The Performance Appraisal Solution

by Sharlyn Lauby on January 19, 2011

I’ve seen more articles lately about the failures of performance appraisals than just about anything else.  And, it seems that the only logical answer is to abolish them.  You can read some of these viewpoints here, here, here, here, and here.  And, my apologies to writers I may have missed.

While I admit I haven’t spent any time researching the history of the performance appraisal, it only seems reasonable that performance appraisals were created to fulfill some kind of organizational need.  My guess is some company had a bunch of employees complaining they never knew how they were doing.  Managers were busy running the operation and hated giving feedback so it just didn’t get done.  “No news is good news” was the performance management philosophy.

So some human resources pro suggested creating an annual process called the performance appraisal.  Managers would be mandated to give employees performance feedback on a regular schedule (whether they liked it or not).  Once a year, employees will get feedback about their performance.

(Insert sarcasm here)  The HR pro was instantly heralded as a genius and a statue in their honor was erected in the parking lot.  The managers hated it.  But who cares?  Life was good for both employees and the HR Pro company.  Of course, this performance appraisal utopia was destined to only last for so long (for the reasons my colleagues explained in their articles.)

Which brings us to today.  Don’t get me wrong…I agree with many (if not all) of the observations my fellow bloggers have about performance appraisals.  But I’m not convinced the answer is to abolish the performance appraisal.

Because it doesn’t resolve the employee’s need for feedback.

IMHO, the way to fix performance appraisals is to make them obsolete.  If managers were trained in the proper way to give performance feedback and then talked with employees on a regular basis about their performance…there would be no need for a performance appraisal.

Now it might not eliminate a formal documented conversation.  But the formal conversation wouldn’t be focused on past performance.  It would be about goals and the future.  Let’s call it an annual development discussion.  Totally different conversation.

Do your managers hate performance appraisals?  Tell them they have the power to make the process obsolete.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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