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Performing dogs



So I’ve talked a lot about improving HR right? Because it is a bit of a mission for me and because I’m a bear of very little brain.  You know what we should do if we really want to show that we are serious about change? If we want to show that we have the balls for this. We need a symbol, a demonstration of our sincerity and devotion to the cause.

Some people would get a tattoo.  Some people would make a pledge.  Some people would make an offering.

I want you to ditch your performance reviews.

Yes, that is right.  Stop doing them.  Offer it up.

We made the whole thing up and we admit. IT STINKS.

The whole concept of annual performance review is just weird and unnatural and quite frankly wrong.  The reason we have so many problems with them is because of exactly this.  We change the form, we change the language, we change the training, we change the competency model (pause to chuck up) and still it doesn’t work. Why? Because it is a pile of crap.

People aren’t supposed to be put into stupid boxes and rated. To do so is just naive and intellectually stunted.  People don’t perform on a cycle. They don’t perform against criteria, they don’t behave in terms of competency frameworks.  What the hell are we thinking?

The whole thing is a ridiculous HR construct aimed at trying to control something that doesn’t need controlling.  Trying to turn people from people into some sort of weird drone.  Because it makes it easier. For us.  And that is why the damned things never work.  That is why we have created an industry of trying to find this utopian performance management process.  When really what we should be doing is dumping the damned things.

I mean really. Who would argue against it? Employees? Managers? HR departments? Be honest, we all hate them.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have open and honest conversations and appraising performance.  Of course we all need to know what we are doing well and what we are doing badly. But that is an informal process between manager and employee.  That is all that is needed. The rest I’m afraid is just a waste of time.

It is a big, fat, droopy pile of HR bollocks.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Hr guevara permalink
    10/12/2010 07:49

    Hallelujah. Where do I sign??

  2. Nicky Siddall-Collier permalink
    10/12/2010 07:58

    I could not agree more.

  3. 10/12/2010 08:00

    I can smell ’em from here. Annual reviews are a load of box ticking bonus justifying, performance levelling crap. Hell I can’t remember what I had for breakfast last Monday (and I like breakfast!) let alone what my achievements were a year ago. Feedback needs to be timely. In the moment, or as close as you can. No arguments here – get rid of them.

  4. 10/12/2010 08:08

    I’ve never understood performance reviews. If you’ve got a problem with how I perform, or if I’m not ticking your cute little boxes, then tell me. Now. While it’s happening. Don’t wait for some idiotic review and pile it all on me at once. Man up and handle it, dammit!

  5. 10/12/2010 08:17

    But, wait! Stop! Hang on before you chuck it all in the bin and declare HRD towers a performance management free zone. All processes are an irritating pile of arse when you look at them in isolation. That doesn’t mean they’re pointless.

    Processes spring up as a way of marshalling something that’s already happening, or that isn’t and should be. They come into being because of a need and the need will remain even if you ditch appraisals.

    You need some sort of structure to ensure employees get feedback from their managers, that managers communicate with others about their employee’s progress and that both managers and employees know what they need to do in the future.

    If that structure isn’t going to be process, then something is needed to fill the vacuum and that something is… culture. If you can create a feedback culture, where everyone is communicating with each other all the time and in which people can provide feedback (up and down, good and bad) in a non-emotive way, then YAY! Much better!

    It’s harder though. Sure you don’t want that appraisal form back?

  6. 10/12/2010 08:20

    what about businesses who deliver bonuses based on achievement of bonus objectives? is that ok?

  7. 10/12/2010 08:57

    You just know I’m gonna agree with you on this one. So instead, I’ll work with your comment about getting a tattoo to demonstrate your devotion. If you consider talent acquisition to be part of the broader HR piece, then yes, it has been done.

    @theredrecruiter (Michael Long) joined Rackspace on a permanent basis earlier this year, after some time on an interim assignment with them. One of his first moves – yep, a Rackspace tattoo. Here’s the video link – not for the squeamish!

  8. 10/12/2010 10:23

    Bin the appraisal? Won’t that put all the manufacturers of 4 drawer filing cabinets out of business?

    Seriously, I always ask my clients who want an annual appraisal “What are you going to do with it” – it is never used in the pay round, it’s too late as a vehicle for managing poor performace. The answer is usually that they don’t know, but think it is what they have to do.

    And why is that? Because the HR profession have been telling them for years that’s what they should do.

    What is worse, they always ask if I have one from another client that they can use!!!!

    I tell my clients that all they need is a day-to-day process that tells an employee:

    * What they need to do
    * When it needs to be done by
    * How well they did it

    If there is then a problem – deal with it – NOW.

    I know if we are going to sack someone we will need to show an audit trail – but that still has to anchored in the here and now (and has a defined purpose).

    So where do I sign the pledge?

  9. 10/12/2010 12:15

    Great idea. Far more sensible than the recent articles that have abounded about scrapping the cover letter (a great snapshot of someone’s personality and creativity in the form of a nice introductory gambit) and/or the CV (demonstrates an individual’s ability to present/sell themselves and their career to date in a concise format). Why wait a year to tell someone they’re a drongo or to give them some new KPIs or ‘objectives’ or whatever? Equally, if they shine, tell them and reward them.

