The Wall Street Journal had a wonderful article a couple months ago arguing why the performance review is not advantageously contributing to overall productivity for a number of various reasons. I have argued on this blog many times before that performance is not useful and either needs to be completely overhauled and reimagined from the ground up, or gotten rid of entirely. I’m encouraging you to read the WSJ article for yourself, but will at least give you my opinion that the performance review should be discarded in favor of concrete development plans against competencies and periodic evaluations against that development plan.
The mind-sets held by the two participants in a performance review work at cross-purposes. The boss wants to discuss where performance needs to be improved, while the subordinate is focused on such small issues as compensation, job progression and career advancement. The boss is thinking about missed opportunities, skill limitations and relationships that could use enhancing, while the subordinate wants to put a best foot forward believing he or she is negotiating pay.
I’m not totally in agreement with the above theorem, but lets face it, there is some truth to this. Employees go in hoping that their performance review is positive, thus resulting in a pay increase. I’m even at fault for this, while I go into performance reviews with an eager and open mind to feedback, the real goal is the pay increase that comes afterwards.
To really inspire the employee, development plans speak much better to employee goals. An employee can’t get engaged with past performance, but they surely can get engaged with future development plans and their won career progression. While there is probably a fairly grey line distinguishing the two in some cases, I really think that modern development planning that some talent management vendors are pursuing is quite the right direction. The author at WSJ wants to call this approach a “performance preview.”
Holding performance previews eliminates the need for the boss to spout self-serving interpretations about what already has taken place and can’t be fixed. Previews are problem-solving, not problem-creating, discussions about how we, as teammates, are going to work together even more effectively and efficiently than we’ve done in the past. They feature descriptive conversations about how each person is inclined to operate, using past events for illustrative purposes, and how we worked well or did not work well individually and together.
I think that we have talent technologies today that are plenty roust and already serve the purposes that I would propose and it seems the WSJ author is proposing. The difference is simply a reemphasis in the entire talent lifecycle away from performance reviews and towards development plans. I give you that the performance review may still be a setting for evaluating future development plans, but it shifts the focus from past to future and increased employee engagement and receptivity to improving.