Why Performance Assessments Are Back in Style

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When I was a child, I would look at pictures of my parents when they were in school and laugh at how ridiculous I thought their wardrobe was. They were proud of their sideburns, bell bottoms, and floral prints, some of which have come back in style. Now as I look back at my high school pictures with my daughter, she rolls her eyes the same way I did with my parent’s picture. People can be so critical of each other, especially when they view an experience through their own personal lens. The same can be said for performance assessments which have become opportunities not to praise employees, but to criticize. It can be a rather discouraging experience for many people and leave them feeling unmotivated and disengaged. While this may be the way things have always been done in your organization, it doesn’t have to be your future.

As I reflect on the performance assessment discussions I’ve observed, the conversation usually includes phrases like these, see if they sound as familiar to you.

  • “I would like to see improvement in this area.”
  • “I noticed that you seem to struggle in this area.”
  • “I received negative feedback on this situation.”
  • “I think you could do better.”
  • “This needs to improve.”

This approach, focusing in on weaknesses, has never had a positive outcome, stop the insanity! Change the way you approach assessing employee performance, and start creating value in your organizations.

Replace Weakness with Strength

The way to do this is to apply the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, to Performance Assessments. Yes, we must talk about areas of concern, but only allow this discussion to take up 20% of the performance assessment session. Reserve the other 80% of the time to talk about the future. Use the employee strengths as the foundation for this part of the conversation. Determine how the company can leverage the natural talents and passions of the employee towards establishing and/or sustaining a competitive position in the marketplace. In his “Trombone Player Wanted” video series, Marcus Buckingham talks about the importance of helping employees to feel strong and successful every day. When employees have an opportunity to focus on their strengths and the importance of their role in fulfilling the company purpose, he/she can begin to understand his/her “why.” When people know their why, they have “clarity, meaning, and direction.” I can think of no better way to edge out the competition than to have a workforce who individually and collectively understands the why or purpose.

Future of Performance Assessments

Some may feel that the performance assessment process is reaching the end of the road and that employees are demanding different ways to receive feedback on their performance. I do agree that we should communicate and meet with employees more than one time per year; however, the ongoing points of feedback need to be pulled together at least annually to make sure that expectations are in alignment with the strategic goals of the company. Performance Assessments are not going out of style; they just need to be brought back to life in a different way (just like fashion styles). Watch our on-demand webinar on Why Performance Assessments Are Back in Style, as we help you makeover your performance assessment style to get the most value out of the dreaded annual process.


Kristi Weierbach

Categories: Workforce Management