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Performance Reviews Dull Your Brain. Do We Still Need Them?

Earlier this year, I was stuck by an article in the Washington Post, “The corporate kabuki of performance reviews,” which started with this sentence:  “Among the hundreds of reasons to hate performance reviews, here’s another: They dull certain parts of our brains.” According to new research by David Rock, author of “Your Brain at Work”, and the director of an institute aimed at applying neuroscience to leadership issues, “people’s field of view actually constrict, they can take in a narrower stream of data, and there’s a restriction in creativity.”

While the idea of performance reviews actually dulling the brains of our workforce may be new, this is just another point in the long-standing diatribe against performance reviews. The article continues, “But we don’t need neuroscience to tell us why the annual performance review song-and-dance is so universally reviled. We have our own reasons: the endless paperwork, the evaluation criteria so utterly unrelated to our jobs, and the simplistic and quota-driven ratings used to label the performance of otherwise complex, educated human beings.” For literally decades, numerous articles have been written about the problems of performance management processes.  (i.e., Is the Performance Review Extinct?)

Performance reviews and processes can be nonsensical, endless paperwork that offers no value to the employee, manager or the business.  So, today—in the 21st century workforce, which is multi-generational, multi-cultural and global, should we still do them?

As an HR practitioner and in addition to everything else you do, you need to make sure two things are happening:

1)      You are collecting accurate data about your workforce to ensure best use of limited budgets (raises, promotions) and to minimize legal risk. AND,

2)      In today’s competitive market, you need make sure you are continuously having a dialogue and developing talent to help you meet business objectives.

These reasons are the fundamental ‘bones’ of why performance management is not only still relevant, it is mandatory. The problem is that these two things are often in conflict and without the right processes, can actually “dull” and erode each other.

In fact, if you don’t get the balance between these two objectives right your business can suffer lower revenue per employee, more turnover from high performers, and breakdowns in execution because of lack of alignment. As Bersin once said, “Performance management practices have the biggest impact on employee productivity of any talent process.”

So, what should you do?

Look for a comprehensive performance management solution that helps you collect accurate data AND create more continuous dialogue and talent development.  Done correctly, these two goals of performance management can actually work in concert to create a meaningful performance process—without burdensome paperwork, or evaluation criteria that unfairly “labels” people or dulls their brains.  In fact, quite the opposite – with the right solution and approach—performance management can have the biggest impact on employee productivity, business execution and performance of any talent process.

SuccessFactors provides a comprehensive performance management solution that helps ensure accurate, meaningful data collection, and create more continuous dialogue and talent development. More than just reviews, SuccessFactors includes capabilities such as “Ask for Feedback”—which is a quick, frictionless way to gather input on an employee’s performance. Plus, with Mobile solutions such as “Touchbase”, you can not only create more meaningful dialogue in 1:1 meetings – but also ensure the topics of each meeting are captured as part of the process for accurate data collection.  

Follow SuccessFactors on Twitter: @successfactors

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