What is your opinion on performance reviews? Do you think performance reviews are a valuable tool for organizational effectiveness? Personally, I think it depends on a number of factors and knowing how organizations run, the jury’s out for me. Here’s why.

Not Enough Time

Whoever is in charge of making sure that all the performance reviews are done in an organization knows this only too well. It doesn’t matter if you give the manager 1 or 3 months to complete them, there is always an excuse. The number one excuse is “I don’t have enough time”.

The fact is they do have enough time and probably had all the easy performance reviews done.

The question to ask is “Why don’t they want to do it?” My hunch – not all their employees are superstars.  Managers stall on the difficult ones. Who wants to document their employee’s shortcomings and then be responsible for delivering the negative feedback?

Forced Rankings within Groups

Forced ranking is the process of ranking your employees in order of ability, performance or some other criteria.

Managers are asked to force rank their employees for a number of reasons, such as – to identify who gets bigger increases or who might be at risk during a layoff.  It can create an artificial system for determining true performance because employees are measured against their peers instead of being measured against their performance review results. That’s a message no manager wants to deliver to their employee.

As an example, let’s suppose you have a group of superstars that beat every goal put in front of them and the organization says to force rank your group to figure salary increase percentages. How does a manager tell his bottom superstar that their increase was lower than someone who achieved fewer goals in another group? Where is the fairness in this approach?

Measurable Goals and Behaviors

Performance reviews that use a blend of measurable goals and behaviors get higher marks for me; however, this format makes managers feel uncomfortable.

If a goal is written clearly and has a measurable outcome, that part is a cinch, the only trouble is that someone can make a goal but do it unethically and still be a hero.

The behavioral part is more problematic and challenges managers to 1) write clear behavior goals and 2) discuss behavior shortfalls. Very few managers feel confident in identifying behavior goals or discussing behavior shortfalls without some specific training.

Management hates doing Performance Reviews

It is rare that when I ask a manager if they like doing performance reviews that they say “Yes”. The majority do not believe it is a management tool and prefer to refer to it as an HR process or waste of time.

If the manager is not on board, there is a greater chance the information in the performance review will be sub par. When employees receive feedback that is nonspecific, they do not feel good about their manager or review.

It is time to throw out the Performance Review?

Performance reviews have been around for a long time. The structure and components with in performance review process have evolved, changed or been refined to meet the needs of many other agendas.

So, if management hates or is not good at doing performance reviews, perhaps, it is time to throw it all out and start over.

If you were to do that, what do you think is the sole intent of performance review process? How would you drastically change its role and contribution to the organization?