Thursday, December 5, 2013

Replacing the Performance Review

Guest post from Dr. Tim Baker

There is considerable and contestable debate in blogosphere and elsewhere about the viability of the performance review. One group - a minority - thinks that it is working very well and shouldn't be tampered with. Another group thinks that with some modifications, the performance review will be fine. Yet a third group - the group I belong to - suggest that we should throw it out. Which camp are you in?
Please don't get me wrong - I am not against performance feedback. In fact I believe it is one of the most important things a leader can and should do to develop his or her chargers. I just don't think the appraisal works as a developmental tool for leaders.

My research of managers suggests that in its current form there are eight problems the traditional appraisal has. In summary these include:
- Appraisals are a costly exercise.

- Appraisals can be destructive.

- Appraisals are often a monologue rather than a dialogue.

- The formality of the appraisal stifles discussion.

- Appraisals are too infrequent.

- Appraisals are an exercise in form-filling.

- Appraisals are rarely followed up.

- Most people find appraisals stressful.

My latest book - The End of the Performance Review: A New Approach to Appraising Employee Performance (Palgrave Macmillan) (, details a new approach to appraising employee performance.

Below is a summary of the Five Conversations Framework.
The Five Conversations Framework

Key Questions
 Month 1
Climate review
Job satisfaction, morale, and communication
    How would you rate your current job satisfaction?
    How would you rate morale?
    How would you rate communication?
Month 2
Strengths and talents
Effectively deploying strengths and talents
     What are your strengths and talents?
    How can these strengths and talents be used in your current and future roles in the organization?
 Month 3
Opportunities for growth
Improving performance and standards
     Where are opportunities for improved performance?
     How can I assist you to improve your performance?
Month 4
Learning and development
Support and growth
     What skills would you like to learn?
    What learning opportunities would you like to undertake?
Month 5
Innovation and continuous improvement
Ways and means to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the business
    What is one way that you could improve your own working efficiency?
     What is one way that we can improve our team’s operations?

Let me briefly explain my rationale for the framework to you and the topics and content for each conversation.

The first conversation, entitled Climate Review, is based upon issues surrounding the employee’s job satisfaction, morale, and attitudes toward the organization’s capacity to communicate to them in a timely, comprehensive, and understandable way.

Conversation number two, Strengths and Talents, is concerned with each employee’s unique strengths and capabilities and how best they can be used for the benefit of themselves and the organization. This conversation is about the here and now and the future.
The third conversation discusses Opportunities for Growth; it is essentially about areas for improvement in the employee’s current role.

Falling out of these two conversations ought to be a fourth conversation, Learning and Development, about ways and means of building upon the employee’s strengths and overcoming or minimizing their weaknesses. In other words, the fourth conversation centers round opportunities to support their growth.
Finally, the fifth conversation, Innovation and Continuous Improvement, is concerned with discussing and developing the employee’s ideas to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the business, both in their current work and in the team context.

Each conversation lasts no more than 15 minutes and is designed to replace the traditional appraisal.

Good leaders are likely to regularly give feedback to their staff, perhaps not in this structured way. But nevertheless, they are having regular conversations throughout the year on issues such as those raised in the Five Conversations Framework.  

About the author:

Dr. Tim Baker is an international consultant and author based in Brisbane, Australia ( According to Marshall Goldsmith, The End of the Performance Review (Palgrave Macmillan) "revolutionizes the way to view and conduct employee appraisals. Tim's method is brilliant in its simplicity and highly effective in its approach.  ‘The End’ for the traditional performance review but just the beginning for a groundbreaking new model.” 


david k waltz said...

I'm not sure that feedback is the real goal of the performance review as much as demonstrating compliance with laws, regs, 'best practices' and such, which is probably why they are not effective, everyone knows they are a 'check the box' activity and not really sincere.

Unknown said...

Thanks David for your contribution. That is why I am interested in implementing a system that is focussed on performance conversations rather than performance reviews.

TNoebel said...

I like the framework you have for ongoing feedback and development as I believe that supervisors should be having these kinds of conversations throughout the year.

Though I don't see this as a replacement for performance evaluations but a supplemental/supporting framework.

To my mind, the root issue is not performance evaluations. The issue is how they are conducted. Oganizations need to be able to assess the performance of the individual to make a variety of decisions, not the least of which is whether or not the person is in the right role.

The annual review should be just that - a review of what has transpired throughout the year. And there continues to be value in answering the question of how well someone is performing against the expectations of their role.

Jane said...

I find the performance evaluation to be more detrimental than helpful in making any type of improvement. I like the idea of the conversations. I'm not sure there is benefit to the timing - monthly. The best practice to me is base any conversation, like meetings on the situation and the opportunity.

I think it's either hilarious or prophetic that I wrote my blog today based on my opinion of performance evaluations.

Ray Williams said...

Excellent article. As an executive coach for the last two decades, I've advocated scrapping the performance review. See my article in Psychology Today:

Ray Williams