If there’s one thing that many of us in the HR space are getting tired of, it is the painfully egregious articles that insinuate performance reviews are dead. Performance reviews are not only alive and well, they are evolving, adapting, and delivering value to companies who stop abusing and misusing them – and start leveraging their core purpose. That purpose is ultimately to check in on performance.
What should be dead, however, is the poor implementation and misuse of annual reviews. A performance review can have an immense impact on an employee’s compensation, on their personal and professional development, and their relationship with their team and with the company as a whole. It’s a powerful tool that should be used for a greater good.
Anne Fisher’s recent article in Forbes discusses how Adobe benefitted from ditching the annual review and replacing it with “check ins” or discussions on “how things are going”. The check ins are every 2 months, or more often. That’s actually fantastic, Adobe. We talked about bridging the gap between reviews as one of the necessities in today’s corporate culture in a previous blog. Kudos to Adobe for encouraging the conversation about performance more frequently. The more touchpoints there are, the less anxiety you build up about performance throughout the year.
Fisher also pointed out that Adobe follows up the year of regular check ins with an “annual rewards check in”, which is an opportunity for managers to “give out raises and bonuses according to how well each employee has met or exceeded his or her targets.”.
Wait, what?! An “annual check in?” A check in that ties compensation to performance? Isn’t that an annual performance review, but with less scary and ominous words in the title? Really?!
Just because you dress up a review with fancy words like check in, doesn’t mean it’s not a review. Adobe took a fantastic step forward by adding value to the performance review with regular check ins throughout the year. These touchpoints keep performance topics current. Maybe rebranding the review to be called “check ins” helps sell it to managers and employees as a fresh way of looking at performance management, but the two things are kind of the same exact thing.
So if not the annual review, then what had caused Adobe to experience retention issues?
I think Anne spells it out beautifully in saying “the company’s ‘rank and yank’ system, which forced managers to identify and fire their least productive team members, caused so much infighting and resentment that, each year, it was making some of the software maker’s best people flee to competitors.”
I’m no expert but if you bring a fight club mentality into your workforce, and veil it behind a performance review, bad things will happen – bad things like attrition.
A properly developed and implemented performance review can have an immense impact on an individual employee, workforce morale, retention, productivity, etc. But if you’re promoting a sink or swim culture, your talent, even some of your top talent, might leave or get so distracted by how they are judged in performance that they will ultimately sink.
But if you’re in a culture that promotes engagement about performance regularly, throughout the year, in a positive and proactive way, then people will feel more confident about their job, appreciate the transparent relationships with their managers and mentors, and ultimately perform beyond your expectations. Adobe did just that by reinventing their performance review process and focusing on the positives like rewards and bonuses instead of the negatives - like termination.
Stop blaming the performance review itself. Instead, lay the blame on how it’s implemented and viewed within your organization. Take a page out of Adobe’s playbook and leverage your performance review for good, not evil.