Every once in a while, you get a swarm of articles that says the annual performance review should die a horrible death. The latest in the line of these rants comes from Samuel Culbert of the UCLA School of Management.
The intro to Culberts' manifesto as recorded by the Wall Street Journal:
"You can call me "dense," you can call me "iconoclastic," but I see nothing constructive about an annual pay and performance review. It's a mainstream practice that has baffled me for years.
To my way of thinking, a one-side-accountable, boss-administered review is little more than a dysfunctional pretense. It's a negative to corporate performance, an obstacle to straight-talk relationships, and a prime cause of low morale at work. Even the mere knowledge that such an event will take place damages daily communications and teamwork.
The alleged primary purpose of performance reviews is to enlighten subordinates about what they should be doing better or differently. But I see the primary purpose quite differently. I see it as intimidation aimed at preserving the boss's authority and power advantage. Such intimidation is unnecessary, though: The boss has the power with or without the performance review.
And yes, I have an alternative in mind that will get people and corporations a great deal more of what they actually need.
To make my case, I offer seven reasons why I find performance reviews ill-advised and bogus."
Click here to see the 7 reasons Culbert cites. It's a good list, but it misses one very important point. You can keep the annual review, tie it to a merit increase, etc., if your managers can do one very important thing - coach talent on a daily basis.
No coaching skills? Then the first time the employee gets feedback on adjustments/improvements to make IS the annual review, which nets all the problems that Culbert outlines.
I think effective performance management that places a premium on coaching skills is key to maximizing engagement. Where are you going to be more engaged as an employee - in a relationship with a manager who positively affirms what you are doing well and brainstorms with you how you can maximize yourself and your career, or with a manager who only engages you on your performance on an annual basis? I've had both in my career, and I think the answer is pretty clear.
The problem that all the folks who make the easy claim that we should kill the performance review don't acknowledge? It's a bloodbath out there in terms of coaching skills, for new and experienced managers of people alike. Most managers aren't good coaches - they avoid the conversations (both positive and corrective in nature) that they should have daily. Too much confrontation, too messy, I've got other stuff to do, blah, blah, blah.
So, it's great to call for an end to the performance review. Make sure you put your money and time where your mouth is, and be involved in providing the training and CONTINUOUS feedback to managers on their coaching skills.
What's that? You don't have time? Guess what Tony Robbins - you can't kill the performance review then, because your words are empty and not backed by action. Call me when you're ready to do something to improve the situation.
While I'm on a rant, I'll throw some props to Jessica Lee at FOT and agree with her - can I get some opinions from people who are actually responsible for the performance review process? It's OK if you aren't. Opinions are like home improvement shows - everyone's got one.
By the way, when I had the guy/gal who only gave me feedback once a year, they looked about as happy as Culbert does in the video below. (email subscribers click through for the video)