The Employee Performance Review: Should You Reconsider?

Recent data on performance reviews shows that they can be problematic. So much so that a number of larger companies have abandoned them altogether in favor of managing employee performance through other means, most notably via an ongoing open dialogue with employees. This means feedback is given often and in a much more informal way. While possibly more time-consuming, it can allow for an overall more productive relationship between supervisors and staff.

But before deciding to forgo the more traditionally structured review, it’s important for employers to understand both sides of the story, and also how HR should be involved in whichever avenue they choose.

The pros and cons of the traditional performance review

The most significant pro of sitting down annually with an employee to discuss their productivity is that it is relatively easy and familiar process. While employers should put a lot of initial effort into their review process, once it is completed they can executive reviews year after year with modest adjustments to them. Other highlights include the chance to clarify expectations, cooperatively manage the scope of responsibilities, acknowledge achievements and address concerns. If an employee leaves the meeting having with a thorough understanding of expectations and given the tools needed to meet them (such as a training plan), then the review is a successful one. But if not, the review may have done more harm than good.

Unfortunately harmful performance reviews are rather common. While they should be objective, well-researched and conducted professionally (and with HR present), they have often suffered from being woefully subjective, ill-prepared, and to top it off, out-of-context. Sound like a complete waste of time that may even harm employee engagement and productivity? You bet. Rather than building a healthy rapport with the team, a bad review widens the gap between supervisors and their subordinates. A discouraging influence for building a healthy company culture.

HR’s role in performance reviews

If you’re not quite ready to abandon a traditional review, then let us stress that HR should play a role in developing and conducting the review. HR personnel have the knowledge and skill-set to develop reviews that are relevant and in compliance with current laws. They can also lend additional perspectives on how employee performance should be addressed and encouraged. At the very least, an HR team member should be present at the review for both record-keeping and to ensure that the process remains respectful and legal for both employer and employee. Their assistance in the procedure could help make the end result a constructive one.


It’s important to note that employee development is not a one-time thing but rather a process. And performance reviews should reflect that. It’s helpful to see them as a living entity, they grow and alter to suit the current needs and situation of employee and employer. Being able to identify where adjustments are needed is crucial to ensure that they are relevant and useful to both parties. Here is where an experienced HR team like Eos HR can help. We make sure small business teams are successful in maintaining the practices that support a productive company culture. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.

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