The purpose of annual reviews is ostensibly to improve performance, right?
Then why don’t they? Why do managers and employees alike dread them? And why on earth do they happen only once a year?
I can think of only one performance review I ever had in decades working in Corporate America that actually helped me improve. That taught me something about myself that I didn’t know. That accomplished something other than:
- Documenting how I did or didn’t measure up against an ever evolving interpretation of my job description.
- Lamenting, in concert with my supervisor, the extent to which my most valuable achievements failed to align with bonus goals set more than a year earlier.
- Setting my salary for the coming year.
None of which are important to improving performance. If you want to improve performance, you need to help employees learn something new about themselves, the organization, and their ability to make a positive difference. Success begets success. You need to help them learn something they don’t know that will help them succeed. And you need to do that far, far more frequently than once a year.
One of the reasons performance management systems are so ineffective is because they conflate at least four distinct objectives into an onerous process needlessly tied to an arbitrary timeframe – the calendar year. Those distinct objectives that deserve distinct treatment are:
- Sharing the wealth (An objective that would benefit from being called “sharing the wealth.”)
- Ensuring employees are in jobs that match their interests, talents, and capabilities
- Setting goals that create specificity and urgency, but not punishment
- Improving individual performance
What is the simplest way to constantly help employees learn more about themselves and their ability to contribute? I doubt it is your current performance management system!