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Employee Satisfaction and Performance Reviews

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Every employee dreads the performance review, and research showed they are a waste of time. A Wall Street Journal piece noteed they may finally be losing steam.

According to journalist Rachel Emma Silverman, there are some serious issues with the practice:

Performance reviews have long received poor grades, even from those who conduct them. Nearly 60% of human-resources executives graded their own performance-management systems a C or below, according to a 2010 survey by Sibson Consulting Inc. and WorldatWork, a professional association. And one academic review of more than 600 employee-feedback studies found that two-thirds of appraisals had zero or even negative effects on employee performance after the feedback was given.

For many years here at AccelaWork, we’ve been documenting the problems with performance reviews and employee satisfaction for ages. It’s pretty easy to understand the major flaws:

  • Focuses on evaluating the past, which cannot be changed
  • Forces totally different people to be compared on the same scale
  • Creates adversarial relationships, especially about pay raises
  • Ignores essential team dynamics
employee productivity and performance reviews

© Flickr user Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL)

One comment attached to the WSJ article points out the only “benefit” among all the problems with performance reviews:

If the company has already decided to get rid of you, they give you a review that basically amounts to “does not meet expectations” and you get put on a “performance improvement plan.” The reality is that no one ever survives this process–the decision has already been made–there is no hope of recovery. So, you get 6 months to a year to find another job or at least plan how to budget your unemployment.

Otherwise, you would get no warning at all.

Of course, most employees are not in the position to eliminate performance reviews. And even for managers and owners, blindly cutting these practices is not enough. Instead, employers must work to instill a culture of continuous improvement and honest conversations. As the article states:

“When feedback is not going to be used to judge you or your fate in the company, you are more likely to be open about where you need to grow and it’s going to be far more effective.”

Candid discussions are central to any healthy relationship. If we truly want to achieve more at work, we must learn to be forthright and upfront with our colleagues.

As managers, we need to find better ways to evaluate performance. Looking at qualitative measures instead of quantitative is a great start. Think about a job that requires gathering information from prospective clients over the phone. Yes, call duration could give some indicator of how hard someone is working, but if it really takes one employee 2 minutes to gather the same details that another employee does in 30 seconds, does it really make sense to hold performance reviews based on that metric? Probably not. And is it even a fair metric to see who has gathered the most information?

It’s much easier to default to quantitative metrics. But seeing the big picture will always prove to be more valuable in the long run. Don’t take the easy route when it comes to performance, and don’t force employees to sit through performance reviews. Find a way to build a solid team dynamic, communicate expectations, and see which employees provide a major positive impact to your organization. If you do that, you’ll be way ahead of the curve when compared to your performance review peers.

Looking for more ways to bring these principles into play within organization? Need clarification on anything we’ve discussed in this post? Don’t hesitate to reach out to the business improvement consultants at AccelaWork today! We’d love to help!

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