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The dreaded performance review

September 10, 2015 -  By

Performance reviews present a conundrum for managers for a variety of reasons. However, they are an essential part of employee engagement, satisfaction and retention. In other words, they cannot be ignored or administered poorly without damaging employee relations, reputation as an employer and your ability to attract talent. Organizations desperate to find qualified staff would do well to look at their performance review process, as it relates to the loss of previous staff members and the ability to retain current and future staff members.

Performance reviews are often tied directly to compensation. That’s a bad idea. It’s a best practice is to sever this relationship. By doing so, you can deliver performance reviews without the pressure and drama associated with compensation discussions. Then you can put the focus where it should be—on improving performance.

Performance reviews are often conducted with restrictive formats. Another bad idea. The point of the review is to improve performance by having an honest and productive conversation. It is not to fill out some score sheet that may or may not reflect what needs to be conveyed or discussed.

Performance reviews are often done once per year—if that. That’s yet another bad idea. People need constructive feedback more often than once per year, and they shouldn’t have to beg for it. Nothing feels worse than having to ask to be validated for doing a good job or to not be told that things aren’t going so well.

Additionally, reviews are often strictly backward looking. Even still, another bad idea. People want to know how to improve their performance in the future, not only to be reminded of their past failures. While the past should not be ignored, there’s nothing that can be done about it. Without focusing on the future, performance reviews miss the mark.

In many cases, managers avoid performance reviews because they’re tied to compensation, they use a bad form, they’re done infrequently and they focus on past failures. It’s no wonder that performance reviews are a conundrum.

It’s time to fix this problem by changing your process. When performance reviews are effectively delivered, they enhance future performance by creating a positive, 
conversation between a manager 
and his or her subordinate. This process promotes higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, retention and attractiveness.


Web Extra: Performance review template


Photo: ©

Phil Harwood headshot

About the Author:

Harwood is a Managing Partner with GrowTheBench and Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach him at He is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Trailblazer, NALP Consultant, and Certified Snow Professional. Harwood holds a BA in Marketing and Executive MBA with Honors from Michigan State University.

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