First let me say I am no fan of performance review ratings or once or twice a year high stake do-or-die performance review meetings. No one wants to be reviewed, appraised, or evaluated to begin with. Now add to this mix the label we affix to the individual’s performance. If we could all get 100% or the highest rating there wouldn't be an issue; but in reality only about 6 - 10% of our employee populations represent "A" players. The other performers represent the worst and somewhere in the midde of the bell curve performers.
Does This Scare You Too?
In our work we’ve asked thousands of employees having just participated in their organization’s performance review process if they can name two things. Specifically, we ask,
If someone were to ask the following two questions, could you provide an answer:
1. I can name at least one thing I do well and that I should consider my strength
2. I know the one area I need to be focusing on to be more effective in my role.
The paltry answer is that only 6% of employees say they can answer these two basic questions on the heels of having their performance conversations.
So, what did transpire during the performance meeting?
I then ask, “So what were you thinking about when you had your performance review meeting with your supervisor?”. Here are the most common responses:
- What was my rating?
- What were the negative things said about my p erformance
- I was on high alert for any new and surprising information
- How will this review impact my promotional and development opportunities?
- What is my pay raise?
All of these distractions are take aways from having an impactful meaningful conversation about performance. The stakes are too high and the whole exchange screams of an uncomfortable let’s get this over as soon as possible moment for both the employee and manager.
What Purpose Does This Process Serve?
If you can remove the ratings from the performance process you can eliminate at least one barrier. Ask yourself, “What purpose do ratings serve?” (if your answer is to calculate pay raises there are better more effective ways to calculate this) AND “What is the intent of the performance review process anyway?” It should be to reiterate conversations that have taken place during the year by reinforcing good performance, recognizing strengths and contributions help to recalibrate performance that needs development and setting goals. It should not however be used to take the place of regular one-one-one conversations.
If you must have ratings please consider the following:
Do not have ratings for every section of the form. For example, if you’re organization’s competencies are woven into the document provide the opportunity for supporting commentary against each of the major competency area but eliminate rating each and every competency area. Too many ratings in the form = rater burnout and then trying to come up with an overall score can be tricky.
Instead, have one overall rating section at the end of the form. Here’s a sample from one company, PatientKeeper, which worked with their manager AND employee population to come up with ratings they could all live with:
Exceptional – Performance is consistently exceptional and universally recognized as superior. Employee regularly takes on stretch goals beyond the scope of the position & has exceptional command of the company’s Performance Factors. Accomplishments were made in unexpected areas.
Exceeds Expectations – Performance is consistently and significantly above what is required for the position. All goals and objectives were achieved above the established standards. Employee consistently exceeds expectations across most of the company’s Performance Factors.
Meets Expectations – Performance is dependable and meets the requirements of the position and at times will exceed some requirements. Employee meets expectations across most of the company’s Performance Factors. Note that a rating at this level may also reflect the individual is in a growth and learning mode in terms of the job performance and/or the company’s Performance Factors. Greater growth and development in the role can and are in the process of being achieved. New employees, newly promoted or transferred employees generally fall into this category. Areas for growth are noted within this document..
Improvement Required – Performance occasionally meets the requirements of the position & some assignments, but is somewhat below expectations. Employee is not meeting minimum expectations across several of the company’s Performance Factors.
Unsatisfactory – Performance fails to meet the minimum requirements of the job. Employee is consistently below expectations across most of the company’s Performance Factors. Specific improvements are required in significant areas, as detailed in this review.