According to Jonny Rejholec, senior product manager at BambooHR, employees aren’t asking for much when it comes to performance reviews.
“They want to know what’s expected of them and where they stand,” he says. “They want a manager who cares and recognizes their contribution.”
And yet, despite these very simple needs, traditional performance reviews rarely deliver any value to employees. In fact, a recent study from BambooHR found that only 16 percent of employees believe performance reviews are a good way to receive feedback — and only 4 percent of employees believe that performance reviews are the “best way to motivate or engage” them.
Additionally, the same study found that:
- 67 percent of employees feel they’re not heard during performance reviews;
- 52 percent of employees say their companies make no effort to help them meet the goals set in performance reviews;
- and 61 percent say their companies don’t look for opportunities to provide career development, either during performance reviews or otherwise.
Steve Holiday, an industry researcher at BambooHR, says that employees see that there’s value in performance reviews from the employer’s perspective — but they also see that these same reviews are generally meaningless from their own perspectives.
“They recognize that the company has some kind of stake in doing performance reviews. [Performance reviews] help [employers] monitor who should get a raise and how people are performing,” Holiday explains. “What it’s missing is the opportunity to give employees development.”
“Ask an employee what the point of a performance review is, and they’ll say, ‘It’s just a way to see if I get a raise,’” says Rejholec. “They have a hard time understanding the value of going through any sort of traditional assessment.”
That’s because these assessments don’t actually provide employees with any value.
The Gender Divide in Performance Reviews
Performance reviews become even more tiresome and troubling when we look at how they contribute to and reinforce the gender divide at work.
BambooHR found that 57 percent of men are comfortable being honest in performance reviews, whereas only 42 percent of women said the same. Moreover, BambooHR also saw that more men trust their companies to keep performance review feedback anonymous (73 percent of men vs. 53 percent of women) and that more men are asked for their input in improving performance reviews (73 percent of men vs. 59 percent of women).
“It’s pretty well documented that women tend to underestimate themselves,” Rejholec says. “They’ll rate themselves lower than their managers will rate them. Men tend to rate themselves higher than their managers will rate them.”
“This confidence in men can bleed over,” Holiday adds. “More men are asked for input into how to improve their performance reviews and performance review processes [because their confidence levels sway managers].”
Holiday and Rejholec say the overconfidence of men/underconfidence of women builds a self-perpetuating system, one that works to widen the gender divide when it comes to the ways in which men and women are involved in a given company’s performance review process.
How We Can Salvage Performance Reviews: Put Employees First, Not Employers
Today’s performance reviews benefit employers far more than they benefit employees, and they seem to benefit men more than they benefit women. In other words: performance reviews totally suck.
“[Employees feel like] the manager only cares once a year,” Rejholec says. “With these infrequent check-ins, they feel like their performance reviews look to the past, not to the future, to how they can better themselves and their careers.”
These past-oriented, once-yearly performance reviews often cause employees to grow disengaged and apathetic.
“If you’re not going to manage my performance with me the rest of the year, and I have to go it alone, it doesn’t matter how you think I can improve,” says Holiday.
So, what’s the solution? According to Rejholec, employers have to “get real with performance reviews.”
“Let’s not make it about all these competencies and ratings and mathematics; let’s not try to come up with some sort of system to rank everybody,” he says. “Let’s make it about what you’re doing great today, and what you can do better in the future.”
What Rejholec and Holiday want to see is a paradigm shift: the replacement of “performance reviews” with “performance management.”
“Let’s make performance reviews address everyone’s basic needs at work: understanding where they stand and how they can get a little better,” Rejholec says.
To do this, employers have to implement more regular, more informal performance management meetings, rather than occasional, formal performance reviews.
“If we’re doing this on a regular basis, and making it a regular part of follow-up, then we’re treating everyone like an employee we want to develop on a regular basis,” Holiday says.
Performance reviews can have value for employees, but only if employers execute them in more meaningful ways — ways that are dedicated to employee development, not employee evaluation.