principle of PA's are important and useful but we are not mature enough as a society/group of orgs/group of managers to invest money in training and/or self awareness and people skills that most assessors require to make these PA's of value. I just don't see the point in hoping that a different or better system will fix this problem. I think we are not addressing the issue this way and what is required is not a new way of doing PA's but a new way of THINKING about them. Companies that really want to assess, reward and develop employees manage to do it with or without PA's. And so many of our org processes are about just doing something because that is the way it is done and fear of not doing it.
  • Ruth Valentine | 02 Feb 2012, 10:26 PM Agree 0
    If the performance review interview is the only time managers & staff discuss how the job's going, it's bound to be scary and possibly counter-productive. If it's the culmination of regular discussions over the year, which look not only at targets but learning needs, then it can help create a climate where staff can be honest about their own performance and open to learning & change. But it's all about how the review is done: mechanistically or with empathy.
  • Bernie Althofer | 07 Feb 2012, 04:58 PM Agree 0
    The solution lies in the implementation. An organisation has a well documented process and then fails to sell the benefits. As a result, the users don't see or understand how it supposed to work, or the benefits that might acrue, both to the organisation and to the individuals. Getting people to understand that it is an ongoing process, and not a once a year tick and flick process can be difficult if the resources and commitment are not there to implement the system irrespective of the model being used.

    It is frustrating from a users point of view to go through the process the way it written, only to find that you are the only one in a work group who actually follows the policy.

    No-one ever said that discussing performance or setting goals and objectives with workers was easy, and no-one ever said that communication was easy. Yes, it can be time consuming and soul destroying, particularly when short cuts are taken, and some get rewards that some see as unjust.

    It is a challenge to actually apply the process in the spirit in which it is written when others treat it as a 'joke'.

    I know from experience that where both individuals know what the system and process entails, do the planning work that is often required, are prepared to sit down and negotiate goals and objectives, and plan for periodic reviews, then the role of a manager/supervisor is much easier as people can be left to do their work. It also creates a better understanding on the part of a manager/supervisor of issues impacting on the worker regarding development needs or resource requirements. I

    It is also interesting in some organisations, there are very strong industrial links between performance management requirements and pay increments, and yet, short cuts continue to be taken.

    I understand that people are busy doing work. However, it is also interesting looking at comments made by people who raise issues of workplace bullying and harassment and see how many of those comments relate to performance management (but that is whole issue by itself).

  • Sam Culbert | 08 Feb 2012, 09:33 AM Agree 0
    I am late to this discussion, but I can’t help but think most of you are missing the point. As I detail in my book, “Get Rid of the Performance Review!” (no subtlety about where I stand), the question isn’t whether reviews are done well or whether they’re needed or whether managers are poorly trained in giving assessments.
    It’s much more fundamental than that. Performance reviews are inherently bogus because they assume that the boss is an objective evaluator of a subordinate and that the purpose is to offer objective advice that the employee should take to heart in order to achieve company goals.
    The boss is no more objective about an employee than I am about the reasons for my first marriage falling apart. We all come with biases and agendas, and to pretend otherwise perhaps makes managers feel good and powerful, but it doesn’t make for a very good manager. And it certainly doesn’t make for a happy or productive employee.
    No, all it does is intimidate an employee into saying exactly what he or she thinks the boss wants to say. And it prevents the employee from going about his or her job the best way possible FOR THAT INDIVIDUAL.
    We’re all different. What works for you may not work for me. But if you don’t understand how I work, if you don’t understand how I best get the job done, if you insist that the only way to get the job done is the irrelevant criteria that you have set out, then we’re lost.
    In my book, I put a lot of blame for this situation on HR executives, who use the performance review system to make sure they have a seat at the big table. HR could be doing a lot to fix the situation; instead, it’s doing a lot to maintain a disastrous status quo. What HR knows is that the most important relationship in a company is the one between boss and subordinate.
    I’m all for a hierarchical structure in the company. Somebody has to make decisions, after all. But not in relationships. The boss and subordinate have to be a team, working together to help each other get where they need to go. If, instead, it’s a power relationship, where the boss simply tells the subordinate what to do – reinforced by the performance review – then they’ll do a lot less than they otherwise could have. Is there a better way?
    Yes, as I detail in my book. It’s called the Performance PREview -- and it is a simple, but effective way to make sure that both boss and subordinate are in this together, they’re both looking out of the other, and both on the hook for the company results.
    You can read the first chapter of my book at
    And you can watch a 3 min ABCnews video that summarizes this cultural travesty:
  • Naveen Shankar | 09 Feb 2012, 03:27 PM Agree 0
    The title of your book itself shows the biased view Sam. That's the main thing we want to remove from the Performance Management System (PMS). The whole point is if a PMS has room for subjectivity, opinions and biases then it is bound to fail.
    I have implemented a very successful PMS where employee and managers agree on all the objectives, the meeting and exceeding expectations criteria, their L&D objectives at the beginning of the year. The managers and staff then report each month on each objectives in a one on one meeting. Before the meeting itself staff members know how they are performing as the criteria are clear and objective. The meeting is an opportunity for the managers to assist their staff members if they are struggling with anything. At the end of financial year staff members do their appraisal first based on the objectives, criteria and one on one reports. In majority of cases managers agree to the staff members' own appraisal as all the criteria identified are SMART and assessable by any educated person. According to the organisation standard nothing new is discussed in the annual performance appraisal.
     The goal of our PMS and the managers are to assist the staff members in reaching their maximum potential and not to penalise them.
    This system is loved by the staff members because:
    • At the end of the financial year and throughout the year it gives staff immense satisfaction if they are meeting and exceeding expectation and this motivates them further.
    • If a manager leaves, all the records are still there for the new manager and they instantly develop an understanding of their staff members’ performance to date.
    • It brings clarity regarding the staff members’ goals and responsibilities and keeps them on track.
    • It has reduced staff anxiety due to clarity regarding their performance and their role in the organisation.
    • As all the objectives are linked to the organisation’s objectives staff members feel that their contribution is making a difference to the organisation thereby increasing engagement.
    I don’t know how you can achieve all these without a PMS.
    I am sorry to say but people should research successful performance management systems before writing the book on this topic.
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