  10. Corporate Daycare permalink
    10/12/2010 12:31


  11. 10/12/2010 20:35

    If managers and employees made a point of meeting regularly, we wouldn’t need performance reviews. People would be happier at work: quick, informal conversations tend to be more relevant and even more open. That’s proper collaboration – allowing managers and employees to get ahead of potential issues and actually drive professional development, instead of making excuses months later from behind opaque, non-human categories and classifications. And, ongoing attention from managers is a huge motivator. Too many managers use the performance review as a way to defer these motivating conversations. Do away with the performance review and you’re left with one less excuse for manager incompetence.

  12. 10/12/2010 22:09

    My wife gives me an annual performance review; maybe I will show her this post in the hope of quarterly as a first step? Think it will work?

    • 11/04/2010 16:01

      Peter – did you try it? Did it work? I’m waiting in the wings to be your first follower 🙂

  13. 10/13/2010 09:14

    I love your thinking, and I enjoy a good controversy! I liked this one so much, that I felt compelled to comment – a first for me.

    I think you’re describing utopia. A world where managers manage properly, goals are clear, the culture is conducive to giving and receiving feedback, everyone is willing to admit their faults and learn how to do things better.

    I don’t know what company you work for of course – because you’re anonymous – but I’m prepared to bet a tenner that you work in a fairly sophisticated professional environment where a lot of this stuff actually happens. (I’ll pay up if I’m wrong!) Many people – particularly the HR consultants amongst us who spend a lot of time working with SME’s – live in a world where managers don’t know how to manage people properly, there are no good role models, the company strategy and goals are not well clarified and not well communicated to the employees, employees don’t know what is expected of them, they receive poor feedback on their performance….. etc. blah, blah…

    In companies like this, we have to give managers some tools to help them to do their jobs properly. Ideally, we’d try to build a proper management culture and put all the right things in place, but this is not something you can do overnight, and often in smaller businesses there is so much emphasis on survival that these perceived “nice to haves” are way down the list of priorities, and only get addressed when things start to go wrong and some bright spark decides they are important. So, in a way, a performance review process is a crutch for managers. It supports them and gives them guidance. It forces them to do what they should be doing anyway, but if it wasn’t there, they probably wouldn’t do it. It also provides a bit of professionalism around the way salary reviews are decided. I’ve seen various dubious ways of determining salary increases, and when there is no process, employees lose trust in their managers because they don’t think it’s fair and they don’t understand how their performance can affect their pay. Performance reviews are reassuring for employees who don’t get much feedback otherwise. When you put a performance review process into a company with these kinds of issues, about the best you can do is to make it clear that “performance reviews should not be a once or twice-a-year event, but there should be ongoing conversations and feedback, and when you do sit down for the formal meeting, the emphasis is on the conversation and not on the form, the form is simply a way of recording the key points, so that you can refer back to them and they don’t get forgotten about the minute you both walk away from the meeting.….” . If you say this enough, it starts to sink in, and it’s the first step to the managers doing a proper job of managing their employees.

    I’m not saying all this is right or in any way ideal, but it’s reality. Given time, resource and support, of course you can change the culture and move the company closer to a world where all those things I mentioned at the top are in place, and then you can ceremoniously burn the performance review forms!

  14. 10/14/2010 20:28

    @HR Guevara – In blood…..! Just go out and make it so comrade! (welcome by the way!)

    @Nicky Siddall-Collier – Welcome! 🙂 And thanks for commenting.

    @Doug Shaw – “Annual reviews are a load of box ticking bonus justifying, performance levelling crap” amen brother!

    @Wendy Jacob – I’m manning up…..I’m mannning up!

    @Samantha Lizars – What you say is true….but we go for the easy answer too often….I’m saying we should do it properly and stop skipping around the edges. Let us create a true culture of discussion, honesty and feedback. Tough? Yes. Right? Yes again.

    @Jess Booth – Oh the bonus question……man that is a whole other post! I don’t think the two things are incompatible. I think it just requires creative thinking. A review isn’t the only way to appraise performance……not sure I have all the answers, but there must be a way.

    @Barry Rees – Another soldier for the cause….lead the way dude and I will follow. I’m with you all the way.

    @Aloncalcia – Yeah…..I didn’t get that CV business either…..WTF?

    @Corporate Daycare – Succinct……for you 🙂

    @Jesse Goldman – Welcome and thanks for commenting. Totally agree with you, let us not hide incompetence but shine a light on it instead.

    @Peter Gold – Surprised you made it through your probationary period…… 🙂

    @Jacqui Cookson – Hey there and welcome! Great comment and of course you’re right…..but I guess what you’re saying is that we need to do them as remedial action? I’m a dreamer….I like dreaming….and I believe in following your dreams. Oh…..and you need to pay up…..! 🙂


  1. Control Vs. Uncontrolled « West : People Matters

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