Replacing the Performance Review

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:

are a costly exercise

Appraisals can be destructive.

Appraisals are often a monologue rather than a

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
(Palgrave Macmillan) (, details a new approach
to appraising employee performance.
Below is a summary of the Five Conversations

The Five Conversations Framework







































 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


Month 5


Innovation and continuous improvement


Ways and means to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the


    What is one way that you could improve your own
working efficiency?


     What is one way that we can improve our team’s



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

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

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