Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Abolish Annual Reviews

It's that time of the year again for many people: the annual review. The corporate motivation behind this often frustrating and time-consuming process, is presumably to reduce the level of subjectivity in the evaluation of employee performance. Whereas in the past, your manager may have used his or her own criteria to determine salary increases, the annual review now ensures that there is a system, with objective rules, substituted in place of such independent judgement.

Unfortunately, such systems tend to have a number of detrimental effects. Firstly, it is common for such systems to place the onus on the employee to demonstrate the degree to which they have satisfied certain performance criteria. The effect of this is to favour those prone to self-promotion, and to discriminate against those of a more humble nature. Secondly, annual reviews often revolve around a list of specified objectives, which were determined at the beginning of the annual review year. The consequence of this is that, during the year, employees tend to focus only on their specified objectives, and often prove reluctant to provide assistance to their peers on matters not covered by those objectives. Thirdly, because the onus is on the employee to demonstrate competence and performance, those managers of a more lazy disposition will often take a less active interest in judging an employee's performance and ability during the course of the year.

Does this represent a net gain over the pre-annual review world? I'm not sure that it does.

1 comment:

patrick said...

My thoughts exactly. Although my manager at least lets me write my objectives at the end of the year to reflect the work I actually end up doing, rather than what management (usually erroneously) think I'll be doing at the beginning of the year.

The whole trouble with moving to objective measures of workplace performance is that the moment you decide to use a measure as a target, it ceases to be a meaningful measure of what it was meant to be a measure of.

In the world I work in (the public sector) its even more complicated, because it's very hard to tell whether the organisation as a whole is doing well or badly, or somewhere in between (though the media and politicians will always offer an opinion).