Is It Time to Kill the Performance Review?

For the past two years mid-year, I have provided hiring managers and leaders ideas about conducting a mid-year performance review with their team. After all we are half way through the year and if you don’t check in now with your team, how will you know if they (and ultimately YOU) are going to meet the goals you set out to achieve for 2013?

Say the words performance review and you will hear managers groan about how exhausting the process can be. I wonder does it really have to be like this. Is it possible that it really is time to kill the performance review?

I came across the book, “Get Rid Of The Performance Review” by Samuel A. Culbert with Lawrence Rout. The interesting thing about Samuel Culbert is that he is a Professor at the Anderson School of Business at UCLA. Most of you are going to stop reading right there and think, “Yeah, that’s the left coast, they always come up with radical ideas but that won’t work in any other part of the United States.” Before you ignore the rest of this post, let’s at least look at some of his ideas.

Culbert says to cut the performance review because they are fraudulent and dishonest and they reflect bad management. They are fraudulent and dishonest because even before the employee comes in for their review, the manager and their higher ups have already “cut a deal” about how the person will be rated and how much of a raise the employee is going to get. They reflect bad management because managers should be having performance conversations with their people every day, not once a year. And they can sometimes be a blow to an employee’s self-esteem. I’m not advocating that everyone is going to be a winner here. Some employees (and management) do need to be fired. But you have an imperfect human providing feedback to another imperfect human with sometimes a not too defined rating system. I admit it’s odd to say the least.

The process I like to use and recommend is loosely based on some of the steps in the book, “The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs” by James Pendry where managers meet with the individuals on their teams once a week at the same time. Every week they ask the employee these same three questions:

1. What did you do last week that you are proud of?
2. What would you like to learn next week?
3. How can I help you?

By creating a dialog and following this process for sixty days, you will find that your employees start to be more engaged because they feel like they matter and are valued. As a manager when you get the answers to these questions, it’s then your responsibility to remove every roadblock within your ability to help your employee get their job done.

This type of process helps you as a manager because you will know every week exactly what your employees are doing. Let’s face it, wouldn’t it be a great feeling to breeze through those performance reviews with up to date relevant information? Give it a try; I think you will come to like the freedom this mini process gives you.