Do Performance Reviews Really Improve Performance?


It’s that time – performance reviews.  Why does this make us so nervous? Maybe it’s because our minds are inevitably forced back to school days and the memories of our teacher passing out those dreaded report cards. Today, we are expected to complete performance reviews which can ultimately determine raises, promotions, and sometimes whether or not we have the option of keeping our jobs.  So, as an adult this particular “report card” is one we desperately seek to be above average, but if the outcome is negative, are employees being guided in the right direction in order to improve their skills?

“Nearly two out of three employees say they’ve received negative feedback” in performance appraisals, says a new study featured in CNN Money by Joseph Grenny and other co-authors of a book called Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success. The research found “managers give employees the same negative feedback year after year with little effect on performance. Only about one-third of those who have been asked to shape up have shown any noticeable improvement.”

The important thing to consider is the reason why performance reviews are not always effective and Grenny expresses, “Among those who had received negative comments in a review, a whopping 87% said they left their bosses’ office without a specific plan for fixing what was wrong, and that’s why nothing happens.”

A manager’s job is to help guide his/her employees down the right path,  and Grenny has provided four simple steps to ensure employees leave their managers’ office knowing what areas they need to improve upon.

1. Explain why change is needed. “Describe … why you need the behavior to change, including its effect on other people in the organization,” says Grenny. Just saying, “Stop or start doing this is far less meaningful to most people than conveying exactly why it matters.”

2. Start a conversation. “Usually, employees control some aspects of whatever the problem is, but not others,” Grenny notes. “So you need to have a problem-solving talk.” It needs to be a real conversation, defined as one where you ask questions and listen carefully to the answers.

“Does the person lack the skills to do what you expect him to do? Is there a lack of resources? Are there disincentives to change that you might not know about?” asks Grenny. “Unless you get to the bottom of what is really happening with this employee, there will probably be no change.”

Feeling Confident? “About half the employees we surveyed said their bosses were actually preventing them from performing better by, for example, not giving them clear direction, or by piling on unrealistic demands.”

3. Come up with a Strategy.  Grenny says, “Arrive at some practical, specific ways of addressing the problem.”

4. Set short-term goals. “You want to try out possible solutions for 30 or 60 days, not six months or a year,” he advises. “It’s a way of testing whether you’ve pinpointed the difficulty.” If there’s still no progress after a month or two, meet with the employee again to discuss why that’s the case.

Constructive criticism is necessary in any position, but especially during performance review time.  Guidance on exactly how to improve is imperative for an employee’s understanding so they don’t continue wasting their time or managers’ time.  Try not to fear the memories of those past “report cards” because today there’s a way to receive positive feedback and guidance to improve your skills.

About TRC Staffing Services, Inc.

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