Six Flawed Review Practices

Author: Ron Hiller l  Published Date: 8/2014


Over the years I have had ample opportunity to speak with countless HR people about their organization’s review practices. Many of those discussions revealed flawed review practices which in no small way contributes to an erosion of trust in the review process by the rank and file.

First let me say that most of these dedicated HR folks inherited their organization’s flawed practices. Let’s explore some of the more grievous practices that I see regularly.


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#1 Large Rating Scales

A 1 through 5-point Rating Key is generally regarded as the best option for Performance Management purposes with number "3" representing an acceptable performance. Wide variations of the rating scale such as 1 through 8 or 1 through 10 add unnecessary complexity and ambiguity to a process that is in dire need of simplification and clarity.

# 2 Rating Scale Fractions

Rating fractions such as 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, etc. blur the line between one rating level and the next making it more difficult for the parties to make a decision one way or the other without opting for a “cop-out” middle ground. Fractions tend to foster a wishy washy review by blurring the distinction between good and bad performance.

# 3 Stick to Reviewing Performance

Reviews should be primarily about the employee’s last 12 month’s performance. However at some organizations, reviews have morphed into meetings that aren’t so much about the employee’s past year’s performance but more about their future performance and goals, merit increases and career counseling. Although these topics are important they are rooted in the future and are not part of the employee’s past performance.  These topics should not be permitted to rob time set aside to review the employee’s past 12 months worth of contributions to the organization and the team.

# 4 Outdated Performance Measures

Change is the only constant. Business priorities change and new goals surface regularly throughout the year. Scoring an employee’s year end performance using outdated performance objectives that were established at the beginning of the year but have not been made current is a common but flawed practice.

# 5 Subjective Scores

An employee’s overall rating should be the average of their individual performance measure scores. It has become common practice for managers to assign an overall subjective score which is inconsistent with averaging the ratings of individual measures.

# 6 The Use of Canned Phrases

Canned performance feedback phrases and other auto authoring tools of any kind should be discouraged. Appraisees know that the feedback is not genuine. This questionable practice has also caught the attention of labor-lawyers. Canned phrases send the wrong message to the employee: “I found a shortcut to churn out your review”. Is it any wonder that employees who get these prefab reviews don’t go the extra mile to get the job done?


Organizations that improve the quality of their review process and manage it crisply, consistently and regularly, while holding managers accountable for sub standard performance in this crucial area; will see a wholesale improvement in performance. Thus mitigating that all too common complaint that “reviews don’t improve performance”.



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