Workplace staff performance reviews have become a pillar of the vast swathe of administrative tangle otherwise known as ‘best practice’. Like many good ideas they started off with the best of intentions but have morphed into something that is often counter- productive in many workplaces.
Many workers are now faced with an annual ritual that management struggle to engage with. If it wasn’t for human resources chasing everyone up then it might drift into oblivion. Speaking of HR – were they the sinister force behind many workplaces linking performance reviews to remuneration and the potential slice of a rather lean wage increase pie. Was it built in insurance because someone was bound to ask the question – what are we doing this stuff for anyway? The reply could be that it was part of our remuneration framework and is untouchable. That is a tad easier than having to debate the merits of performance reviews in their own right.
Like Communism and Capitalism the theory of performance reviews works perfectly on paper and it is the adding of humans that sends it off the rails. So for all you believers out there in the sanctity of the performance review I apologise. I am sure you exist. It is just that I haven’t met you yet. Everyone else I talk to about it seems to be over it. Why are they over it? For managers, they are too busy doing other management stuff to spend time preparing for a detailed review of a staff members performance over the last year. Either they know what the staff member did because they were micro-managing them all year and this just seems like writing War and Peace twice. Or they have little idea what the staff member did and they resent having to do a crash course in what was achieved without the staff member realising they haven’t got a clue. Tricky stuff. For the staff member it is having to populate most of the template themselves because their manager is too busy being a manager. The only reason they don’t revolt at this is that it is likely linked to remuneration and they would like to get their share of the pay rise crumbs.
If a manager is doing their role correctly then they are actively aware of what their staff are achieving (or not achieving) on a weekly basis. If they are not then there are bigger issues that a performance review is not going to solve. Are there any senior managers out there who would be prepared to survey their staff and ask them if they think that the performance review process adds real value to the way they fulfill their roles? Go on – you know you want to – just don’t tell HR you are doing it until its out there.