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Performance Reviews and Other Alternatives

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Performance reviews have become increasing disfavored in recent years, but reports indicate that the vast majority of employers still do formal annual assessments.  As a matter of fact, a few of the companies that discontinued such assessments have brought them back.  But increasingly, employers are looking for other ways of providing feedback to employees.

So, what are some companies doing in lieu of a formal annual assessments?  Commentators often suggest that more regular and timely performance discussions are necessary, such as every quarter or after a project is completed.  Suggestions have been made to the focus in these discussions more on how people work, since a majority of even HR officials say performance reviews rarely accurately assess employee performance.  Such discussions also avoid the "halo" effect, where almost everyone gets a good rating, sometimes awkwardly making it easier for plaintiffs to win cases later on.  There are software platforms such as Bamboo HR and Work Day, which remind managers to have ongoing discussions and include coaching, comments on recent work, and setting expectations.  

A few companies have experimented with including co-workers in appraisals, but questions have been made about this approach.  This writer remembers vividly during military basic training the "buddy rating" system used by the U.S. Army at that time.  

A more successful approach has been to let employees reflect on their own performance, which managers can then comment on. 

This article is part of our April 2023 Newsletter.

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