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Microsoft Provides More Fodder For Those Who Hate Performance Reviews....

It's trendy to say that performance reviews are broken and must be eliminated from corporate life.  What the people who call for an end to performance reviews won't tell you is that they don't have any good ideas on how to make the feedback loop better.  After all, the primary problem isn't the system, it's the coaching skills of the managers you have in place to deliver feedback.  

Repeat after me:

Managers = Feedback Delivery System

IF <your managers suck at giving feedback>/THEN <it doesn't matter how you deliver feedback, it's going to suck>

I feel better for getting that off my chest.  Thanks for listening.

But wait - there's more.  Microsoft just provided more ammo with its revamp of its performance review system.  Check out the flavor from the Seattle Times:

"Microsoft said this morning it is overhauling its performance review system for 89,000 employees, and the new system echoes the old performance system Microsoft used for ranking employees before Tees-300x238 2006.

The new rating system assigns each employee a level of 1 to 5. Each level has a set compensation level tied to it, which employees can check out now on the internal Microsoft human resources website. Performance reviews have not yet taken place this year, however, so employees will not know what kind of raises they will receive until later this year. 

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer wrote in an email to all employees Thursday: "These ratings will be based on the results you accomplished during the review period (assessed against your commitments), how you accomplished them, and your proven capability. Ratings will be a simple 1-5 system with relative performance being assessed across common peer groups."

I'm a Microsoft lover, not a hater.  I'm a PC.  But for the love of Shatner, does anyone have any new ideas?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Here's a rundown of what the system replaced, along with how 99% of people react to this type of change from a blogger called Mini Microsoft:

"The 2006 system replaced a system called the "Commitment Rating," which was a numerical scale ranging from 2.5 to 5. That scale also limited how many employees could be rated by managers at any level, because the number of employees who could receive a top score was fixed. Raises and bonuses were tied to the ratings.

Mini Microsoft, an anonymously written blog about working at Microsoft, posted this about the new performance reviews: "... Let's celebrate saying goodbye to the 10% / Limited rating. Since the 10%-ers were not actually fired you ended up keeping people on staff who were designated as now plateaued and limited in there [sic] career at Microsoft."

The blogger compared the new system announced Thursday to the pre-2006 system that ranked employees from 2.5 to 5: "Old school: with respect to the new Scarlet A, I assume that a 4 is the old 3.0 and that a 5 is a 2.5 and that having either a 4 or a 5 now limits other group's interest in your career, which kind of means that we've gone from making 10% of the employees unattractive to making 20% of the employees unattractive."

New ideas?  Anyone?  PS - don't say we need to abolish the review unless you have a master plan on how you're going to fix the feedback delivery system in your company.

Maybe the best thing is to roll with it and hand out T-shirts that say things like "I'm a three".


Chris Arringdale

I agree with you 100%. It's not the performance reviews fault, it's the manager's giving the reviews and feedback that cause the negativity towards reviews. If a manager does it like they are supposed to and communicate and work with their employees consistently the review won't be a surprise and create a fear for them.


On-going feedback...ongoing feedback...on going feedback!

I will say that over and over until all those managers out there get it! An annual review without everyone walking into that meeting already knowing EXACTLY where they stand is not only meaningless, it's counterproductive. Managers hate the confrontation, employees hate being blindsided ("whaddayamean, I was only a 2?") everyone loses. And yet, year after year, after year, we do it.

Yeah sometimes we change the name, or redo the point system, but those are cosmetic changes, and don't fool anyone.

Until every employee knows throughout the year just what's working and what's not, and exactly what they need to fix the "what's not" part, the annual review will continue to be a tool of terror.


The problem occurs when managers use performance reviews as the only mechanism to manage the performance of their employees. Managing peoples' performance should occur directly or indirectly every time a manager comes into contact with the people they manage. As mentioned in the other posts, feedback should be ongoing so that the contents of the performance review are not a surprise.

However this depends on the competencies of the manager. Are they an effective communicator? Do they really care about the development of their people? Do they know how to read their people? Some of these competencies can be taught but others are behavioral and should be targeted when recruiting managers, but that's a discussion for another time.

John Jorgensen

One of the best if/then statements ever.

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