Despite so much talk about how ineffective and counter-productive performance management is in its current form, there's few organisations who seem to have nailed getting it right.  But why?

Organisations are tinkering around the edges of performance management (e.g. changing the forms, modifying a rating scale etc.) without really addressing the root cause of its lack of impact on performance and productivity.  But as we all know, doing the same thing over and over again will generally yield exactly the same results.  

Or, companies are abolishing their performance review process but without a clear plan on what or how they will do differently in its absence.

So what can you do now to make your performance management approach awesome?  

The word ‘agility’ is used frequently in discussions these days to describe desired characteristics of leaders, team members and organisations.  And that’s appropriate, as the environment in which organisations and their people now operate is increasingly dynamic, complex and volatile. 

Yet despite this acknowledged imperative for individual and organisational agility, so many HR processes are the antithesis of agile.

 Let’s focus on employee performance management.

Is there a more maligned piece of paperwork in the workplace than the performance management/appraisal form?

"The forms are too long and too complicated".  

"It takes too much time to complete the forms".

"The rating scale has too many/too few options". 

The list goes on and on.

I have noticed a trend in recent years of articles being published which declare the death of the performance review or which deride them as a waste of time. In this latest post, I offer the counter view that the performance review is not the problem, but that it has had its reputation sullied by the following common contributors to ineffective performance reviews:

1. Performance appraisals rather than performance management cycles. A performance appraisal is a one-off event with little link to business strategy.  A genuine performance review should be the final phase of a performance management cycle (annual or six monthly) which commences with setting performance objectives linked to business goals. This distinction is the critical factor which determines whether performance reviews are perceived as just another bureaucratic HR process or a valuable business tool.

2. A dearth of SMART objectives. Despite all the talk about and training in setting SMART objectives they are still all too rarely seen. This renders the performance evaluation too subjective and people lose trust in the fairness of the process. Setting SMART objectives requires a commitment of time and energy and a ruthless approach to making them SMARTer.