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Performance Management

Restoring Trust in the Employee Review Process

Author: Ron Hiller l Published Date 9/2014


There is a truism that says, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done you will keep getting what you have always got”.  And so it is with the review process.

Have your organization’s managers and employees lost faith in the review process?  Are reviews chronically late, incomplete, inaccurate, and of poor quality? If the answer is “yes” then HR needs to take immediate action and restore faith in the process.  Automating a cumbersome paper riddled process may not be the total answer.  Automation is clearly a step in the right direction but it isn’t a panacea.

Unfortunately, reviews for many employees and managers are public enemy number-one.  Reviews have become the culprit that everyone loves to hate. This recurring problem is so perplexing that the remedies proffered by the pundits range from abolition to automation.  (Read More Starts Here)

 If we step back from the fray and look at the underlying principles on which the review process is based we see that it is an indispensable instrument for not only setting direction and managing accountability, but it is also useful for recognition, pay for performance, and employee development.  So how can an instrument with so much potential for good, fall from grace in the eyes of so many?

A Perfunctory Check Box

For a review to garner trust it must be accurate, timely, and thorough. Managers play a major role in winning over the review mindsets of their employees. Therefore if the manager has lost confidence in the process it is almost certain that their people have as well. The manager’s poor review demeanor may be a training deficit, or it more likely is because the manager sees reviews as a low priority; which leads me to my next point. The reason many managers see reviews as a low priority is because they are not held accountable for producing quality reviews.

Actions Speak Volumes

A manager’s attitude toward the entire process is easily discernible by his or her employees.   The manager may not outwardly express their negative views about the process but their actions speak volumes. When a manager hastily pulls together an employee’s review in the eleventh hour without any solid preparation and attention to accuracy and detail, and with little differentiation from the previous year’s review; then the manager sends a clear message that the employee’s performance isn’t that important. If managers treat the review like a perfunctory check box, then their employees will hold the process in contempt as well. In the end employees feel that the process is a sham and over time they stop giving their best efforts.

Only Quality Reviews Here

"You can’t manage what you don’t measure"! So if you want to improve the quality of reviews, start holding managers accountable by making it part of their review. It may be a training issue (could they do it if their job depended on it), but more likely it’s a "motivational issue". Few manager’s reviews make mention of “performance management” as an objective, which explains why reviews are in the cheap seats.


Managers have a professional obligation to provide direction, feedback and coaching to their employees. The review still remains the best instrument to do this. Managers may need to be trained on the importance of a quality review. The payroll for most organizations is their single largest recurring cost! Ironically the yard stick that measures performance is either out dated, or held in contempt by managers. 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 do little to improve performance”.

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