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Still Want to Kill the Performance Review? Invest More Time in Feedback...

A couple of weeks ago, we all ranted about Samuel Culbert's (UCLA prof) take that we should kill the performance review as recorded by the Wall Street Journal.  Lot's of folks reacted and said that Culbert's correct - the performance review, as it exists today, should be eliminated.

I feel the same now as I did then - while I agree the performance review is an imperfect tool, you're only credible in calling for its elimination if you're prepared to 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. 

You don't have time?  Guess what sparky?  You're part of the problem, not the solution.  Please fade to the background.

The alternative to the annual performance review is coaching daily, which is another word for feedback.  The bad news is that we have a lot of managers nationally who aren't willing or capable of coaching. 

The good news?  Younger generations want feedback and coaching, which means if you make a commitment to engage, they'll be willing to work with you and you become a better coach.  More on the upswing in the desire for coaching and feedback from Gen Y from the Careers section of the WSJ:

"When 26-year-old Brittany Rotondo wants to know how she's doing at work, she doesn't wait for her six-month review -- she goes straight to her managers and asks.


"I'm definitely a feedback kind of person," says Ms. Rotondo, who helps manage U.S. work/life programs at Accenture Ltd. in Chicago. "It's always incredibly important for me to know how my work is perceived and the impact it's having."

Increased demand for feedback from younger workers is forcing some employers to rethink how they discuss employee performance. Often, the annual review just won't cut it anymore.

Ernst & Young LLC a few years ago launched an online "Feedback Zone," where employees can request or submit feedback at any time. The system prompts employees twice a year to request feedback. The accounting and consulting firm assigns every employee a mentor and offers training for supervisors who routinely give feedback.

International Business Machines Corp. and Accenture also offer training to hone managers' critiquing skills.  These employers and others say they are responding to employee demand, particularly from younger workers. IBM says surveys show employees want more feedback. Managers say they notice more demands from younger workers.

In a recent survey, 65% of "Generation Y" workers at Ernst & Young said "providing detailed guidance in daily work" was moderately or extremely important, compared with 39% of Baby Boomers. An overwhelming 85% of Gen Y employees said their age-group peers want "frequent and candid performance feedback," while only half of Boomers agreed. Generation Y included those born after 1980; Gen X, those born from 1965 to 1980; and Boomers, 1946 to 1964."

So, there you have it.  You want to kill the performance review?  Take the time to provide feedback and coaching as described above, but be ready to make it a part of your everyday life. 

The kids would love to see it.  But, if you aren't willing to provide it, please shut ye yapper regarding how messed up the annual review process is.

In other words - be ready to work on the solution, rather than simply complaining.



Great post. Why does Gen Y need more feedback? One factor is constant feedback throughout youth from parents/coaches/teachers, etc. It's become a way of life. They're also the tech generation, used to instant results, so don't see any problem with prompt feedback on a continual basis. On the bright side, it doesn't have to be extensive feedback - just a "great job," or if negative, a "here's what you might do next time" couched with positive affirmations.

Ann Bares

Yes. Exactly.

Wally Bock

I'll give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to this post, Kris. Part of every manager's job is setting clear and reasonable expectations, then checking on behavior or performance and providing feedback and direction. That needs to happen every day with everyone who works for you. That's performance appraisal, not some once-a-year form. If you're not doing the real work, getting rid of the form won't make a difference.


Performance appraisals are important documentation that can back up an unemployment claim, if necessary. Also, when you terminate for bad performance, the appraisals (hopefully done every 12 months at the least) can help make the decision in the first place.
Am I off on this?


Hi Joanna,

That was a popular thought process in many HR departments for many years and unfortunately still is in some places. Ideally, if an employee is performing that poorly, you would provide immediate feedback along with appropriate training if necessary. The process feedback, retraining, etc. in this case,is all documented once informal coaching is insufficient. Commonly referred to as "write-ups", this documentation can allow for swifter termination if needed while covering your company for unemployment claims. You wouldn't want to wait through a year or more of bad performance to have enough performance appraisal evidence. If I'm not understanding your question let me know.

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