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I was always surprised by Performance Review! yes i am with you and yes it's time to kill the performance review. Again.

I'm with you on this one, Ann. For the reasons you outlined above, I just don't think it's realistic to get rid of the performance review. But they can be painful if not done correctly. I think the answer is more training on what the purpose of a review is and how to schedule and provide ongoing feedback so the review is just the formalization of the ongoing conversations.
Anxious to see what others think about this topic in response to your points.

Ann -
Nice job in adding your voice of reason and experience to the recent hysteria that's been resurrected by the WSJ and NY Times articles. Looks like you and I were thinking the same thing. I felt compelled to add my 2 cents on the debate on my own blog today.

In the classic musical "Man of La Mancha" Don Quixote sings of "The Impossible Dream."

Aren't we all Don Quixote's striving for the best performance-based compensation system? We know its impossible to find the perfect system, but we know that it sure beats the alternative of just giving out pay increases based on entitlement measures.

* * *

"The Impossible Dream"

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

Performance reviews as they are currently structured (annual or even bi-annual) do little to reinforce desired behaviors or discourage poor ones as the review/discussion is happening too far removed from the event being discussed. I far prefer how Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo, approaches/discusses this — a puppy approach to performance reviews — in the moment.

Consider these stats, too: 67% say that they get too little positive feedback and 51% say that they get too little constructive criticism from their bosses. (These stats are from one of your posts last October.)

People want, need, even crave more feedback on their performance, both positive and negative. A far better approach is strategic employee recognition that encourages frequent and direct acknowledgment and appreciation of employee efforts that reflect the company values and contribute to achieving strategic objectives.

More on the puppy approach and citation for stats here: http://bit.ly/SndfP


I too picked up on the article you mentioned by Dr. Culbert, and wrote a post on the subject over on the International HR Forum (http://wp.me/pupHI-wV).

I am not in favor of eliminating performance appraisal - just doing it better. And for me, that means it has to be simple and straightforward, easy to understand by all, and incorporate feedback from customers, peers and the boss as well as a self-assessment. Regular discussions and feedback during the year, on a weekly or even daily basis, form the basis for good relationships between managers and their team; there will never be a substitute for managers doing their job well.


Sounds like you come out strongly on the "kill" side, based on your personal experience.


I agree that training plays a role, as long as those trained are held accountable for using the skills gained. And I'm with you, it simply isn't realistic to dump the whole exercise.


Your post is a great one - we do indeed need a calm, reasoned counterbalance to the current hysteria, and your points do a nice job of providing that.

Readers, since Dan is too modest to provide the link here, let me do so ... and be sure to check it out.



That is too, too funny. We are indeed very much like Don Quixote with our seemingly impossible dream. Thanks for sharing that here. You gave me my smile for the day ... maybe for the week!


Recognition is an important complement to performance reviews - I see both as necessary, since they address critical, but different needs. One is no substitute for the other. Thanks so much for sharing the link here!


I like your thoughts - but have trouble following your link. If you are willing, perhaps you could try again here and post a more direct (rather than shortened) one!

Thanks, everybody, for the great conversation. Hope to hear from others ... maybe those who - with Mohammed - find themselves on the "kill" side?

Thursday, October 2, 2008
What if we got rid of performance appraisals?

I had a great meeting yesterday with two HR executives who suggested that, at least in their organization, they just stop doing performance appraisal. I can't tell you how happy I was to hear this statement. Whenever I teach, I preach the same thing. Why?

* Per the HR executive: Performance appraisal causes problems, takes tons of time, results in ratings that we all know are not quite accurate, and really - we want managers to talk to employees regularly not once a year.

* Push-back HR executive got from her team: We need them for legal reasons. She has been around long enough to know first hand that this is just not the case. Plus, if managers had 'regular' conversations, then you would have better data.

How do you assure regular conversations? We were talking about adding a question to a regular survey asking employees "are you getting feedback from your managers?" This is a simple solution - something that real managers would trade in for the yearly agony of having to fill out the long, painful performance appraisal forms.

Other defenses I've heard for keeping performance appraisal:

* The 'keep' argument: You need it for merit pay.

* The 'delete' argument: Let's face it - if you are lucky, you have 3% budgeted for merit pay; this is not even cost of living. Why not just give cost of living to everyone who does well enough to stay and then add a recognition program for above and beyond (outstanding) performance? You don't need performance appraisal for that.

When I teach performance appraisal, I title the section: "In search of the right form." Throughout history we have tried and tried to change the forms. Sometimes we go backwards and take what we used to do and change labels. In fact, one could argue that the recent move toward competencies are just BARS (remember those- behavioral anchored rating scale) all over again.

No matter how long the form, how complex the process, managers HATE doing it.

Doing the performance appraisal, no matter what, is a negative experience. It demotivates both employees and managers. I wonder what the effect on productivity is of performance appraisal. Managers hate doing it; employees hate receiving this formal document, and everyone spends way too much time on it.

I just want to say thank you to the HR executive I met who brought up this topic. And she is not with a small company; she is well trained in HRM, and I am convinced she can make it work.

