Dawning of a New Era: The End of the Performance Review

Posted July 04 2014
In a recent webinar titled Dawning of a New Era: The End of the Performance Review, Dr. Tim Baker concludes, based on a survey of 1400+ HR professionals, that the current performance review is not working and suggests a new approach.  

Dr. Baker suggests that there are 3 approaches to performance reviews: 
1) Traditional - originated within the military, one-way, manager judgement
2) Discussion - collaborative, manager and employee mutual agreement 
3) Peer Group - 360 reviews, peer group judgement

In his survey, Dr. Baker found that many organizations still use the traditional approach.  Despite heavy use, this approach can be stressful, is costly, occurs to infrequently, the formality stifles discussion, uses a monologue rather than a dialogue and many other challenges that impede growth, productivity and achievement of organizational objectives. 

Dr. Baker furthers his argument by emphasizing that assessment of employee performance cannot be restricted to an employee's job description/job tasks.  Organizations should evaluate the full scope of an employee's role, including non-job tasks such as their role on a team, their career role and innovation/continuous improvement.  This in indicative within the survey which highlights that the top 10 most value job skills are non-technical (e.g.,  enthusiasm, good communication skills, self-motivation, honesty). 

To resolve the fallacies of the current performance review approach, Dr. Baker proposes the Five Conversations Framework (see below).  This framework suggests a conversational approach over five months covering five topics: job satisfaction, strengths and talents, growth opportunities, learning and development and innovation/continuous improvement.  

A previous CTK blog titled Performance Reviews: The Emporer is Wearing no Clothes highlights a similar perspective on performance reviews (e.g., fifty years of experience tell us they don’t work, Christopher Lee, Ph.D. suggests a similar conversational-based approach call Performance Conversations).  Despite numerous articles and gurus clamoring to trash traditional performance reviews, they are likely to continue in most organizations for probably another 5-10 years.  

While the approach to performance management and the associated frequency of performance conversations will continue to be debated, one concept consistent throughout is that performance evaluations require more objectivity, a holistic assessment of the value provided by the employee and alignment between manager and employee.  Proper application of a competency-based approach solves for these challenges, ensuring all competencies (e.g., technical skills, behavioral traits, cross-functional abilities) are objectively and holistically assessed, and provides a clear framework for manager/employee discussion and agreement.  

The final point regarding the webinar is that Dr. Baker suggests that the Climate Review conversation can be used to replace employee engagement surveys.  While in principal this concept will facilitate a more direct line of conversation and input from employees, there is also an argument that employees provide more truthful feedback when anonymous.  We suggest a hybrid approach, ensuring continual conversations with employees to assess/measure engagement while collecting anonymous feedback through other channels.
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