A Review of Performance Reviews

To paraphrase a well-known Biblical verse, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….” And to every employer and employee there is a time for an annual performance review.

If you think my pulling in the Bible is a bit heavy handed, it’s not. To many, this annual ritual is fraught with the same emotional up swells, wrath, judgement, and indignation as any powerful religious parable. And like the reading of any religious text (the Bible isn’t exclusive to this metaphor) it is followed with faith, awe, and confusion.

The Annual Performance Review As A Tool

The human resources community has been examining the role of the annual performance review as a tool for, well…employee performance. The results shouldn’t surprise anyone who has given or received an evaluation. It can be a miserable experience that people on both side of the desk feel is a waste of time. Many companies have done away with the formal review, opting instead for real-time evaluations. However, that isn’t yet the norm. There still needs to be a formal vehicle for tracking how employees are, or are not doing their jobs, as well as disciplinary actions, and accolades that lead to promotions.

Global aA review of performance reviewsdvising firm, Willis Towers Watson in a 2016 study on employee evaluations, formally referred to in the report as employee value proposition (EVP), revealed some interesting results.

Employees want employers to connect with them the same way they connect and value their customers. Employees who are unhappy with performance reviews cite that their managers lack the skills or the time to make it effective. Only 51% of employers say that performance management is effective at creating a positive employee experience.

Employees who do find reviews helpful are often the most engaged employees. This means their managers have done an effective job in placing their role within the overall organization, provided positive coaching and feedback, and attended to employees’ concerns for security, pay equity, and a clear career path.  You can find the complete study here and it’s a worthwhile read: https://www.willistowerswatson.com/en/insights/2016/09/employers-look-to-modernize-the-employee-value-proposition

But here’s the spoiler alert. Effective employee reviews come down to effective communication skills. The same hold true on the other side of the desk. Employees need to listen and ask the right questions to elicit the most helpful feedback.

Anyone who has worked with Wise Ways Consulting has hopefully walked away with an appreciation for the power of communication in the workplace and a belief that there is always room for improvement.