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Performance Reviews – Don’t Have the Discussion At the End of the Year

Employee performance evaluation form

It’s no secret that performance reviews aren’t popular with either employees or supervisors. In general employees find the annual review demotivating and supervisors by and large see the annual review as a meaningless form-filling exercise that is time consuming and uncomfortable.

The annual review process is seen by many companies as holding people accountable for past behaviours, while not fostering talent or encouraging improvement in performance.

Many firms like Adobe have already chosen to cast the annual review process aside, however for many firms the annual review still forms a critical part of their employee appraisal and development strategy.

With this in mind, it is essential that strategies be put in place to make the annual review process more meaningful and less stressful for all parties.

The key reasons why employees don’t like them are:

  • Limited feedback. If the performance review is the only place where employees receive feedback about their work, they can get annoyed. The modern employee expects regular feedback and doesn’t want a broad summation of what they’ve done over 365 days. Millennials have been shown to expect weekly feedback and there’s a fair bit of evidence to suggest that they won’t hang around waiting for you and will seek other employment fairly quickly if feedback isn’t given regularly.
  • What feedback there is, is generic. Of course, it is – and it’s often boiled down to a purely subjective rating system that fails to acknowledge the individual’s unique set of strengths and weaknesses. The reason why employees mistrust and dislike the annual review system is the same reason why most people resent being treated as a number.
  • Managers and supervisors find giving feedback difficult and the annual review process neither feels natural nor pleasant. Giving praise and constructive criticism takes practice and a degree of courage. The annual performance review is the literal equivalent of jumping in at the deep end when it comes to giving feedback.
  • Meaningless goal-setting exercises. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned annual goal setting exercises are they are doomed to fail. Goals are not static they need to be updated and adjusted according to changing circumstances. While agreeing on long term career goals can be beneficial, the business and the individual need to be adaptable enough to respond to evolving circumstances.
  • Formality stifles open communication. In the annual performance review the formality of the occasion can intimidate employees into mouthing what they think their manager wants to hear.
  • Annual reviews lack purpose and clarity – many participants in the process don’t actually understand why the review is necessary.
  • The clear message contained within these reasons is that the annual review should in effect be an ongoing process where feedback is given regularly, and goals are updated in line with changing business demands.

While consistent regular conversations about work performance are certain to be welcomed it is important to remember that employees will welcome public praise, that they won’t be so receptive to public criticism. If there is a need to challenge behaviours or constructively criticise, it’s best to have those conversations in a private setting.

Consistent, regular feedback is a great way to improve performance, maintain engagement and ultimately make those annual review conversations less awkward and much more predictable for all parties.


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