While the ultimate goal of a performance evaluation is superior employee productivity and organizational progress, quite often, this objective takes a beating during the final stages of the process. Reasons ranging from incorrectly delivering feedback to inadequate assessment of employee contribution and subjective decision making - come in the way of achieving the ideal outcomes.
Here are the five pitfalls organizations need to look out for while delivering performance reviews:
#1 Mixing compliments with criticism
To avoid sounding too negative, managers may resort to what is called the ‘Sandwich Approach’ – sandwiching a negative comment between two positive remarks. The flipside of this approach is that the positive remarks preceding the negative comments may sound insincere to the employee. It also dilutes the key message. Encourage managers to keep compliments and criticisms independent of the other. This helps create a sense of trust among all the stakeholders involved.
#2 Recency bias
One adverse aspect that easily escapes the attention of the HR leaders is people managers’ fixation with current-ness. Termed as ‘recency bias,’ managers tend to typically focus on an employee’s performance over the recent weeks or months preceding the review. While this may be unintentional, ignoring an employee’s effort over the entire year is not only unfair but also demotivating for the employee. Create awareness among managers to consciously avoid such slips.
#3 Lack of a data-driven approach
Maintaining data such as list of achievements by employees or recording key points from ongoing meetings with employees can go a long way in driving data-driven, informed decision making. Many a times, managers depend on the employee’s personal traits and qualities to conduct an evaluation, instead of a formalized and structured framework that records genuine accomplishments. Consider technology-driven systems that prompt all parties to log activities through the year, thereby rendering a comprehensive view at the time of review.
#4 Overemphasis on numbers
Most performance feedback systems are overly numbers heavy. Experts contend that the 1-10 rating system is nothing but an easy way to demean or exalt an employee, an approach that grossly overlooks the broad contribution an employee has made to the organization, not to mention the differences it creates within teams. Industry leaders feel number ratings artificially try to compress a large number of people with varied sets of strengths and weaknesses into a rigid framework that makes little distinction between a star or an under performer. Instead, characterize the ratings with adjectives that truly represent who the employees are. Take the case of Morgan Stanley. Back in 2016, the company decided to do away with number ratings and replace them with adjectives.
#5 Inability to maintain confidentiality of feedback
Managers tend to play it safe by not divulging their true assessment of another person for fear of straining their relationship with employees. This happens due to lack of trust in the organization’s ability to maintain confidentiality. A good way to overcome this challenge is to formulate separate feedback lists - one that is anonymous and one where provider’s name can be revealed. The feedback provider’s consent should be taken into account. A true feedback culture can thrive only when people are free of fear and help their colleagues become more self-aware.
Clearly, the success of a review process depends heavily on a solid performance management framework that is not only precise in its ability to measure performance but also easy to use. Defective systems plagued by paper-heavy, cumbersome administrative processes and lack of accountability, constrain managers from delivering the desired results.
In addition to streamlining processes, training managers – who are the ultimate messengers of performance feedback – is equally important. Organizations that focus on creating an environment that supports managers in driving constructive and fact-based conversations during reviews will see superior appraisal outcomes compared to those that don’t.