Posted by Theresa M. Welbourne at 11:19 AM

Theresa M. Welbourne
Research Professor,
President and CEO, eePulse Inc.
Editor-in-Chief, Human Resource Management, the Journal

Great discussion…

I tend to weigh in on the side of a combination of both continual coaching (puppy approach) and cumulative review – on what is working and what is not on an occurrence and overall basis. Also, for those working on cyclical or infrequent projects, interim reviews of the project and its component pieces are effective. In the end, one needs to know if they are hitting the target or are way off the dart board. Recently in evaluating job descriptions and speaking with managers about the job requirements that they expect, I found that a number of managers had not really taken the time to think about this matter. Given that, I had to ask, “How do you know what you want from an employee when you are assessing them in a performance assessment system?” This discussion yielded far more than a rating on a performance review or the words on the job description itself – it facilitated the manager’s thinking about what they wanted the employee to do, how they wanted them to do it, and what results would be evident it they did it right.

I think that when a manager can focus on the results and how they want those results achieved, the task itself becomes less arduous and the yield is more beneficial to the employee. But – alas – some thinking must go into doing that. I have to ask though, “Without such a gauge, how do we run a business?” After all, our customers are making judgments and assessments every day on how we are doing in delivering the right products or services, in the right manner. Take a look at the influence of customer reviews and “thumbs up” signs on websites and social forums, and you can’t escape the fact that a continual process of review is more powerful than ever.

While we may continually be in search of Don Quixote’s ultimate system or method for performance evaluation – that may not be such a bad thing. At least we are thinking about it.

Get rid of the review process? Seriously? I totally agree! Do you realize the money companies could save by doing this? Not only would they save millions by reducing all those hours spent on the process, but they could also eliminate 90% of supervisors and managers. Because as it stands now, the annual performance review is the ONLY time during the year that they manage and supervise.
If they are only meeting with employees once a year now because they have to, does anyone actually believe that they'll meet with them ever if it isn't required anymore?
Yeah, employees will thrive and profits will sky rocket once feedback and direction are eliminated.
The problem isn’t the process, the problem is that managers and supervisors have been collecting the money that goes with supervising, but have failed to deliver supervision. Companies need to start holding these deadbeat supervisors feet to the fire. The ultimatum of supervise or we’ll find someone who will needs to be given. To eliminate this process is the lazy way out. Probably because HR & other key decision makers have the same mentality as supervisors. They would rather hide from a problem or get rid of it than to get in and ruffle some feathers and confront negative behavior.
“Well, since managers aren’t doing a good job in performance management, let’s just get rid of the process all together”. Just like people speed on the freeway and through school zones anyway, so we might as well just get rid of the speed limit??


Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the perspective of your colleague. We'll be interested in hearing about her experience as/if she goes forward.

You - or she - don't respond to the concern about tying pay to individual performance. I get the fact that it is increasingly difficult to pay for performance with our shrinking salary increase budgets, but salaries are not the only reward mechanism tied to performance, in an increasingly performance-linked business environment. Would welcome your thoughts on this particular challenge.

Also, I have had two clients sued in the last year, where the suit can be directly tied to insufficient performance documentation, so I'm not really willing to buy the "pooh-poohing" of the legal risks.


Great to hear your thoughts. Agree that the focus on measurement and results is inescapable in a business environment where more and more organizations are being held accountable for results by their customers.


Well put and on the money - I think. Simply dumping the whole thing is easier than the difficult, frustrating challenge of trying to make it work better or confronting those who perpetuate the bad practices. But it is neither realistic or responsible - as you point out with your speeding analogy. Copping out is not the answer, although we all understand why it is attractive.

Great continuing discussion everyone - I so appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts and experience here!

The term "Annual Performance Review" would suggest that there was a prior "view" of performance. In my opinion that "view" should be supported by a prior "preview" of performance. Seldom are the preview and view done consistently.

The problem is not with the end of the race. The issue is with the training and running of the race itself. To review or appraise performance that has been defined and driven over any prior period of time (let's just say a year) is easy and effective. To define, review and appraise performance only after it has been accomplished is pointless and counter-productive.

Don't kill the performance review, fix it. (Yes, I know it is hard and requires effort and more money, but the results will bear the expense.)

Improve the process. Where flaws are noted, correct and prevent them. Don't stop comparing the adequacy of actual output results to desired levels, just do it better. Gee, whiz, we've been doing a performance review on the performance review process! The point is well-proven and known forever but must be constantly revisited, because it is so difficult to do well.

Things that are hardest to do are generally the most important, don't you think?

It's really not an either/or issue, meaning the annual or semi-annual appraisal should not take the place of regular coaching and feedback, and regular coaching and feedback by itself are not sufficient in capturing the impact of an individual's efforts on organization's results.

Yes, poorly written or delivered appraisals are potentially dangerous, and yes, doing both well is difficult. In my experience, managers are less skilled at the day to day performance management, which is even more dangerous that being unskilled at annual appraisals. We are not encouraging managers to stop providing ongoing coaching and feedback, though. Help managers see why ongoing performance management, of which the annual appraisal is just one part, is important to business results. Make sure that they have the skills and resources to do it well, make sure that the "formal" process is sound, and move on.

" The 'keep' argument: You need it for merit pay."

Why do you need merit pay? There's a good argument for paying an above average base wage and then having lower variable comp or having that variable comp be team-based.

I'm generally in the "get rid of the annual review" camp, that doesn't mean we are all hysterical about it as some implied.

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