Why Killing Performance Reviews Was a Mistake

Why Killing Performance Reviews Was a Mistake

The Performance Review Revolution of 2016


2016 was the year of many themes in business, probably most notably people freaking out about artificial intelligence and what that means for everyone. But it was also the year that a lot of people started discussing -- maybe not yet acting on -- how ridiculous the once-a-year performance review is. Apparently 70% of enterprise companies, including some legacy ones like GE, are considering changing their approach to performance reviews. Headlines scream from the rafters: “Is it time to kill performance reviews?” and “Five reasons to abandon the performance review.”

This isn’t surprising: studies have shown for years that people hate performance reviews, and that includes both employees (receiving) and managers (giving). I’m not going to belabor the reasons people hate them here; I think you’re all smart enough to see those. They’re usually low-context, rushed, and more about process/checking boxes than actually trying to develop the employee in question.

The Unintended Fallout


Well, as noted above, some companies are outright removing them. But … there’s a bit of an issue:

At firms where reviews had been eliminated, measures of employee engagement and performance dropped by 10%, according to CEB’s survey of nearly 10,000 employees in 18 countries. Managers actually spent less time on conversations, and the quality of those conversations declined. Without a scoring system to motivate and give structure, performance management withered. As one manager told CEB: “When I gave someone a low score in the past, I felt responsible for helping them out, now I just don’t feel that I have to spend time doing that anymore.”

So basically: companies are eliminating performance reviews because they see the flaws (or think they’re too time-consuming), and they’re replacing them with … nothing? And by doing that, managers are actually having less conversations? And those conversations are decreasing in quality? Egad.

The Problem Still Remains...


Unfortunately, most managers think of themselves as “Mr. (or Mrs.) Productivity”. They view their direct reports as numbers -- x-amount of KPIs achieved. This is unfortunately because a lot of our “management theory” comes from a 1911 book by Frederick Winslow Taylor. Henry Ford was competing with horses then, and now we have self-driving cars -- but we still design management best practices the same way. Insane.

The once-a-year review is great for lazy managers. You can essentially ignore your employees all year (except for when they screw up), have one elongated conversation with them, and pat yourself on the back about how great a leader you were. Organic feedback is much harder. It requires time, effort, eye contact, communication, genuine interest, emotional intelligence, conversational skills, and more. This is hard for a lot of managers. Do they know that it’s important? And if they do, who’s making sure that they have the training necessary to execute the feedback appropriately?

If you’re going to replace an annual performance review (which you should, because the rest of our economy is on-demand), you need to replace it with legitimate, consistent feedback. Issue: feedback is very rare in most offices, which is largely because it’s a very direct form of communication that we nonetheless root in many assumptions.

So What are We to Do?


This is the bottom line: work is most functional when clear priorities exist, those priorities are aligned with task work, and the people doing the task work get consistent feedback on how it’s going and if priorities are shifting. When we impede any of those three steps, work becomes confusing and challenging for all.

Aside from training managers better and contextualizing for them that their job is about developing talent and not just hitting KPIs, one easy solution is the 90-day review. 90 days is about a quarter -- which is how most companies tend to think -- and it provides a good time to take stock of how an employee is doing. It also feels less overwhelming to super-busy middle managers. We’ve still got a long way to go on how best to give feedback and evaluate employees, but every quarter is better than a once-a-year process choked in HR jargon.

What are your thoughts on the value of performance reviews and adopting my proposed 90-day review process?

Dr. Brandi Baldwin-Rana
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Dr. Brandi is the founder of Millennial Ventures Holding Company, which operates and manages a suite of brands in the human resource and workforce development space. ... Click for full bio

Advisors: How to Prepare Before Calling an Agency

Advisors: How to Prepare Before Calling an Agency

Written by: 

You’ve read my other posts:

Related: Should You Work with a Marketing or PR Agency, or Neither?

Related: There's No Point in Paying for Outside Advice If You Have No Intention of Listening to It

And you’re finally ready to talk to a marketing or PR agency.

Or are you?

I’m amazed how many prospects contact an agency without any advance preparation whatsoever. It’s not just that they don’t know what services the agency offers. The real issue is, they can’t even explain why they’re calling in the first place.

You might be raising an eyebrow at my suggestion that you actually need to prepare before calling a vendor. Don’t. I want to help you maximize your time, and potential investment.

Here’s why: The best way to use a vendor’s time during an initial call is to conduct a mini-discovery session. At FiComm, we will ask: What is your vision for your business? How do your services address your market’s needs? Where are you headed as a company? What will get you to the next level? What marketing obstacles do you face? That information shapes our remarks, ensuring that everything we say will be directly relevant to you.

Many advisors find those initial conversations enormously valuable in their own right. They help clarify their thinking. But others feel put on the spot. They freeze. They respond in standard brochure-speak: “We were founded in 1984, we have four advisors, we serve 200 households with an average account size of $400,000.”

Or they say, “We were hoping you would tell us the answers to those questions.”

Well, that’s helpful.

Imagine you’re meeting a potential wealth management client for the first time. They have $700,000 in a brokerage account, $400,000 in a retirement account, two kids, a dog and a house in L.A. Great. You start by asking their goals for themselves, their money, and their family.

Puzzled, they tilt their heads and say, “We were hoping you would tell us.”

See what I mean? How can you possibly come up with a solution for clients who can’t even articulate their goals, or speak to their financial pain points?

The same is true for us vendors. Before we can help you, we need to know where your business is going and how you think marketing can help you get there. The answers don’t have to be “right” (and we’ll help you get there), but it you come prepared to participate, our conversations can be very fruitful. If you don’t—well, it’s hard to deliver value for you. We know we’ll constantly have to prove ourselves and remind you why you hired us.

“But, Megan,” some advisors say, “we’re not ready for that. We’re just trying to understand the basics. How will we learn if you don’t tell us?”

If you’re calling an agency just to get a general marketing education, then that’s what you’ll get—general information, most of it irrelevant to you, and lacking the specifics you’re really looking for.

So, don’t call an agency to be your marketing tutor. Instead, read. Advisors have never had better access to self-help insights and information—through trade pubs, custodian relationships, blogs, podcasts, other advisors and industry pundits. Be curious. Be inquisitive. If you hear something on a podcast that intrigues you, follow the host back to LinkedIn. Read what they write there. Email your questions. Attend a webinar. Be an active participant at industry events.

At some point, you’ll understand the basics. You’ll have identified your own issues. And narrowed down your questions. Then, finally, you’ll be ready to call an agency.

Instead of saying, “Tell us what we need,” you’ll say, “We need help with this.

Megan Carpenter
Marketing
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Megan is CEO & Co-Founder at FiComm Partners, LLC. Her team develops winning communications strategies for entrepreneurs in the independent advisory community, and busines ... Click for full bio