Have Traditional Performance Reviews Outlived Their Usefulness?

It’s time to rethink performance management, asserts a work performance expert in Fast Company.

“Most of today’s performance management approaches, no matter what we call them, are often complex, emotionally burdensome and time-consuming, resulting in the most dreaded task we have to do at work,” writes Amy Leschke-Kahle, the vice president of performance acceleration at the Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company.

Traditional performance reviews are designed to measure employee performance and provide feedback that leads to improvements, but Leschke-Kahle says that they are two different things. The act of measuring employee performance does not increase good performance.

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Reviews are also over-engineered she says. Work is complicated, but using goals, job responsibilities and competencies as measuring sticks, “assumes that work is stable enough for goals to stay relevant, job responsibilities are countable and that there is a homogeneous ideal behavior model for each job.” On top of all that, the process takes hours and exacts an emotional toll on everyone involved.

Leschke-Kahle suggests separating “performance measurement” from “performance acceleration.” First, keep it simple. Ask two questions: “Does the employee deliver quality work in an appropriate timeframe and is the employee reasonable to work with?” She also advises changing annual performance review conversations, which can be fraught, to weekly check-ins around performance. Do a once-a-year compensation conversation.

“Grown-ups don’t need a grade; we need safety, security and certainty. Safety, security and certainty are created through frequent, forward-looking conversations, not once-a-year report cards.” Fundamentally change the process, Leschke-Kahle says. “Tweaking your current process, buying a piece of software that simply does what the old one did but with prettier colors, or doing quarterly conversations versus once a year are not the solution to this decades old problem.”


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