The traditional employee performance review: It’s an annual exercise dreaded by most employees and managers alike. Beyond the apparent lack of appeal, are reviews worth the time invested? Are they beneficial for the company? Or the employee?
I’ve been reviewing our annual performance review process—the questions, the scorecard grading scale—and I’m wondering: What are we actually trying to accomplish here? And more importantly: Is it even working?
Indeed suggests that employee reviews are an essential business practice: “Performance appraisals can help companies evaluate how well employees perform their job duties and where employees can improve to more closely align with companies’ overall mission.”
But statistics show that while 69% of companies today rely on annual or bi-annual performance reviews (ClearCompany), 90% of performance reviews could be more effective. (Keka)
Time for a performance review mindset shift
What if an employee performance review is more than evaluating job performance? What if we shift the review to a conversation that gives employees a voice and allows managers to learn from their perspectives and feedback?
Instead of merely grading individuals on their effectiveness in completing tasks, what if we challenge and encourage them to think about their role? Their strengths and weaknesses related to that role and the value they bring to the organization.
Taking that discovery to the next level, what if our “performance conversation” is more of a reflection (and a look ahead) with role-specific and big-picture prompts like these:
- What are your thoughts about our company and our products/services?
- What do you like best & least about your job and role here?
- Have you learned new things in your role in the past six months?
- Are you content in your current position, or do you aspire to learn new skills or a new role?
- What have you done to stand out over the past year?
- Are you a positive person?
- How do you contribute to the culture here?
- Are you reactive or proactive?
- When something goes wrong, how do you handle it?
- How can you help grow the business?
A final thought about reviews: It’s time for a change.
The more I think about annual reviews and assigning grades based on employee performance, I think it’s an old-school process that’s grown stale. And while I’m not saying my way is the best way, I am saying it’s time for me to try something new.
I’m hoping for a more productive discussion with employees about their work-life experience. I want to get them talking by asking them for honest feedback: Do you like it here? Do you want more? Are we holding up our end of the bargain as your employer?
By asking direct questions of our team, we also must be prepared for the feedback we receive. And let’s be honest, that can be a risky proposition. We have to be ready to listen and then use that insight constructively to make changes or realign our practices, priorities, etc. I think it’s a productive exercise that can help us grow stronger as a team.
I’m going to change things up using a different, more conversational approach. And I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’m interested in your thoughts about performance reviews. If you’ve got some insight about a fresh approach that works for your organization, I’d love to hear about it.