Looking through recent online conversations related to performance review, the sudden shift in tone is almost shocking. Within a few months, the leading industry outlets and blogs stopped focusing on:
- 10 Secrets to an Effective Performance Review
- How to implement performance reviews
- How to get what you want out of a performance review
To proposing a “slightly” more radical approach with the following headlines:
- Let’s Kill Performance Reviews In 2015
- Get rid of the performance review
- Performance reviews are corporate America’s curse on itself
- A corporate ritual that is as destructive as it is ubiquitous
- Hate performance reviews? So does human resources…
…and much more. Does it mean that we, the HR professionals, are finally ready to let go of the performance review and replace it with… actually, it is not clear what is supposed to replace the HR’s long-standing, infamous “destructive ritual”! As Souza rightly pointed out in his Pulse article, “disruption only takes place when you can actually suggest what should be created in something’s place”. The thing is, we need HR data. Perhaps the frustration and the movement towards rejecting the performance review can be linked to the fact that the data HR have been collecting so far are, to put it simply, BAD. The issue was recently brought up by Marcus Buckingham at HBR, who asked:
If you were my manager and you watched my performance for an entire year, how accurate do you think your ratings of me would be on attributes such as my “promotability” or “potential?”
Unfortunately, the answer based on examining the performance review techniques we’ve had over the years is pretty harsh:
Research record reveals that neither you nor any of your peers are reliable raters of anyone. Virtually all of our people data is fatally flawed.
(Take a look at the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect, as mentioned by Mark, to know more about the reasons of these drastic inaccuracies). According to Buckingham, to move forward, we need to admit that the current system obscures people’s performance rather than reveals it. The change, he says, cannot come soon enough, if HR wants to rehabilitate itself as a “purveyor of good data”.
What’s very exciting about the current discussions within the human resources’ influencers, is that there seems to be a consensus about this – we need new solutions and we need them soon. “Today we know that it makes no sense to refine a bad process”, says Liz Ryan in the Forbes pieces, encouraging “killing the performance review”. What can we do instead? Liz suggests that progressive employees scrap formal reviews for the culture of openness and accessibility – “if you want feedback, please ask for it! You will get it, as much as you need” – they say.
This is radical, but logical too – if an employee doesn’t feel like he needs feedback, he’ll sit through the review nodding politely while his mind is a million miles away. The second suggestion (that we really love) is focusing on building trust and ensuring that the feedback flows both ways. It’s about managers not being afraid to expose their challenges and asking their team: how can I become better at my job? Samuel Culbert, a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, introduced another interesting concept: employee PREviews. “Performance previewing” – he says – “allows you to work on resource and communication problems while there’s still time to get good results.”
Previews are problem-solving, setting their sights on the future and what needs to happen, not on the past and who’s to blame.
Another important difference between reviewing and previewing? Previews don’t happen only annually – “they take place whenever either the boss or the subordinate believes something isn’t working well” – explains Culbert. Chloe Taylor elaborated on the conversation sparked by Culbert, stressing that boss and subordinate should become an accountability team who strive for the same outcome of producing corporate results.
Chloe also mentions the importance of bosses and employees to start having real conversations, in which there is no one absolute “truth” being announced by superiors. What are the takeaways from this debate? We also believe that performance review “has to go”. However, to make sure that the change corporations will make is for the better, there is a need to start educating leaders on the importance of conversation, two-way exchange, trust and openness.
For those who are resistance, implementing the right tools and technology can help overcome scepticism and save time and money. Transitions are never easy but it seems that this is the perfect moment to step into the future and aspire to allow everyone in the company to share and receive feedback according to their needs and on their own terms.