Revisiting the Performance Review: Does It Need to Be Fixed?

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on Dec 02, 2021
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Does the Performance Review Need to Be Fixed

Letting employees know how they’re performing and therefore giving them insight into how they might improve, how they can build upon the strengths they have and where subsequent gaps in their skillset might exist is critical to productivity. Performance is something, however, that can be tricky to measure. Traditionally, performance reviews have been about an end-of-the-year process in which evaluations are filled out, read by the employee and then filed away along with numerous other reviews for numerous other employees. In other words, there is generally no real meaningful action taken and no dialogue that transpires which could in fact enhance employee performance.

A revolution of sorts is taking place where the employee performance review is concerned. Companies are starting to do things a little differently. And the results often speak for themselves inasmuch as productive conversations between management and employees are taking place, weaknesses are addressed and necessary reskilling strategies are implemented. You could say the “new way” of doing employee reviews is hastening a cultural shift in terms of both communication and teamwork.

Related: Annual Performance Reviews: Are They So Last Century? >>

Three Reasons to Adjust Your Performance Review Process 

To better understand the need to revamp traditional performance review systems and processes, it’s important to see why there is a need for a change in the first place. Below are a few of the key reasons why businesses are starting to adjust the way in which performance reviews are done.

  1. It’s More Effective to Focus on the Present

    In thinking about what exactly a traditional performance review accomplishes, we tend to focus on past achievements. The performance review looks back to what an employee has done during the year and makes note of the accomplishments and by the same token, those things that were not quite commendable. And while certainly, there may be a need to touch on what has happened, perhaps more centrally is what is happening now. What is an employee doing now that is worthy of recognition? What weaknesses are they exhibiting currently that if addressed could be improved upon? A change in performance review strategy is in many ways about a change in assessment protocol where time is concerned.

  2. A Performance Review Should Take a Big Picture Approach and Address Teamwork

    In a conventional performance review, a manager or leader is assessing the individual’s contributions as well as those areas in which that individual may be lacking. Certainly, there is a need for looking at performance through an individualized lens, but this type of review almost wholly ignores the teamwork factor. More and more organizations are about how well teams come together to achieve goals. Traditional approaches to employee reviews, whether consciously or not, tend to have an almost competitive component; that is to say, there’s an aspect to a performance review that spurs a more competitive atmosphere. For many offices, this isn’t necessarily the ideal approach.

  3. Traditional Performance Reviews Don’t Foster Open Communication

    Engaging employees and really communicating with them should ideally be at the heart of what a performance review does. If there are issues in performance, if an employee does need help in a specific area, then leaders should address this in a productive and positive manner. The old way doesn’t necessarily make room for these types of conversations. In fact, very often traditional performance reviews leave employees in the dark as they struggle to figure out what it is they need to work on. Frequent check-ins, directed conversations, and a mentoring spirit really can elevate the performance review and help bring about measurable results.

Related: How to Respond When You Hear, "I Want a Raise" >>

Implementing a More Positive Employee Performance Review Experience

If the “old way” seems a bit broken, then what can be done to transform the performance review and make it something truly beneficial to a company? After all, you are taking the time to evaluate your employees and assess their performance, you likely want this time spent to culminate in positive results, right? In order to reenergize the performance review process, you might focus instead on:

  1. Coaching Versus Reviewing

    By reaching out to those employees who may be struggling and taking the approach of coaching/mentoring versus a “one and done” review process, you open the door to a communicative and more welcoming company culture.

  2. Make It an On-Demand Review

    Rather than do a yearly performance review at one set time, create more of an on-demand review system. Throughout the year engage with employees, create a meaningful feedback loop and look for coaching moments that can actually help employees when that help is most needed.

  3. Implement a More Democratic Review Process

    Traditionally, employee performance reviews are about evaluating employees; what about reviewing the managers. In structuring a review system that also gives the employees a voice regarding their experience with leaders and managers, you help employees feel more empowered and thus more valued.

The performance review is not necessarily dead as some might claim, rather, it is, in some cases, in need of a shakeup. If you are struggling with how to newly approach the concept of a performance review and need to speak with certified HR professionals, we can help. Contact the consultants at Axcet and see how our services might be able to benefit you.

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