#truBatonRouge: Annual Reviews Are a Source of HR Angst

What do you get when you put a bunch of recruiters and HR people in a room together to talk about performance management?  A frank, eye-opening discussion.

Last week, the Success Labs team hosted #truBatonRouge, a #tru unconference, which is an HR event designed to break the conference mold with roundtable discussions and no projector presentations. During the event, I hosted a discussion on succession planning and Sandy Michelet, director of human resources at Sparkhound, a Baton Rouge IT services company, tackled the touchy topic of performance management.

To start off the conversation Sandy asked attendees “Are you the only one who cares about performance management?” And chuckles erupted around the room.

Annual Reviews Are a Hot-Button Topic

Performance management is a broad term that covers management tactics such as coaching, discipline, and goal setting — but the biggest concern in the room was annual performance reviews. The attendees agreed that annual reviews often get overlooked and set aside by managers.

“It’s a struggle to get them done,” said one HR professional, discussing managers’ resistance to complete annual reviews for their team members.

Diving further into the issue, attendees discussed metrics and numeric-based annual reviews as a tool for compensation review and granting annual wage increases. People were divided over whether this is a good idea or not.

“All you have to do is show up and the company gives you something” said one HR manager, who seemed to believe the “old-fashioned” method of rating an employee is detrimental when tied to annual rate increases.

Another participant said their company allows each employee to create individual goals that are then reviewed by the employee’s manager. The goals are reviewed and adjusted quarterly, and at year-end the manager determines if those goals were met. Ultimately the process concludes with decisions about a bonus and merit increase.

A third participant discussed a company that has a performance management system in place for new hires, which includes reviews of their progress at two weeks, five weeks, four months and six months to determine training needs and competencies.

Why Do Managers Resist Doing Annual Reviews?

With discussions about the structure of different employers’ annual reviews out of the way, the question remained as to why managers are hesitant to complete annual reviews. Managers who are committed to ongoing coaching perhaps feel the annual performance review is a redundant waste of time. Yet some managers give their teams little to no feedback unless they are compelled to complete an annual review process.

Perhaps the answer lies in the annual review system employers choose to employ and whether or not it fits within the organization. Attendees said many managers feel the reviews don’t add value to the organizations. And some said HR has “over-complicated the process” of doing annual reviews.

Around the room many cited performance reviews being outdated, bulky and/or not applicable to employees’ job functions. Some attendees said performance reviews focus too much on rating employees against the organization’s values, while managers are more concerned with operations and productivity.

Wrapping up the discussion most attendees agreed performance management, should evolve based upon an individual organization’s culture and needs. “If you’re building performance reviews, incite your managers to help develop the system,” said one participant who revamped her organization’s performance management system.

Performance management is an important part of every organization’s people strategy. Contact us if you need help with your people strategy.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.