There is no doubt the performance planning and review process in most organizations is broken. Too often, it’s a meaningless annual exercise of managers and their people filling out forms, having “the conversation” then going back to their real work.
Too often, the review process has become completely detached from how managers work with their people on a day to day basis.
In my own past jobs, even at senior levels, I’ve had my managers hand me a blank form, asking me to fill it out, then we sit down and talk about it. We would go through the motions as quickly as possible, sign the forms and sigh in relief that it was over—at least for another 12 months. But we go through the process, if only to keep HR off our backs. Then we go back to our real work.
This annual process takes huge amounts of time from everyone. It’s the time spent it completing the form, giving the review, and all the things associated with it—along with the mental distraction. It’s hours per individual, multiplied by whatever number of reviews a manager has to go through.
Couple these with the facts that these reviews are connected with, at least in theory, compensation increases as well as our future employment with the company.
As if I haven’t created a strong enough case, layer this with, managers have very little training on how to do this; if anything the training is about filling out the forms. There’s often nothing about setting performance expectations, providing feedback, how to evaluate performance, and so forth.
It’s no wonder there is dissatisfaction with the performance review process—both with managers and with individual contributors.
Many organizations are abandoning performance reviews completely. Surprisingly, many never had a performance review process in place. Many are searching for new tools to help with the process.
In spite of all of this, we can’t escape some things:
- It’s our job as leaders to maximize the performance of each person on our teams.
- Our people deserve and need to know what’s expected of them in their jobs.
- In order to improve, everyone needs feedback on how they are doing. They need to understand where they are doing well, where they need to improve.
This may have been lost in many of our traditional performance review processes, but it’s our obligation to our people and to our companies to do these things. If we aren’t, we aren’t doing our jobs.
This process cannot be one of filling out forms annually. It has to be a continuous process, first establishing performance expectations and making sure they are understood and agreed to by each person.
Establishing performance expectations isn’t just about saying, “Here’s the number, make it or you’re gone!” It’s about how we engage and create value for our customers, it’s about how we execute the corporate strategies in front of the customers, it’s about how we work with others in the organization, it’s about expected behaviors and attitudes, it’s about skills and competencies we must develop…….
Establishing performance expectations is not something we dictate or provide on a preprinted form, but they are the result of a collaborative discussion between the manager and the employee, making sure each person understands and owns what is being committed to in the performance plan.
We use this process to set priorities, to make sure each person understands what’s expected. The plan is established as much for the leader as it is for the employee, because it’s the leader’s job to help the employee achieve their performance goals. Any failure to do so must be shared by the individual and leader.
Then maximizing performance requires constant attention and feedback. Our daily coaching provides feedback in specific areas, for example, prospecting, qualifying, deal strategies, call execution and so forth.
Periodically, we need to sit down with the individual providing feedback on the “total picture,” how each person is performing against all their performance expectations. These conversations aren’t about what’s wrong, they are about helping the person learn and develop to meet the expectations that have been agreed upon.
Whether it’s tied to an annual process, or if it’s a dynamic ongoing process, performance planning, performance management is critical to everyone involved.
Yes, there is a lot broken in performance review processes. But if we aren’t setting performance expectations, if we aren’t providing our people feedback on how they are performing, if we aren’t helping them constantly improve, then we aren’t doing our jobs.