Babies, Bath Water, and Performance Evaluations

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HR Morning just published a post with the title “OK, performance review process is broken: Now HR’s on the hotseat.” Here’s the lead.

“Seriously, now: Is it time to get rid of the annual performance review once and for all? Ask employees, middle managers and executives, and pretty much everyone will agree: Performance reviews stink.”

Note that there are two items here. There is “the annual performance review.” And there are “performance reviews” in general.

The annual performance review system is really dumb. Imagine if we used a similar system for parenting.

Once a year we’d sit down with our child. We’d fill out a standard form. Then we’d have a seven-minute (on average) discussion of a year’s worth of behavior and performance. That would be it until next year.

Why don’t we do that? Because it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for companies, either.

What we do (or try to do) as parents is talk to our kids several times a day. We try to deal with issues when they come up. Sometimes we need to take corrective action.

That’s how performance evaluation should play out at work, too. Good performance evaluation is frequent, mostly informal, and rooted in supervision. If you want to improve the performance evaluation in your organization, improve the way you select, train, and support supervisors.

At home, that’s all you need. At work, where there are laws and regulations, you need something more. You need something more if you’ve got more than 100 or so people.

That’s when you need some kind of system that leaves a permanent record behind. Daily performance evaluation should be mostly informal and mostly about today’s performance and behavior. The permanent record system should be different.

The permanent record system should include a review and record of recent performance. But it should be mostly about the future and possibilities and potential.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Your job is to do performance evaluation with your team members every day. Most of it will be informal. If you do that, there should be no surprises when the time arrives for whatever formal process your organization uses. In other words, you can do good, effective performance evaluation while you’re waiting for the Powers that Be to fix the system.

Additional Reading

Let’s not fire the supervisors just yet

Three rules for performance evaluation

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