Monday, December 19, 2016

Let’s Do Away with Performance Reviews

Several years ago, I worked with an organization where we did annual performance reviews; at least, we did in our department.  Usually, I would do about half of these and my associate would do the other half, so I conducted about 15 reviews a year, usually around the person’s employment anniversary date.  Our approach to doing this evolved so that we tried to spend time not only reflecting on the employee’s work, but our role as supervisors and in planning for the coming year.

Even so, I am sure that these were stressful times for many, especially when we began the process.  One person shared with me several years later that he became sick to his stomach before his first performance review!  That is not a good sign.

In a recent article, Stephanie Vozza reflects on the “The Five Annual Review Mistakes You’re Probably Making.”  Vozze identifies:
  1.  Evaluating traits rather than behaviors and results.
  2. Being too lenient in your feedback.
  3. Waiting until the end of the year to give any feedback.
  4. Acting like a judge instead of a coach.
  5. Not being able to explain your rating process.

Vozza plays around with the of the idea of substituting “performance management” for “performance review,” but I would suggest that we talk in terms of coaching employees instead.  In the article, she cites Mary Anne Hyland, professor of human resource management at the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business as suggesting, “When providing feedback, it is helpful for a manager to think and act like a coach.”  How about applying this to the entire supervision process?

This would mean several things:
  • The supervisor would adopt the view that her or his purpose is to make the employee successful and, thus, forward the work of the organization.
  • The supervisor would meet with the person soon after employment to discover strengths the individual brings to the job, review the position description to set clear goals, determine where help is needed, and clarify accountability structures.
  • The supervisor would meet with the employee on a regular basis, no less than once a month, to review goals and progress and be available for “spot” coaching. 
  • In like manner, the supervisor would step up and provide immediate feedback if something is not going well and give the employee the opportunity to make adjustments.

The biggest challenges are that the supervisor must adopt a role as coach and not just manager and that the supervisor be willing to put the time into developing a coaching relationship with the employee.  The desired payoff would be a higher motivated employee, a more engaged supervisor, and a relationship of cooperation rather than fear.   

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