Saturday, July 25, 2015

Annual performance review: R. I. P. ?

I think few people will mourn the passing of that modern instrument of torture: the annual performance review.

I think that’s good news and bad news.

Accenture announced this week that it will join the short list of companies (including Microsoft) that have made a high-profile decision to abandon the hated annual performance review in their human relations practices.

I bet everybody at Accenture is happy.

In terms of instant gratification, scrapping the performance review is good news. In my experience, just about everyone hated it. Managers hated preparing and conducting the review, and staffers hated being subjected to it. In my experience, most reviews were done poorly, if at all; quite a large percentage of them were done at the very last minute by harried managers who rushed to get them done by deadline; many reviews were done late and in a perfunctory way; many reviews were pretty much a repeat of the previous year’s crop. Almost all reviews—and goals, and promises, and benchmarks, and training expectations, and self-improvement commitments—were forgotten more or less immediately. In my experience, most managers didn’t have the guts, and didn’t have backup from top management, to do performance reviews in any honest way.

The bad news is that I’m pretty sure that Accenture and companies like it won't replace the hated performance review system with any worthwhile, durable, systematic way of giving performance feedback and developmental feedback to employees. Most managers aren’t trained or experienced enough to do this well. Most companies don’t have the guts to legitimately link pay with performance, and give bigger paychecks to the folks who do outstanding work.

It seems like it should be a no-brainer for a manager to routinely and persistently tell a staffer about both the outstanding and improvable aspects of her performance, and to help the employee to do commendable work that supports the company’s goals. It seems like it should be a no-brainer to give a bigger paycheck to the staffers who do a great job.

In fact, in most corporate cultures, that’s impossible.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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