55% of people think performance management is effective. Wait, it’s that high?

Everyone Hates Performance Reviews

I’ve written about the whole idea of performance management probably a half-dozen times, so I won’t belabor the concept/idea that much here. (If you want to read one of my earlier posts on it, here you go.) I think the baseline idea here is pretty simple:

  • A company (at least attempts to) solicits feedback from its customers literally every hour.
  • A company solicits/gives feedback to its employee about once a year, if that.
  • (And during the cycle of time where that feedback needs to happen, everyone complains about it.)

That seems oddly mismatched, right? I understand your customers buying shit is what makes you money, but … the people who work for you design and market and organize that same shit, and without them, it might be a challenge to make the same money. We live in a world where products and processes clearly mean more than people, and that’s fine and might take a few generations to adjust, but could we at least bring it a little closer than “every hour vs. once a year?”

Here’s a new article from Forbes saying only 55 percent of people think performance management is effective; I honestly would have guessed it’s a lower number than that. The Forbes article talks about another Towers Watson study that says only 44 percent of people believe their org uses technology properly when doing performance reviews (again, surprised it’s even that high — most orgs make performance management a super archaic process, hence everyone bitching about it), and then mentions another study that only 28 percent of people believe performance management is done effectively by their company.

Above are mostly a bunch of numbers, although the “28 percent” number sounds about right. I’ve switched jobs a few times and been to graduate school, yes, but I don’t even think I’ve had a performance review since 2007 or so. That seems disheartening, because from 2007 to 2011, I worked at the same company (ESPN), and you’d think there would be some evaluation there. Fuck, I’ve taken the time to evaluate them on this blog.

The bottom line in this discussion is that if you want “performance management” to mean anything, you need to move it out of Human Resources, or else find a way to give HR that long-sought “seat at the table.” Otherwise you’re just throwing out an archaic process that’s managed poorly, and everyone who believes they have true bottom-line-facing responsibilities will groan “Oh, this shit again!” The whole reason that “talent strategy” comes off like a buzzword is because where it’s housed doesn’t have revenue-facing respect.

The general philosophy most managers and executives have is “Why worry about training and evaluation? These people might leave anyway.” This shouldn’t surprise you in a world where 6 in 10 managers believe “respecting someone else” is something they need to schedule in Outlook, but it’s still disheartening.

Also: for performance management to actually be something that people are invested in, Tip #1 would be “actually spend some time determining the priorities of people in your org” and Tip #2 would be “Tie it to some advancement in either fiscal earnings or responsibility.”

Ted Bauer


  1. It’s not a priority because people are disposable, is the plain truth. Why spend time training and developing them when they’re easily replaced? Also, few if any organizations collect and tally the costs of turnover and vacancies, and fewer still feed that information back into their manager’s reviews. So, the costs of not managing performance, and the costs of losing people and having to replace them because of it, are basically unseen by most, and cared about by even fewer. Due to a variety of factors in the US, employees are treated worse than the technology they use. Technology has a known maintenance schedule, a known cost, a known ROI, and generally a known lifecycle. Some of that is known for people as well, but since we live in a near permanent labor surplus there’s really no need to care about it. Just burn people out and replace when needed. That’s why no one cares about performance management, and very little about management of any kind to be blunt.

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