Let’s get personal: 3 reasons why performance reviews don’t workBy David Priemer on August 23, 2010 in Thought Leadership
Try doing a Google search for “hate performance reviews” and you’ll find two main types of articles:
- Thought leaders and academics in organizational dynamics talking about the negative impact of performance reviews
- Talent management vendors talking about how they’re actually beneficial but often executed incorrectly.
UCLA Business Professor Samuel Culbert is especially outspoken when it comes to #1 having recently penned two articles in the Wall Street Journal about how everyone hates performance reviews and how now is the time to get rid of them. While many posts like Professor Culbert’s explore the problem from an organizational perspective (effectively reducing performance reviews to an ineffective and demoralizing “HR-pinata”), here are three key reasons why performance reviews are ineffective from the perspective of the individual:
Generational experts like Tammy Erickson agree that today’s workforce simply doesn’t view feedback the same way as previous generations. In a recent post Tammy talks about what she calls the double meaning of feedback. She describes how boomers see feedback as grades, ranks, and scores, while GenY’s thinks of feedback as mentorship, advice, and learning. Still others point out that mentoring millennials is all about becoming adept at providing microfeedback; the language of today’s workforce. Regardless of the sentiment one thing is clear: if the purpose of performance reviews is to help us become better at what we do, a one-a-year checkpoint involving long documents, copious amounts of scattered insights, and quantitative evaluations, simply doesn’t jive with the way people see feedback today.
2. I bring my own tools to work
I bet many of you reading this post are on LinkedIn, and why not…millions of us are! But to date I haven’t heard of any organization who forces their employees to post their profiles to LinkedIn. Then why do we? Truth is we do because it’s good for US! Because we like the idea of networking, hearing about new opportunities, and learning about the connection, skills sets, and histories we have in common. Those of us who use Twitter, Facebook, etc. for work are no different. We use these tools because they help US do our jobs better and interact with our audience in a real way.
Then what about performance reviews as a value added tool? Well, according to a recent study by Bersin and Associates, 75% of us hate them. Are they evil? Are we simply doing them wrong? Irrelevant! In an era where people bring helpful tools to work because they add personal value, the antiquated top-down performance review process doesn’t have a chance.
3. I’m doing this for ME, not you
Last summer Dan Pink gave a fantastic Ted talk on the surprising science of motivation, and later released his hit book: Drive. The key take away: people are motivated by the intrinsic principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose above all else – essentially, we do things for ourselves because we have desire to be better, feel good, and raise our personal status…not because of financial or other third-party incentives. Need proof? Look no further than Wikipedia: an information service more comprehensive than any CD-ROM Microsoft could ever dream up that people contribute to out of the goodness of their hearts!
Performance reviews are often veiled in an employee-centric benefit statement – i.e. we want to help you get better. Noble indeed! Unfortunately, many people see the primary purpose of reviews as generating a document, an artifact, a record, to keep on file with the HR department. How does a once-a-year, time-sucking, apprehension-laden conversation help me? Not sure…so guess what? I don’t want to do it!
The lesson learned from these three examples is that the game has changed…not only for the organization, but for the individual. Those organization who fail to recognize this will find themselves on the wrong end of employee engagement issue. A solution: amplifying the benefit of the social behaviors we engage in to drive performance…a lesson learned from Facebook and the topic of my last post!