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Is It Time the Performance Review Itself Be Reviewed?

Communicating effective feedback is critical for the overall health and performance of any organization. Performance Reviews _ long revered as a bastion of organizational effectiveness _ have evolved, undergoing a metamorphose paramount to rapidly changing times. With a stronger emphasis on culture and outcomes-based leadership and amidst generational shifts, organizations are changing how, when and why to conduct them. Is it time the performance review itself  be reviewed? We asked Cindy Harp, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness at Persimmon, to share her insights and best practices.


  1. How has the performance review process changed in the last 10 years? Is this a good or bad thing?

A lot has changed in the last 10 years.  Many organizations have been looking at their performance review process and asking themselves if it is actually generating the benefit they were hoping to see.  When you think about the amount of time and effort that goes into what we traditionally think about a performance review process, the numbers can be staggering!  Deloitte conducted a study and discovered that they were spending over 2 million hours a year on their performance review process, with about 60% of their senior management viewing it as an ineffective use of a supervisor’s time.   More and more organizations are trying different things to figure out what works best for their culture and meets their desired outcomes – they are being more intentional about matching the culture they want with their performance review process.

  1. What is the most common mistake you see from managers conducting performance reviews? How can repeating that mistake be avoided?

Most managers (and employees for that matter) dread performance review time…and that often shows up in the conversations.  This dread can manifest itself in various ways: wanting to get all the news out and be done with the meeting quickly; sugar coating the conversation to the point that the employee isn’t sure what message is being delivered; or focusing too much on past performances, things that happened six months ago.  I prefer to think of performance reviews as a way to develop employees – how do I ask more questions, rather than tell people what to do?  Do I know what is really motivating the employee to behave a certain way?  What might I be missing?  What might I learn from them about my leadership style, and what do I need to change to be more supportive? One of the best pieces of advice is flip to “coaching” mode rather than “telling” mode – let your employees know you are there to help them succeed, and that you appreciate learning from them as well.

performance review

  1. What changes do you see coming that managers and supervisors should start preparing for if they aren’t already?

To re-emphasize my earlier point, more organizations are trying different approaches to performance management to figure out what works best for their organization, and how to spend more time focusing on development.  There isn’t one right answer for all companies.  Many organizations have pulled the “rank and yank” that GE popularized – even GE has eliminated this from their performance management process.  Processes now range from just having weekly “check-ins” with the employees that are typically driven by what the employee needs; having apps where anybody can give each other feedback, to periodic or annual formal performance reviews.  Some companies are making the process much more inclusive, where an employee gets feedback from a variety of sources and also gives feedback to their boss and other. This can include feedback from peers that can affect your salary increase.  You need to look at the desired outcome from your performance review process and create the process that will then meet that outcome and fit with your organization’s culture.

  1. The Millennial Generation seeking constant feedback can be overwhelming for both bosses and peers. What advice do you have for Millennials on this?

First – I would say that bosses and peers may need to reconsider feedback. It’s something we aren’t all comfortable with and likely need to get better doing.   Providing feedback at the point that an action was taken is actually much more effective than waiting a week or six months.  Think about sports.  When I’m playing tennis, my coach doesn’t wait a week or more to tell me that my swing is off because I’m getting too close to the ball…..he tells me right after I swing my racket.  Then when he catches me swinging correctly, he reinforces that as well.  Why aren’t we doing more of that kind of coaching in businesses?

As for the Millennials who want constant feedback, I would say to ask for feedback if you want it, but recognize that not everyone is comfortable providing it.   You should also watch those that are giving you the feedback to see if your requests are stressing them out or causing them some frustration.  If so, can you limit your feedback requests to a specific area you are wanting to develop or that others have suggested you develop?  Are there different people you can look to for feedback so you don’t overwhelm one person?  Do you have a trusted coworker with whom you can develop a peer coaching relationship?  How much can you coach yourself?  Can you build in time for self-reflection then take your observations to a “coach”, asking them to chime in?  Try to strike a balance between getting all of the feedback you want and potentially frustrating those around you.

Cindy Harp is Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness at The Persimmon Group. She helps organizations transform financially and operationally through leadership development, organizational effectiveness, and strategy development.  For more information on how Cindy and The Persimmon Group can help your organization progress see our Organizational Effectiveness Services or contact us.


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About the Author: Cory Fowler

Cory Fowler

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