This may not be a newsflash for some people; however, it may be novel to hear an HR person say that performance reviews suck.
There are many reasons why they aren't worth the time, effort, and standardized forms they are printed on. It could be the lack of training for managers on how to present them, it could be the employees' lack of understanding on how to interpret them, it could be the format, or it could even be time of year they are done.
All of the reasons above are true, but there's still something bigger.
The real issue is that performance reviews are after the fact.
By the time you sit down with your employee to go over what went well and what didn't, it's over and done with. You can pepper the review with fantastic evidence and examples, but it's in the past. And if you are like many managers, you probably aren't able to reference past November, unless it was a doozy of a mistake, in which case you over-fixate on this issue.
The truth of the matter is that the performance review is more about and for the manager than the employee.
In many instances, the manager fills in the review form based on the components of the job that are most important to them. They then recall examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly based on their recollection (or worse, based on what others told them) of the employees performance. They may also take this opportunity to over document concerns that may help justify a potential termination in the near future.
Recently I sent out a reminder to managers that they should be scheduling the performance reviews and goal setting sessions for their employees. I went out on a limb and suggested that they provide the completed forms to their employees before the meetings so that they had a chance to review them and so that they can to the meeting with their own comments.
One manager called me on this - he said, "I can't give them their performance review before...what if they misinterpret what's written there? What if they share it with others? By the time the last person gets into the meeting room, they will be primed and pumped to go".
My first thought was "paranoid much". My second was, what are you putting in the performance review that has the potential to be so misunderstood and could serve as such potent fuel? If you are being honest with the person, and have been throughout the year, then there should be no surprises - only confirmations.
But herein lies the problem..."throughout the year".
Getting feedback, whether it's positive or negative, once a year is pitiful and insulting. It's like having to participate in a stupid secret Santa gift exchange at the Christmas potluck. You hate doing it, but know you have to smile and go along with the tradition. It's pointless and in the end you are going to end up with another stupid coffee mug.
Until managers are prepared to take the time to deal with performance issues as they occur and offer kudos and support when it's needed - the annual performance review is a waste of their and the employee's time.
And since most managers and employees share this very sentiment with me at every possible opportunity they get, I know I'm not alone in in this thought.