’tis the season of the good ‘ol “performance reviews are alive and well”/”performance reviews are dead” debate. Personally, I’m happy it’s still a debate, at least it means people are actually thinking meaningfully about reviews. This year I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about reviews as I helped namely.com develop their performance review tools. This involved looking at the entire landscape of options in the market, including the traditional companies like SuccessFactors, Taleo, Halogen, Cornerstone, and looking at some of the new up and coming companies like Small Improvements, 7 Geese, GoodRevu etc.
They are all pretty good and getting better. The bigger companies are focused on ease of use, reporting and connecting performance to compensation and development, the newer companies are employing new approaches to reviews (social, gaming) and user experience. I think there is a strong market for both.
Back to the “to do reviews” or “not to do reviews” debate. Last week I had parent – teacher conferences for my 8 year old. It was a great opportunity, 3.5 months into the year, to go over his grades, discuss his strengths and find out where improvement is needed for him to have a successful rest of the year and be prepared for the next year. I left the meeting feeling really good, and empowered. I knew exactly how he was doing subject by subject and had a plan to tackle the areas he needed to improve on (math, he gets that from me).
It was only the next day when I was speaking to a client about performance reviews that it hit me. Parent teacher conferences are a performance review. Done well they tell a parent exactly what they need to know to ensure their child’s success. When employee reviews are done well, they tell an employee exactly what they need to know to be successful and move up to the next level.
I know a big part of the debate is that ongoing feedback is much more important than 1-2 time a year reviews. I get regular feedback about my son too, homework, quizzes, projects and tests, but it’s those meetings 1-2 times a year that really drive home the keys to success. I am all for 1-1 meetings with employees on a regular basis, but it is those formal reviews that will let your employee know what it will take them to be successful moving forward and get to the next level.
Reviews are a key to happy, retained employees. As long as employees are clear about what they need to do to perform at a high level they will stick with you and give you 100. Focus less on the past and more on the keys to a successful future.