Here is an article written by Deanna Hartley for the November 2009 issue of Talent Management magazine. It is followed by an article written by Erin Conroy for the Careers feature on MSNBC.com blog.
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Is It Time to Ditch Year-End Performance Reviews?
It’s almost that time of year. Managers and their teams are gearing up for a familiar holiday tradition: end-of-year performance appraisals.
“It’s probably the most hated activity for managers and employees in business,” said Aubrey Daniels, author of OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money. “If you’ve got something very few people like, then you’ve got to believe it’s either a waste of time or there must be a better way to do it.”
There are a few fundamental flaws with annual performance reviews, Daniels explained. For one, no matter how good a manager is at documenting things, it’s often too late to do anything about it. Having reviews just once a year hardly helps employees improve their performance.
“Data shows that people don’t change — the same things appear in the performance appraisal every year, [which indicates that] either people are not taking it seriously or they’re not making improvements,” Daniels said. “It’s a system that’s broken, and they’ve been tweaking [it] for more than 50 years — at some point, you’ve got to say tweaking is not going to work because you’re tweaking something that’s broken. Some major changes have to be made.”
Daniels proposes organizations ditch the annual reviews and replace them with a different kind of system in which employees are more likely to be productive.
For example, meetings could occur on a monthly basis, giving a manager and an employee the opportunity to sit down and talk about the employee’s performance the previous month.
The content and the outcome of the meeting are of primary importance, Daniels explained.
“[In terms of content,] it generally focuses on their accomplishments — what they’ve done, what they’ve done well, what improvements they’ve made. It also focuses on what they might be able to do better,” Daniels said. “The manager’s job is to come up with a couple of things that would help [the employee perform] better. [Managers] have got to get away from the judgment aspect of performance appraisals and move more toward the coaching aspect.”
Similarly, a key outcome of the meeting should be that the employee knows exactly what he or she needs to do to improve performance. ? ?In any session with a manager and an employee, the latter should always come out of the meeting feeling energized and have tangible information that can help enhance his or her job performance, Daniels explained.
“A manager might meet with a salesperson and say, ‘You need to be more aggressive.’ Well, what does that mean?” he said. “[Managers should] spell it out in terms of precisely what they want [employees] to do, [like], ‘Make more calls every day.’ That might not be the critical behavior in terms of sales, but assuming it was, that is much more helpful than saying ‘be more aggressive.'” ? ?This type of feedback can lead to improved on-the-job performance, which in turn yields bottom-line impact.
“The best job you’ll ever have is one where you know at the end of every day how well you’ve done,” he said. “Behavior change without feedback is almost impossible, so the more formal and the more frequent the feedback, the more improvement [managers will] see.”
Deanna Hartley is an associate editor at Mediatec Publishing, the publisher of both Talent Management and Chief Learning Officer magazines. Please click here to sign up for a free subscription to one or both.
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Want to improve performance? Cancel reviews.
Want to lower morale, reduce productivity and undermine the relationship between the boss and his or her subordinates? Give an annual performance review, say authors of a recently published book deeming the practice bogus.
Pay and performance reviews are merely tools used to intimidate employees, said Samuel Culbert, a professor of management at UCLA and author of Get Rid of the Performance Review! published by Business Plus. Lawrence Rout, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, also contributed to the book.
“It is the most pretentious, fraudulent, ill-advised exercise taking place at companies, and I can’t understand why,” Culbert said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“It does nothing but cause angst and anxiety.”
Companies administer the reviews because they feel they have no alternative for measuring an employee’s performance, Culbert said. He suggests employers should instead have “performance previews,” which would encourage dialogue and also hold management responsible for productivity.
Employers should ask workers how they think an assignment can best be done, so that the boss can offer feedback and potentially avoid problems, Culbert said.
“We want people talking and learning the lessons of their experience, not defending their mistakes,” Culbert said. “Instead of employees failing and getting fired, let’s see management roll up their sleeves and pitch in to do what needs to be done so that there’s joint accountability.”
But if there aren’t performance reviews, how will companies justify firings and layoffs?
“If people aren’t learning the lessons implied by the mistakes they’re making, it will be obvious and easy enough to get them out the door and on the road,” Culbert said. “You don’t need a checklist for that.”
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Erin Conroy is a business editor for the Associated Press.