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Time to Review Performance Reviews?

Time to Review Performance Reviews?
Credit: Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock

As a method of improving operations and appraising employees, the traditional, one-on-one "performance review" may itself be in need of some serious reevaluation. A recent poll of nearly 2,000 U.S.-based employees finds that, of the 58 percent still subject to this kind of assessment, very few have any confidence in its ability to effect positive change in the workplace.

In fact, according to BambooHR, which conducted the study, only 16 percent prefer to receive feedback in the form of a performance review. 

While the reasons for this are numerous, the most typical complaints about performance reviews involve charges of neglect against those who conduct them. More than 2 out of 3 respondents say they feel they are not heard during their reviews and that they don't see that any changes occur from the feedback they give.

In other words, employees believe management seeks suggestions for improving business during the review, but then ultimately ignores or fails to act on those suggestions, rendering the entire process meaningless from a developmental perspective. To a majority of workers, this is reason enough to do away with performance reviews entirely.

Some may think this misses the point and that the purpose of a performance review is to monitor and motivate the employee, not field suggestions for how to better run the business. However, employees don't think reviews work in that regard, either.

One major issue with using the performance review as a method of evaluating employees is that employees believe it's highly susceptible to bias. Office politics and favoritism are consistent problems, as are gender prejudices, survey respondents said.

Despite all this, might performance reviews still serve a purpose by creating an incentive to work hard? A mere 4 percent of respondents think so. Instead, employees want to be motivated through open, informal conversation and one-on-ones more geared toward their career paths. Other suggestions for alternatives included having managers listen to, and use, their ideas and getting more employee recognition.

And in what is perhaps the least surprising finding of the study, nearly 1 in 5 employees polled said they'd gladly trade away the imperfect, unreliable performance review for what they think is the best motivator an employer could offer: a raise.