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Performance Reviews: Useful or Not?

by Jody Ordioni

Do you get anxious before a performance review? Fret not, you are not alone. Research shows that 60-90% of employees feel nervous before a performance review. Though the reviews began as a method to help employees improve their performance, now they have dwindled to the status of a routine chore. They are stressful, time-consuming, and not helpful at all. However, with the right approach and planning, they can be a great method to foster healthy company culture and boost employee morale.

Listed below are some problems related to performance reviews and the possible solutions:

Reviews are Considered Manager’s Opinions

If there is limited interaction between the manager and the direct report, then it is easy for any employee to dismiss a review as a personal opinion of the manager, especially if the review paints them in a less-than-good light. Since the boss does not understand the routine responsibilities of the employee, how can they provide a well-rounded review? The review tends to be vague and doesn’t help the employee as much since they don’t get what exactly they need to improve upon. Also, reviews that do not provide any criticism at all may keep the employees happy, but they stagnate the growth of the employee and company.

Solution- Reviews Should Be Wholesome

A solitary review from a manager does not paint a realistic and holistic picture of the employee’s performance. The review should aim to reflect upon the performance through the perspective of those who are impacted by the work, such as peers or team members. If the employees are involved in inter-departmental projects, then reviews from the project leaders can be an addition that provides fresh insights. Do not limit the employees to their job descriptions only.

Frequency of Reviews

Performance reviews cause anxiety, mostly because they are a one-off thing and feel like a monumental thing. Businesses in today’s time move at breakneck speed and a lot can take place between last year’s performance review and the upcoming one. Due to the long gap, there is a lot to unpack, analyze, and understand in just one session. It is not possible to accomplish it, especially in a single session. A lot of changes have already occurred- teams shuffle, projects end, and priorities are realigned. Moreover, the goals and growth plans of an employee also undergo changes constantly. A yearly review overlooks these shifts and draws results from outdated data.

Solution- Increasing Frequency of Reviews

Quarterly reviews are better to keep tabs on the performance of the employees, in contrast to yearly ones. Before jumping into regular check-ins, it is important to formulate a strategy that utilizes the potential of this communication channel. Meetings can be more relaxed but should still clearly convey roles and expectations. The focus should be on constant growth of the employees rather than just looking back at the deadlines they did or did not meet in the past year.

Unconscious Bias in Reviews

One of the biggest challenges that HR faces is removing unconscious bias from reviews. Research has found that more often than not, the reviews are about the person doing the job and not how the job is done itself. The tendency to remember recent events better implies that earlier work is usually omitted when the interval between reviews is long. Gender bias also plays a role in reviews, as women are bound to receive 30% more comments about their personality than their male peers.

Solution- Elimination of Inherent Biases

Training managers to recognize biases that are inherent in their mentality is important. Objectivity is desired in the reviews and the criticism should clearly highlight the problem, for example, the employee has missed deadlines x number of times. Define goals and responsibilities expected of the employees in clear terms too, and ensure that the trajectory of employee’s growth matches the vision of the business.

The Bottom Line

Performance reviews can be a great way to boost engagement and growth if carried out in the right manner. A collaboration between employees and managers can make reviews a game-changer, in terms of growth and alignment with the company’s vision. It helps to strengthen intra-personal connections and motivate a culture wherein employees can improve through constructive criticism.

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