Much Ado About Performance Reviews - Bridgegap Careers

Much Ado About Performance Reviews


Damilola, who can be described as a top performer has been a Senior Banking Officer for about 30 months in one of the new generation Banks.

She is in the Information Technology department and has a cumulative of 10 years banking experience. She feels stagnated; as if her career had lulled for a while. She does not feel sufficiently challenged anymore and is looking forward to the next promotion cycle to become an Assistant Manager, this to her will present new exciting opportunities to her career.

Damilola’s supervisor, Jude had mentioned earlier to her that he is considering putting her up for promotion during the next promotion exercise; a statement that has left Damilola very happy and expectant.

At the appraisal meeting, Damilola and Jude reviewed her appraisal that was written in pencil. It was a good one and true to his words, he recommended her for promotion. Damilola signed off on her portion, returned the copy to Jude for transmission to HR and then went about her duties happily.

Fast forward 4 weeks later and the promotion list has just been published by HR. Damilola scrolls through the names hurriedly and behold her name is missing. A gush of pain and sadness runs through her vein as she walks briskly to HR department to confront them.

A look at her appraisal form as given to her by HR revealed that Jude had cleaned off all the ratings, scores and comments except for Damilola’s signature and had re-written everything in ink; further down, he had recommended that Damilola be reassigned to another department as she was no longer useful to the IT department.

You can imagine what transpired next!

To most supervisors, appraisal periods have become a tortuous process that will get them bashing heads with their reports, hence, to avoid this, will rate all of them as either excellent or above average, while also hoping that HR will then review the scores downwards and take the blame for always been ‘wicked’. Better still, other supervisors use the period as revenge or an opportunity to ambush that direct report that is not in their supposed ‘good books’.

But, what does the appraisal process seek to achieve? What is its relevance? How best can this be administered?

Performance reviews are important tools that managers use to boost employee performance and productivity to higher levels. Performance reviews play a crucial role in managing performance, but when performance management systems are faulty; they can miss the mark and hence loose its objectivity.

To avoid these pitfalls, be sure your Supervisors have the various trainings, tools and support to conduct performance reviews effectively.

The starting point will be to ensure that every employee has his annual deliverable drawn up, discussed with him/her and signed off at the beginning of the year. These targets, usually cascaded from the department’s annual target become the bedrock of the performance review that will take place in the course of the year.

It is necessary that a strong performance management system, which is the foundation for delivering a good performance review, be put in place. Without an accurate way of measuring performance, a clear process, and methods that make delivering a performance review easy, the entire process becomes defective and subjective.

As a Supervisor, you should work towards having a one-on-one session with all your direct reports at least once every 2 weeks and you must take down notes of performance as well as provide adequate feedback. It is most unfair to go into an appraisal meeting without a log of all the various tasks and assignments carried out by your report. If you choose to rely on your memory, be rest assured it will fail you.

Feedback must be provided; areas needing improvement must also be noted and discussed extensively as well as a plan of action to improve performance put in place.

Other tips include:

Don’t focus on one specific incident – review the entire period which the appraisal covers

Avoid the “halo” and “horns” effects. Just because the employee performs badly in one area does not make his/her overall performance bad. The same goes for good performance.

Length of service or an employee’s grade does not necessarily mean better performance.

Avoid bias about an employee based on your personal feelings for that individual.

Don’t confuse current performance on past performance. Look at the current period being reviewed.

Don’t overrate a poor performer as a motivational tool.

Don’t rush through the appraisal. Take time to record accurate information which truly reflects the individual’s performance.

Don’t be afraid to provide truthful information.

To ensure objectivity, Organisations must ensure that:

  1. Supervisors are well trained and prepared.

Many Supervisors are never trained on how to properly conduct a performance review so they don’t know how to plan for and deliver an effective review. It is important to make sure all Supervisors receive adequate performance management training on planning for the review, writing a review, and delivering a review discussion. These topics should be continually revisited and reinforced at least twice every year.

Similarly, Supervisors may not document performance, recognize accomplishments, or deal with poor performance throughout the year. Not doing so can lead them to be unprepared with the information they need to give accurate performance reviews on.

  1. Clear languages are used during review sessions.

Supervisors tend to use vague languages during the performance review such as: “You’re doing a great job” or “You could do better than this,” rather than citing specific examples in terms of what the employee did well or not during the period under review. The implication of this is that, without knowing the specifics of what their supervisors like or dislike, employees aren’t provided with useful feedback that they can use to improve their performance nor do they understand why they didn’t receive the pay increase or promotion they deserved, if the review is tied to compensation or advancement.

  1. Supervisors do not literally ambush their employees.

Some Supervisors never bother to let their employees know when their performance is slipping, and during the performance review, the employee is surprised with negative feedback, a low performance score, a missed promotion opportunity, and possibly even a threat of termination. Not providing feedback throughout the year (on both good and bad performance) is a common mistake managers make. This amounts to literally ambushing the employee.

This ‘ambushing’ isn’t fair to your employees, and should not be encouraged during performance reviews.

Employee’s need more frequent feedback on how the perform and not just an annual evaluation to explain to them what they are doing right and wrong.

Regular one-on-one sessions should be encouraged at least twice each month.

Performance reviews form a crucial part of an employee’s motivation and development; therefore every concerted effort should be put in place to ensure it achieves its purpose.

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