For the most part, Performance Management fails in its attempts to raise productivity, retain talent and rewards results. It becomes a burden on an organization and seems to demoralize or at least demotivate employees.
I read a quote recently in an article by David Wentworth on i4cp.com that hit the nail on the head:
“How did we get to a point where the term performance management instills fear and dread at its mere utterance? Employees tend to loathe the process…that does nothing to recognize their work, yet determines their pay for the next year. Managers see it as a huge time suck that culminates in a series of uncomfortable conversations and confrontations they would rather not endure.”
This is sad, because performance reviews and recognition programs should be a vehicle of employee engagement and generate a boost to productivity. Why does it instead induce fear and uncertainty?
Here are a few reasons why:
- Reviews are annual, not continuous.
- They are filed away once signed, not used as a template for development.
- They are egalitarian (e.g.; Everyone gets a 3-5% “merit increase”).
- Employees can’t predict what is coming, and so get nervous about it.
- Recognition programs outside the review process are subjective, and inconsistent.
The bottom line is that for too many managers performance management is a task that must get done to keep HR off their backs. HR managers must become nags, badgering the line managers to complete them, and the line managers and employees “brace themselves” to get through it. What a mess!
To clean the mess up, let’s start with some re-branding:
- Create an ongoing “check-in” that happens monthly between manager and subordinate and takes no more than ten minutes.
- Keep it informal, with check boxes lined up against the promised action items that were listed in the last annual review.
- Mandate forward thinking, with emphasis on action rather than simply reviewing results.
- Create a quarterly “check-up” that requires 20 minutes, and again covers action items and requires concrete next steps as its outcome.
- Make the annual “review” a “career planning session” instead.
- The pay increase expectations have already been set during the monthly and quarterly sessions, so no surprises there, reducing anxiety.
It is incumbent on the manager to fully accept his or her role as a talent developer and engagement “encourager” in this scenario. (In our opinion, managers who don’t take on this role as “job one” are not doing their job.)
In short, the goal is to make the “annual review” a rolling activity that goes on all the time, taking the uncertainty out of it and refocusing its goal on development rather than a burdensome process that weighs on everyone’s mind.