I have strong opinions about performance management programs and tools, and how to administer them. I have exceptionally strong opinions about how not to administer them.
If you are a supervisor or manager, you have likely written and delivered over a hundred individual reviews for your employees during your career. You have also been the recipient of your own performance reviews for many years. And you likely have very strong opinions of your own.
A word of admission as an HR professional: we continue to focus too much on the importance of objectivity in performance reviews, and to measure things as precisely and closely as possible. We provide training on how to write performance goals and reviews objectively, how to share those reviews objectively, and how to respond to your employees when the meeting turns emotional.
We essentially try to wring out the emotion and feeling from our performance interaction with employees, to advocate a protectively sterile and clinical examination. We even build the review forms to use objective language as much as possible to keep emotions out of the equation, as if the ghost of Frederick Taylor was hovering about the office.
Why too much? Because it’s a new world out there, where attitudes are different, motivations are different, and what matters to people is different. It has been changing for years, but we just haven’t shifted.
While HR professionals and management both spend a lot of time focusing on individual reviews and how they are written, the process of conducting reviews still gets short shrift in discussions and planning. And that process affects the whole system, from how the ratings are structured, to how the supervisor sits down and shares with their employees. We’ve continued to fall back on methodologies that were built decades ago instead of evolving our programs toward the new world of employee engagement and talent management.
I have been told by employees in meeting after meeting that their performance reviews are one of the most emotional connections they have with their manager, their teams, and their company. I’ve met with employees who were distressed, angry, and shocked after receiving their reviews; other employees who say the thing that matters most to them is the exceptional review they received “x” years ago; and those who say the best supervisor they ever had was the one who was kind, fair, and respected their feelings.
I’ve had some great discussions (and arguments) with colleagues over the years about how to change the thinking and administration of performance reviews. I will share some of those discussions here, along with some of my very strong opinions, as I have the time.
In short, I think we need to recognize the emotional connections of our employees as a strength, not a liability, and administer performance management programs in a way that truly connects us. After all, we want them to take good care of us, every year, for the rest of their working lives.