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Ditch the Drama: Why Annual Reviews Suck and What We Should Do Instead

Performance management processes are so complex and they manage nothing, only Debbie's employment in the company!

People cannot even understand the difference between performance management and performance evaluation. Managing performance must happen daily (which doesn't) and the evaluation of it happens during formal check-ins (quarterly) and summarised during the appraisal. Using this method you don't even need the employee to be there at the end of the year. BOOM!

Let's get into it!

Let's be real – annual appraisals are a total headache. I've had that argument a million times, and it usually only happens when things get all grey and confusing. Seriously, do any of us really know what it takes to be a high performer? I don't and I surely must based on my job!

The Bias Problem:

Annual appraisals are like a breeding ground for biases – idiosyncratic bias, inter-rater bias, you name it. Scientists and psychometricians have been telling us to drop this outdated practice because our data fails at first-level scrutiny, but guess what? Science isn't winning this battle against the rules of thumb, the way organisations are run. Why would science with against Debbie and her fantastic 9/12 box exercise when she worked on this for months with the global team and now we rolled this out so 300K employees can endure the torture annually only for nobody to use the data?

Calibration Drama:

Calibration, the process meant to align ratings across teams, is just a mess. Calibration doesn't work and will never work because everyone is different. INTER-RATE BIAS is screaming down the corridor but we are so caught up in our fantastic process we cannot hear it. Also, trying to fit everyone into the same mould is just wishful thinking. AND, comparing employees, often oranges to apples... please, is this how you decide over my contribution? Then, why do we have KPIs? Shouldn't my performance be compared to the goal you set for me instead of my personality and behaviour compared to James? Please, Debbie, see sense!

Simplifying the Chaos:

So, here's a thought: clear KPIs (numbers), two categories – Achieved and Not Achieved. We don't need the "Yes, but we also need to see how much Melanie has tried (behaviour) to achieve those goals and acknowledge that." Ok, Debbie, that sounds like me trying to go to the toilet sitting there for an hour with no result. I am still constipated. Should that count for emptying my bowel? This makes no sense! Forget those vague behavioural competencies that's just Debbie thinking we all should behave the same way because somehow she can scientifically prove that those competencies will yield results (read here Part 1 about the fallacies of behavioural competencies and Part 2). Instead, throw in People's KPIs and be brutal about them.

People KPIs to the Rescue:

Instead of telling John he needs to work on his emotional intelligence or critical thinking skills, let's focus on whether he's hitting those People's KPIs. It's all about balancing the quantitative results with the qualitative stuff, like how well he plays with others instead of one person's opinion about me. If the whole team says I sack, then I better look into the mirror and think about where I go wrong. But if it is only Jennifer's opinion piece about me then I will question everything and now we have an argument and an upset employee.

John might be hitting business goals out of the park, but what about those people-related KPIs? Are they all in the red? Let's chat about that because that's how you balance business goals with leadership behaviour. If you achieve business and people KPIs' so your people are happy, great! If they are unhappy (your KPIs are in red) you don't need to work on your emotional intelligence competency but figure out what you are doing that has led to this and address those. This is where real L&D comes into the picture to help leaders. Simple, right?

Simplicity in Action:

Cut the fluff and keep it real. Give people straightforward KPIs tied to what the company actually cares about. Did you achieve it? Yes or no. This way, we're all on the same page, and there's no room for interpretation, my personality to be ripped apart by one's opinion about me, and drama. Because all this only keeps Debbie alive and employed, it serves no other purpose. She gets to run down the corridor once a year feeling super important while everyone else is suffering.

It's time to kick annual appraisals to the curb and bring in a fresh, modern approach. Let's make things simple, ditch the unnecessary drama, and focus on what really matters – clear goals, real results, and a workplace where everyone can thrive. Who needs the headache of annual reviews when you can keep it straightforward and real?

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