Can you already relate?
These are the exact words I heard from three different employees.
How can one of the fundamental HR tools of a company’s performance produce such detrimental results? If used properly, performance reviews can do transformational things. But in reality, this is typically how they work:
Employees are hungry for feedback. The silence of feedback gets them anxious and second-guessing their competence. Eventually they learn that the lack of feedback is the norm and assume that no news is good news.
Employees think they’re thriving. After all, they haven’t been told otherwise.
The annual performance review is approaching. Panic is setting in. Managers are dreading the process and employees are becoming unsettled.
The performance review conversation focuses on the negatives, such as issues over the past year and where things need to be improved upon.
Employees are stunned to hear these things and they leave the meeting feeling beat down.
What was the value in that? How much time was lost for both parties mentally and physically preparing for the performance review meeting? How productive are employees going to be now? It’s ironic that such an exercise designed to develop people does the complete opposite.
So what should a modern-day performance management system look like? You won’t hear this from many HR professionals, but I personally am not a fan of performance reviews. When you think back to the purpose of performance reviews and employee development, it's all about feedback. For feedback to be effective, it needs to happen immediately. Does a hockey coach let the players know what they need to work on at the end of the season? No. Players are constantly receiving feedback every single practice and game in order to improve throughout the season.
The value is having conversations. Conversations that are timely, specific and meaningful. Conversations that take place as soon as something is misaligned. And let’s not forget those conversations that include the great things an employee is doing. We’re quick to dwell on the negative, but what about the positives? Whether you’re a “thinker” or a “feeler” (based on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator), everyone benefits from validation every now and then.
It sounds simple, and there are tools Untapped Potential has created to help systematize the approach, but it isn’t for everyone. At the end of the day, your leaders have to be committed to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly every time it surfaces.
There is a huge business case for aligning your performance management system in order to achieve company goals. The CEO of a large Saskatoon-based company recently told me that while being evaluated for an acquisition, the acquirer placed a lot of emphasis on the company’s performance management system, and the fact that it was modernized played a significant role in the value of the company.