Performance Reviews: Are they really worthwhile?

It is very in vogue at the moment to ditch performance reviews in the workplace. From Virgin UK to General Electric, companies are snubbing this tool in favour of other management techniques. But does this really work? What are the benefits of performance reviews? And most importantly, should you persevere with yours?

To take a step back a performance review is typically a meeting held between an employee and their manager to assess how their performance has been over a defined period.

Many companies have no performance review mechanisms whatsoever and have never thought of implementing one. Other companies simply go through the motions to tick off the task without it being a meaningful and positive experience. If formal performance reviews are not occurring, it is my strong belief that managers are going to need to be much more hands on day to day and much less resistant to pulling an employee up on issues of concern, including even minor ones. Relying on having exceptional managers is a risky strategy and one which I do not think will pay off in the long run.

There are real benefits to carrying out short but effective performance reviews that are not simply about going through the motions. Some of the real positives include:

  • They force a manager to consider their team’s performance and give them meaningful feedback;
  • An employee can raise issues they may be facing in the workplace that they may otherwise not feel comfortable raising such as bullying or discrimination;
  • Employees are given an opportunity to be creative in thinking about how to achieve goals and so this can lead to fantastic innovation;
  • They focus people on what their role is really about and how to successfully fulfil it;
  • For good performers they can be a great motivation tool;
  • For poor performers they can lead to a proper performance management process being implemented to weed out dead weight in the team;

So should companies persevere with performance reviews? I believe yes, they should. If you are struggling with these at the moment you need to think about streamlining the process so they are not too onerous. As a starting point:

  • Make sure employees have a role to play in assessing their own performance and that meeting times are kept limited to half an hour.
  • Paperwork should be kept to a minimum and be no longer than a few pages so as not to overwhelm people

The adage ‘what gets measures get managed’ is the key reason why you should persist with formal performance reviews. Without measuring how people are performing, how will you know if what they are doing aligns with the companies aims?

What are your thoughts on performance reviews? Are they a waste of time or are they worthwhile?

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  1. Avatar

    This article makes some great points. One difficulty I have found as a manager, however, is that you commit to the performance management process but if it fails more senior management won’t support a termination of employment. This means you battle on with a very damaged relationship with a team members which is not great for anyone.

    • Lucienne Gleeson

      Hi Danielle. Thanks for your comment. I agree that if there is not a proper culture of supporting performance reviews, including where necessary and justified termination of employment, this is counter productive. Make sure you give this important feedback to your senior managers.

  2. Avatar

    Whilst I agree that Performance Reviews can play an important role I think they are best used in supporting suggestions, advice or comments that a good hands on manager can give. Even adults, although perhaps not quite as much as children, respond better to some immediate feedback, both positive and negative at the time and this can be reinforced in a performance review scenario rather than coming as a surprise to the employee.

    • Lucienne Gleeson

      Hi Anne. I completely agree that immediate feedback, whether good or bad, is really important in the workplace. Performance reviews are just one strategy and should not be used in isolation.

      Thanks for reading.

  3. Avatar

    As you say, if the process is managed properly and is supported by senior management performance appraisals are well worth the time and effort. At the very least it is an opportunity for the organisation to ensure everyone understands what their role is and what is expected of them which is important for any organisation employing staff.

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