Why We Need Performance Reviews
I just checked my files, and I realized that my last performance review was four years ago. My company simply doesn’t do them.
I’ve worked for companies where it was standard to have a 1-year review, so this seems strange to me. The trend now seems to be to do away with formal reviews, which has some benefits but some drawbacks as well.
With a lot of people working freelance, the annual performance review can seem archaic, like a typewriter or fax machine. But if done correctly, they allow an important dialogue between an employee and a supervisor.
I’ll be the first to admit that performance reviews are nerve-wracking. At one job, I was simply shown a review, and asked to sign it. No discussion at all. I was given a 4/5 in one category, which was deemed “acceptable.” All I could think about was that I wasn’t perfect. What did a 4 really mean? I wasn’t given any guidance on how to get to 5, which was “exceeds expectations.”
If done correctly, performance reviews allow an important dialogue between an employee and a supervisor.
The ideal performance review will have a written review of the employee’s performance — not just a list of attributes on a scale of 1–5. It should also be conducted fairly.
Research has also shown that employees prefer appraisals that compare their current performance to their past performance. Everyone already knows who the office superstars and slackers are.
Here’s how a review can help you.
1. It allows for feedback & going over expectations
This seems obvious, but many procedures and projects change over time. I can think of a few times in a span of a few months months when priorities have shifted in a major way.
Sometimes, the guidelines for work aren’t clear. A few years ago, I was working at a job where someone called out too much and was written up. When she got the write-up, she was shocked. She had the sick time accrued, and in her mind, was using what was available to her — but missing several weeks’ worth of days in a short amount of time looked suspicious.
Imagine if someone had sat down with her and went over the expectations when it started to be a problem. Someone could’ve let her know she’d need a doctor’s note, or asked if she needed any accommodations. The outcome would’ve been a lot better.
A performance review allows a manager to see when something isn’t working out, and correct the problem immediately.
On the flip side, maybe employees are doing great, but they have no idea because they never got feedback. Simply telling them they’re doing an awesome job can give them a much-needed boost.
2. It lets you talk about your needs
If you have any requests from your boss, such as a more flexible schedule or doing some work from home, a performance review is the perfect time to discuss them.
Additionally, you can bring up any ideas you have to make work better for everyone.
3. It allows you to talk about your goals
I have some projects I’d like to take on, but the opportunity rarely comes up to discuss them. During a performance review, employees have an uninterrupted time to say, “Here’s what I want to bring to the table. I want to develop these skills. What do you think?”
At that point, a supervisor can offer encouragement and guidance. Without it, employees can flounder.
4. It illuminates your future in the company
When I first started in my current job, I worked hard, believing that if I went above and beyond, I could earn a raise.
After finally scheduling a meeting to talk about my performance and ask for a raise, I was rebuffed. They don’t give raises, I was informed — no matter how hard I worked. I was made to feel like I had wasted everyone’s time by even asking. And a promotion? I’d have to stay at least another 10 years to maybe get one, and the pay wouldn’t be much more.
At that point, I realized I’d eventually have to leave the company to get what I wanted. Management could’ve saved some time and effort by scheduling a performance review and just telling me that at their convenience.
If you’re at a company that wants people to grow and succeed, a performance review is the perfect time to say that you want to earn a promotion, and ask what you need to do to get there.
They often get a bad rap, but performance reviews can be a meaningful event. They allow feedback and discussion of where an employee (and the company) is headed.
I’d recommend that companies schedule a performance review at least every two years. Fitting in annual reviews can sometimes be tough, but employees need to know what the expectations are, and where they stand in the company.