Why do we conduct performance reviews?

There is, and has always been, rhetoric that performance reviews are out of date or ineffective and sometimes even said to be counterproductive.  Unfortunately, like many rhetorical discussions, authors are good at pointing out what doesn`t work but nearly always fail to provide any tangible alternative.  In the absence of hard numbers to measure performance (eg.  productivity or output goals, financial quotas, etc), and  often in addition to hard number measuring, HR pros is a proponent of performance reviews; though perhaps not the traditional kind your father was used to…

Far too often it feels like the only time employees and supervisors get an opportunity to talk is when the employee is not doing something right.  Performance reviews can be an excellent one-on-one discussion tool between employees and their supervisors.  Further, in our labour stressed labour market, a well thought out performance appraisal tool may be key in leveraging and retaining top performing employees.  Many businesses are lean and time with employees is both limited and infrequent.   A performance review is a guaranteed time in which an employee has the full and undivided attention of their supervisor and actively can discuss performance successes and concerns, goals, employee`s aspirations, tangibly make plans to improve performance and engage the employee.

Unfortunately, too often companys that do have an performance review process, annual or other, have allowed the tool to become stagnant, no longer meeting the needs of the company or its employees.   Management, in discussion with Human Resources, should be talking about the appraisal tool, process and yes individual appraisal results at least annually:  When was the last time the performance appraisal was reviewed fully? Does the performance review clearly tie into a compensation strategy? Is the appraisal process clear to all level of employees? Does the performance review clearly tie into desired core values? Are supervisors appraising the person or the person in the job? Does the tool engage employees?  Do the employees have a say in their performance appraisal? Are employees setting goals to move the company forward? Are the performance appraisals filled out with the same information each year, are supervisors taking  cut and paste approach? Does the tool or process require revisions?

If you don`t have an appraisal tool, invest in a dynamic tool that engages the employee.  If you have an appraisal tool remember your workforce is changing, your business environment is changing, your appraisal tool should meet the needs of your employees and your business or be re-drafted to do so.