Performance Reviews Are Not Performing Well


Vauhini Vara, writing for The New Yorker, on “The Push Against Performance Reviews“:

“…the annual performance review has been falling out of favor in some quarters. Microsoft and Gap are among several companies that have reformed their evaluation processes in recent years. On Tuesday, the consulting firm Accenture, an emblem of traditional corporate culture if ever there was one, announced that it is getting rid of annual evaluations for its three hundred and thirty thousand employees, replacing the process with a system where managers will give feedback on a more regular basis. Accenture’s C.E.O., Pierre Nanterme, told the Washington Post that the existing evaluations are cumbersome and expensive. Plus, he added, “the outcome is not great.””

In my own HR experience, I am not a fan of most of the corporate and non-profit performance review systems I’ve seen for several reasons:

  1. – Highly subjective
  2. – Easily subject to personal agendas
  3. – Little to no ability for the employee to correct omissions, falsehoods and errors
  4. – Often done in huge batches, overwhelming supervisors
  5. – Pencil-whipped for compliance
  6. – Inexperienced or emotionally immature supervisors are often empowered to punish or reward on the basis of their own biases
  7. – Reviews are often based on the job description, not the actual duties the employee is assigned and expected to carry out regularly
  8. – See number 1 and multiply by 8,000

Kristovskis-meeting-95.jpgWhat is the alternative? I’m a fan of committee based rankings, where multiple managers and supervisors weigh in with their observations and experiences with employees. I do not favor single manager reviews as the potential for abuse and incompetence is far too high. I also believe in a strong system of appeals for reviews when employees believe them to be arbitrary, abusive or just plain sloppy. In cases where managers were sloppy or arbitrary, reviews should be corrected and managers trained/re-trained or disciplined if this was a recurring problem. In the case of abusive, retaliatory reviews that do not reflect the employee’s true performance, I favor termination of the manager or supervisor.

Distorting a process that determines pay raises, promotions and employee growth should not be tolerated, nor should “oops, my bad” be an acceptable defense for incompetence and nefarious behavior.

You can read the rest of Vara’s article here:


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