Ah, the performance review. Is there anything in the corporate world that anyone hates more? Well, layoffs, maybe, but that’s about it. But they’re a necessary evil, right?
Well, maybe not. Adobe Systems, among other companies, have scrapped the entire concept and has doing quite well without it, thank you very much.
I recently asked Adobe why the company replaced the performance review with a less formal process. Here are their reasons, expanded a bit based on my own experience:
1. They’re extraordinarily expensive.
Writing, reviewing, discussing and presenting performance reviews (and the occasional damage control) consumes an insane amount management time. Adobe estimate that it saves around 80,000 management hours a year (roughly $8m).
2. They’re usually out-of-date.
Back in the olden days, the working world moved slowly enough so that a yearly performance review made sense. By the time a performance review is completed today, however, it’s likely the company or team has pivoted to do something entirely different, rendering the review entirely moot.
3. Managers hate writing them.
Most managers don’t have time to write much more than emails, so composing a meaningful review--one that actually might help the employee perform better--just isn’t going to happen. (Check out these hilarious real-life review comments.) It’s therefore a chore that managers know they won’t do well. And who likes tasks like that?
4. Employees dread hearing them.
For most people, getting a performance review is like getting your grades at the end of the term, but with the teacher standing over you with a ruler in order to give you a few hard whacks if your work wasn’t up to snuff. Plus, a bad review equals no raise and maybe no career. Ugh.
5. Employees tend to quit afterwards.
There’s usually a big delta between an employee’s opinion of his or her own work and what the manager hopes will be “constructive criticism.” A less-than-glowing review can sour an employee’s attitude and make working elsewhere seem more attractive. Hence: Sayonara!
6. Sharp employees can game them.
Morris didn’t mention this one but I feel I must include it anyway. Because I knew my bosses hated writing performance reviews, I always offered to provide “inputs” which is the politically correct way of saying “I’ll write my own review, OK?” Never once was I turned down and, yes, I did get big raises as a result.
7. They formalize what should be ongoing.
The most important task for every manager is coaching employees. Coaching, however, is most effective when provided on an ongoing basis. For example, Adobe employees have frequent informal “Check-in” meetings with their managers, rather than formal performance reviews.