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Removing Performance Reviews Devalues Work

2010 May 25

A strongly worded piece in the New York Times recently appeared claiming that performance reviews should be removed because they are linked with a variety of negative personal and organizational outcomes.

I certainly agree that performance reviews can and usually are done poorly, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Performance reviews themselves are necessary for aligning employee performance and expectations with expectations and performance of upper management.  They are a tool to be wielded to improve organizational and employee outcomes.  Getting rid of performance reviews only tells your employees and your customers that the performance level of your employees doesn’t matter.  That’s not the message most organizations want to communicate, is it?

So how can we do them right?

“I say, ‘Throw it out,’ because it becomes a very biased, error-prone and abuse-prone system,” said Dr. Namie, the author of “The Bully at Work” (Sourcebooks, 2000). “It should be replaced by daily ongoing contact with managers who know the work and who can become coaches.”

That’s not really “throwing out,” is it?  What Dr. Namie is essentially describing is the throwing out of yearly performance reviews and replacing them with continuous performance reviews.

Continuous reviews are a technology-based method that I’ve been throwing around – the provision of real-time feedback through a technology-enhanced interface, centered around the robust research finding that consistent, accurate, timely feedback improves work performance.  Yearly performance reviews are the by-product of an era where records were all on paper.  Now that we can quickly and easily update an easily-accessible database of performance information, why is that necessary?

The answer – it isn’t!  We only conduct yearly performance reviews because that’s how we’ve always done it.  But there’s certainly a better way.

Now if I only I can find an organization willing to test it out…  let me know if you’re interested!

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