Get Rid of Annual Employee Evaluations
May 22, 2018 — By Jerry Roberts
Raise your hand if you're a big fan of the annual employee evaluation process. OK, except for the few who enjoy meaningless torture, it's pretty much unanimous: Annual evals are an expensive waste of time and should be done away with.
Human resources expert Liz Ryan, author of "Reinvention Roadmap," wrote in Forbes magazine, "What are annual performance reviews supposed to do? If they had a purpose and if we knew what it was, their purpose would surely be to raise performance every year, on an individual-employee basis and a team basis. By that measure, performance reviews are a bust. If they were not, your company's performance would always improve." It's hard to argue with that.
Everyone is under pressure to get these evals done. For many managers it's often a paralyzing task, as they drop everything else they're doing – such as profit-generating work – to run every team member through the process and pound out the interviews.
If you're OK with a little inconvenient truth, would it surprise you to learn that some managers don't weigh the past year's body of work and instead sort of "wing it?" They keep their answers as generic as possible and plow through to the end. To go a step further, let's just say it – some of this is pure fiction. You know that's true.
And the scoring? Well, I don't think there's all that much difference between, let's say, a 3 and a 4, or between "strongly agree" and "agree." If you've been evaluated you know what I mean. Would you testify in court as to how accurate the scores reflect the talent and effectiveness of the worker?
What are annual performance reviews supposed to do? If they had a purpose and if we knew what it was, their purpose would surely be to raise performance every year, on an individual-employee basis and a team basis. By that measure, performance reviews are a bust.
Liz Ryan, Forbes magazine
Reviews are a legal tool
Look, employee evaluations are used to cover the company's backside, providing justification for decisions such as promotions and terminations, if the company is ever challenged. Employers view them as a legal requirement, and once finished they're pretty much forgotten.
Time to raise hands again. Go ahead, put it up if you're a manager who inspects those evals ever again, just to catch up and refresh your memory.
"All right Jerry, you've kicked the existing process around pretty well. So tell us, what should evaluations be?"
No. 1, the session should be free-flowing, with two-way feedback, all centered on performance – where the employee is now, and where you both agree they want to be by the next evaluation. Once you figure that out, you build a plan to get them there. Training, mentoring, coaching, whatever it takes to raise their game.
No. 2, it shouldn't be an annual exercise. Workers need more frequent feedback. I suggest quarterly or even monthly.
"Wait a second, did he say quarterly or monthly?"
You and your team deserve better
Before you roll up your Guam Daily Post and look for something or someone to swat, here's why. After the initial get-together, which could take an hour, maybe even two, updates can be handled in just a few minutes, sort of a check-in to see how things are going and to make modifications to the plan, if needed.
The evaluation should be an uplifting, energizing, relationship-building time for both the manager and worker, because it focuses on planning for future success and improving one's skills. It should be positive and hopeful, and something everybody looks forward to. Not the worrisome, burdensome, expensive mess it is now.
Now I know some people will be fearful to try something new. Same ol', same ol', bad as it may be, is at least familiar and we'll just grit our teeth and get through it again. I get it ... but it doesn't have to be that way.
The last point on this: If there's no way out of this annual evaluation jungle for you, then layer what I'm talking about on top of it. At least then something good will come from the time spent.
You can do better. You and your team deserve better. And your organization will be a whole lot better off if you create evaluations that serve as a true launching pad for higher performance.
Originally published in the Guam Daily Post, where Jerry Roberts' column, The Work Zone, appears each Tuesday.