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August 25, 2016

The Performance Review Conundrum

Do your performance reviews really improve performance?

How often do you find yourself over focused on performance review issues like what to evaluate, how to be objective and make good judgments, the timing, annual or employment date, the frequency, wage increases tied to reviews, or not, pay steps, percentage increases, wage freezes, unions, supervisors, 360’s, remote employees?

It’s exhausting! We do all of this, and yet no one’s happy, you don’t accomplish the results you really want, and then it’s time to do it all over again! 

As hard as we may try to make the most of performance reviews, the most important issues are not even on this list, and they are rarely, if ever are addressed.

Has your organization clearly identified and defined the purpose of performance reviews? Does everyone understand the reason they are done?  Are they effective?

Do you do them because that’s what you’ve always done?  Because they are expected by employees?  Because your labor attorney told you to?  Or do you do performance reviews because you believe that they can play a key part in continuous improvement?   

If your purpose is to truly help your employees improve their performance and not just to do what’s expected, then maybe it’s time to take a serious look at how well your current approach to performance reviews is really accomplishing your goals.  

Are your evaluation criteria really the right ones?  Do people understand and agree on the criteria, as well as the evaluation and scoring method?  Is it clear how employees can use the evaluation feedback to make positive changes?  How does your organization help employees improve their performance?  

And then there’s the issue of the so called “soft skills” which research now shows accounts for 85% of underperformance.  How do you evaluate and help an employee improve upon their soft skills (communication, attitude, relationships, commitment)?

When it comes to soft skills, creating, preparing and conducting a good performance review is only the beginning of helping an employee improve their performance. If your purpose is to truly help your employees improve their performance, you need to ask yourself – besides typical performance feedback – how can we help create real and lasting performance improvement?  

Think about it.

  • What if a team member can’t relate well with people, but they’re great at their “job”?

  • What if their perfectionism causes them to miss deadlines?

  • What if they can’t prioritize well? 

  • What if they work really hard, putting in a lot of effort, but don’t produce results? 

  • What if they get defensive when given feedback?

  • What if they’re just too nice and can’t stand up for themselves?

  • What if they need to learn to listen more and talk less? 

  • What if they always need to be “right”? 

  • How do you support them and help them improve?  

In order for people to “improve” themselves, they need to get useful feedback and be willing and able to DO something with the feedback they receive. If everyone was capable of knowing what to do and then doing it, we could save ourselves a lot of time, energy and money.  We would be able to read a book, attend a seminar, or watch a video, absorb the information and make the recommended changes readily. But, we know this just doesn’t work. 

Most people need to be taught how to bridge the gap between what their employer wants in performance and whatever is getting in their way.  Most likely it is their thinking.  To do that, people need to be equipped with self-leadership skills to tackle their own development and improvement, because knowing what to do is quite different than actually doing it!

What then, holds people back from making changes they know are important and necessary for their own growth?  Why do they have such a difficult time translating feedback into improvement or goals into action?  

The answer is quite simple – the important soft skill issues that undermine most people’s performance are usually their old, habitual, subconscious thought patterns that are running their lives and impacting their performance, and they don’t even know it. These underlying thought patterns tend to have a negative influence on people’s performance, often despite their best efforts.

Most people have never been taught how to examine their thinking objectively, nor have they been given tools to make the most of their talents.  No matter what a person wants to achieve, or where they need to improve, they need to begin by examining their thinking patterns.  Only when they begin to understand their thinking can they learn how to get out of their own way and show up as the person they aspire to be.