More and more companies have concluded in recent years that the traditional, mandatory performance review is a time-consuming, energy-wasting, and more negative than positive process. For example, too much emphasis is still placed on points for improvement, on weaknesses and on recent events.
Moreover, research shows that it is far from objective and usually does not lead to the desired outcomes. It would even lead to frustration and demotivation. And the relationship between manager and employee is not improving either. It contributes too little to the goals, the success of the organization and certainly little to the development, performance, positive energy, and commitment of employees.
Performance reviews are rarely fair, positive and constructive. It does not improve the performance, motivation and engagement of individuals and teams. It does not stimulate employee engagement, trust, enthusiasm, cooperation, ownership, and development. And it does not strengthen the relationship between employees and managers. Success depends on your people and if you want to build engaged and high performing teams than you better get rid of the traditional performance management process.
Performance reviews are rarely really objective, in his book “Get Rid of the Performance Review” Culbert even calls the performance review destructive, fraudulent; “They are judgment conversations, set in a negative way, in which employees must especially hear what has gone wrong.”
Culbert observes that these conversations are more of an obstacle to personal and professional growth than an incentive. So, pay more attention to personal and professional growth, to individual unique qualities and how these can be optimally used.
Linking objectives to employees’ talents
According to Dr. Kilian Wawoe (assistent-professor HRM, VU Amsterdam) performance reviews do not work and it is better to take a positive approach. “Emphasize the positive and investigate how someone can improve upon it. Start from the talents of people and, where possible, match the activities to these talents.
There must be more focus on linking objectives to the talent of employees, so that employees also feel more responsible and involved. The trend is that organizations are becoming flatter, management layers are disappearing. More self-direction and personal leadership are expected from employees. In addition, people must be given more autonomy and trust, they should be enabled and allowed to take control, share ideas and work from their strengths. The traditional appraisal system no longer fits in with this.
In most organizations too little feedback is given. And it is quite strange that now this usually happens formally and only once a year when it should be a continuous process throughout the year. And instead of feedback, some experts and organizations that have started working with modern performance management prefer to call it ‘the good conversation’ or something like that instead of feedback. What also needs to be emphasized more is feed forward, more forward-looking (development) conversations.
Focus on development
Employees grow most where their strengths lie and managers should be encouraged to create more touch points for learning and insights throughout the year, so that employees can utilize their strengths and reach their full potential the whole year round.
Filling in forms just because you must and breathing a sigh of relief when the whole process is over must make way for a personal, effective, good (development & result) conversation. A dialogue in which mutual trust and involvement are central, instead of a monologue from the authority and power of the manager with a tick, a report mark as the conclusion.
Antoon Vugts, Human Resource Director at Maastricht University (topped the HR Top 100 in 2016): “Performance interviews are often a must. Managers put check marks on a form created by the HR department. Sometimes the interview report is already ready for the interview.” https://www.trouw.nl/nieuws/schaf-af-dat-functioneringsgesreken-dicht-de-hele-hr-afdeling-op~b3bc6727/
Fortunately, there has been a shift in business for a number of years, companies such as Deloitte, GE, Accenture, Adobe, Achmea, Eneco, Randstad, ING, Rabobank and Microsoft, have already said goodbye to traditional assessment methods and ranking, and are focusing now on a new innovative and more positive approach.
Focus on strengths
Large-scale research shows that a focus of managers on the strengths of employees has a strong positive influence on performance. Whilst when the manager focused on weaknesses / areas for improvement, performance decreases significantly. So, focus during conversations mainly on the strengths, but with the caveat: do not use a popular sandwich approach!
Too often the face-to-face conversation takes the form of a “feedback sandwich:” compliments, criticism, more niceties. But because there’s no single, clear message this approach demoralizes your stars and falsely encourages your under performers. Instead, pick a side. Most people are good solid workers, so for the vast majority, you should concentrate exclusively on things the person has done well, there is valid research that demonstrates that concentrating almost all the attention in a performance appraisal discussion on performance strengths drives high performance. For your marginal workers, however, do not sugarcoat bad news. (source: How to be good at Performance Appraisals by Dick Grote).
The new mindset, “from complaints to strengths”, from deficiency thinking to a more positive approach; “What’s going well?”, “reinforcing what works”, the strengths approach, is based on positive psychology and AI (appreciative inquiry). Development is mainly aimed at recognizing strengths and further developing what is good and gives strength and energy.
What are your talents and points for development, what are obstacles, what are your goals, what do you want to achieve and how, what do you need for this, how can the qualities of different team members complement and reinforce each other? Employees also have a great need to talk about their development and opportunities, they want to know how they can and should use their talents in the best possible way.
Rather than forcing team members to work on projects that need to be done, it is better to look at the qualities of your team members, discuss this with them and look for a “best fit” between qualities and projects/tasks. Strengthscope assessments and development tools provide insight into someone’s unique strengths and possible performance risks (including “strengths in overdrive”), providing an excellent starting point for facilitating performance discussions and development programs.
Managing weaknesses leads to a decrease in employee engagement and has a negative effect on customer satisfaction for the organizations (Gallup). The Corporate Leadership Council has drawn the following conclusion based on a survey of 90,000 employees in 135 organizations; a supervisor’s focus on the strengths of their employees showed a strong positive impact on performance: 36% increase. When managers focused on weaknesses / areas for improvement, performance decreased significantly: 27% decrease!
An example of a strengths-based organization is Facebook; the focus within the organization is on the strengths of their employees and the managers invest time in discovering opportunities that allow employees to use their strengths every day.
And Deloitte, for example, has set up the new Performance Management system based on the strengths-based approach. Large-scale research within the organization has shown that the best performing teams consist of people who can use their strengths every day (… “that the defining characteristic of the very best teams at Deloitte is that they are strengths oriented”).
Employees themselves may not be so used to focusing on what they are good at. But paying more attention to this results in enthusiasm, energy, commitment, self-esteem and more appreciation for each other.
Managers who focus on someone’s strengths experience better performance from their people, more motivation and positive energy, leading to more commitment and a willingness to go the extra mile for the organization. People also want to feel connected to the organization they work for, but it still happens too often that the vision, mission, values and goals of the organization are not clear. By really involving employees in this, they will feel more sincerely co-responsible for the business results.
Without trust you have no open, honest communication and no emotional involvement. Then you are back to the industrial model where people are seen as a cost item and are motivated with a carrot in front of them. Employees get frustrated as a result. Stephen Covey
To read a related blog ´Performance Management for the new world of work´ by James Brook from Plexus Leadership in the UK, click here.