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Death by Performance Review

performance management Jan 30, 2021
Death by Performance Review
What do the following things all have in common?
  • Renewing your car registration at the DMV
  • Filing your income tax return
  • Completing your performance review process

They are all bureaucratic, inefficient, stressful processes that create little value, and most likely, lead to shorter life expectancy. Yet, we continue to go through these dysfunctional processes because we have no choice. Or do we?

Why do we feel we have to complete annual performance reviews? The review giver endures reams of paperwork, user-unfriendly systems, and multiple meetings that parallel Gitmo torture sessions. For the review receiver, it's like watching your numbers come up in a Powerball drawing, hoping to hit the 2.19% salary increase jackpot.

Let's say two people (supervisor + employee) spend about 3 hours preparing for, discussing, and responding to each performance review. If you have 500 people working for your company, that's 3,000 hours of time. I'm no statistician, but I believe the median income in the US is something like $24 per hour. That comes to $72,000 that you just invested in your performance reviews. Was it worth it?

Imagine if you told everyone in your company to skip the performance review process this year. Instead, channel the 3000 hours to making sales calls, improving the efficiency of processes, innovating new solutions, or heck, even cleaning out the supply closet. I bet you'd see a greater return on investment, people would be excited because they'll see progress, and your workforce would be a whole lot happier.

Here's a stat to ponder. A Quantum Workplace study just revealed that 78% of disengaged workplaces use performance reviews, whereas only 50% of workplaces with high levels of engagement use performance reviews. So, if you're still riding the engagement bandwagon, it would make complete sense to just stop the review process entirely.

How do you make the change? Don't get me wrong. There are valuable components to a performance management system. It's just the over-whelming focus is typically the annual review form/process and the rest is ignored. So, pull the plug on the review and beef up the following:

  • Goal Setting - Be clear about what is to be achieved. FYI - that might not be a 12 month or annual goal. Some goals might need to be achieved next week while others are long term.
  • Scoreboards - No supervisor wants to be a babysitter. Do team members have ways to track their progress toward goals, high payoff activities, organizational values, etc.? This way, if they fall behind, they can self-correct and no performance discussion is needed, with the exception of an occasional pat on the back for a job well-done.
  • Feedback - In addition to the pat on the back, use simple, low-cost solutions to collect feedback, identify ways to capitalize on strengths, and get ideas for building new skills. Let us show you our new mini-360 degree feedback tool to make things easier.
  • Discussions - Old school performance reviews are backward facing in that they look to the past, long after the opportunity to do something about it has come and gone. Team members should have frequent, forward-looking conversations: What do you need to achieve your goals? What help or resources will ensure success? How do we eliminate barriers that will prohibit your success?
  • Development - Everyone wants to learn and grow. Ensure mentors, job coaches and other contributors are focused on catapulting the success of each team member.

There's no magic to this process. It just takes bold thinkers interested in increasing their life expectancy to take the first step. Hopefully, that's you!

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