Traditional Performance Reviews Are Worse Than Filing Taxes
Every April I go to file my taxes and it means pulling out donation receipts, financials, local tax bills from as far back as 15 months earlier. Luckily, I’ve learned to create a tax folder for all this paperwork so I know it’s in one place. If only performance reviews were this easy. I’d love to have a file with past work accomplishments, challenges, and successes for each one of my employees so that I could insert the data and spit out a performance review. Up until last year, I’d suffer through each review, trying to recount an accurate history of each employee’s progress and hope I got it right.
While we can’t ditch filing taxes, we can ditch the annual performance review.
It’s actually not that hard to imagine. In fact, many companies are doing just that. Besides ESM, I’ve heard that Netflix, Adobe, Accenture, GE, etc. are on that list. Harvard Business Review reported in 2016 that as many as a third of US companies are ditching the traditional performance review. So why this movement?
Traditional reviews are dying off because they are inflexible, typically have strict deadlines set by HR, and take an inordinate amount of time. It’s classic to go through them during the November to January holiday season, budget season, strategy refresh season, and end of year close, just when the “to do” lists are the longest.
Traditional reviews simply aren’t the way of the future because they are not an effective mechanism for real time or close to real time feedback on progress. In our previous blog, Why Connect Personal Balanced Scorecards and Employee Reviews we introduce the benefits of regular employee and manager meetings to discuss performance similar to the way leadership teams consistently review strategic performance. Conversations and decision-making flashpoints are essential to effective performance management. Frankly, I can’t think of any other environment where evaluations are not iterative. My kids take a test and get a grade within days. These tests culminate into formal progress reports, with overall grade trends every couple of months so come the end of the school year, there’s no surprise. My wife and I can see progress, and intervene with support at any point, BEFORE it’s too late.
Last year at ESM we ditched the formal performance review and moved to regular “Touchpoint” meetings. Some will call these one-on-one check in conversations to talk about the employee’s work, personal goal progress, challenges/inhibitors, and areas for improvement. The topics are similar to the annual review, only a lot lighter because they occur every month or so. Frequent conversations allow for just in time coaching through a difficult task and reflection on a recent project. I love keeping abreast of my employees progress throughout the year and be able to step in and support their professional growth and mutual team success.
While you don’t have to have a software to support your Touchpoint conversations, we just built ESM+Perform, performance review software, to help employees define their goals, align them to the company strategy so they understand how their piece of the puzzle fits, and capture the regular one-on-one conversations every month so that everyone knows where they stand. And if a formal review is required, ESM+Perform makes it easy to reflect on the Touchpoint conversations and quickly complete the performance review.