March 11, 2016

Time to appraise the appraisal

Performance reviews are often biased, incomplete, focus on the wrong areas and are way too late to have any effect. That’s the damning verdict expressed by both employees and managers in recent research by the workplace feedback organisation, TINYpulse.

Called ‘The Truth Behind Performance Reviews’, the report identifies the main reasons why managers and employees dislike performance reviews.

The survey, which encompassed 100 employees and 100 managers, asked what the most negative aspects of performance reviews are. The top 5 results were:

– Too time consuming: managers 31%, employees 26%
– Manager can be biased: managers 17%, employees 10%
– Only focus on the negative: managers 14%, employees 11%
– Issues are too late to be discussed: managers 12%, employees 10%
– One way conversation: managers 10%, employees 12%

Added to that, managers and employees complained about the lack of follow up after appraisals, the lack of feedback given, a mismatch of objectives, the focus on anecdotal memory, being blindsided by results and the fact that they only discuss recent topics.

One very interesting outcome of the survey is that managers and employees largely have the same opinions of appraisals. Also interesting is the finding that a greater number of managers than employees think appraisals are biased.

These are by no means new complaints about or criticisms of the current performance review system. We ran a post last year about the negative experiences of appraisals.

The results of the TINYpulse survey wasn’t all bad though. A lot of respondents had good things to say about their performance review process. Good, great, helpful and informative were the positive words that featured most commonly. With that in mind, TINYpulse suggests that it is not the concept of performance appraisals that is at fault, but rather the execution of them.

So, what can organisations, managers and HR do to improve the process? That’s what TINYpulse asked 200 employees in a secondary, follow-on survey. When asked what one thing employees would like to change about their performance review, the results were this:

– Shorter 22%
– More goals/metrics oriented 19%
– Ability to update more frequently (supplemental materials) 17%
– Less recency bias 12%
– More often 9.5%
– More tech-savvy (mobile etc) 4%
– Other 1.5%

A further 15% said none of the given options.

Further food for thought for HR practitioners is what millennials think of reviews. Do they like the annual review, according to this survey? Considerably less than half (around 30%) of 25-34 year olds are in favour.

What should HR take from this survey?

– make appraisals shorter and faster
– consider doing them more frequently, not just once a year
– enable employees to have more of a voice. It should be a two-way conversation
– follow up on reviews and give feedback
– enable the use of supplemental materials. This goes part way to addressing issues of bias, anecdotal memory and over emphasis on recent events
– make appraisals more metrics and goal oriented. If employees have goals then they know what is expected of them and it will be easier for them to achieve them. They will also not be blindsided by results come appraisal time. It also makes it easier to measure success and discuss it objectively.