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Get Rid of Annual Performance Review 

                                                                                                                       - R. Ramesh Kannan

Moving away from the unpopular bell curve and annual performance review is the "In thing" and a popular one too. Mostly because they have always been misunderstood or not looked into in detail.


What were the problem statements?


How removing them will help to solve the problem?


What is the pay off?


Before we find answers to the above questions, let us get back to the basics


1. Performance Reviews (Annual or quarterly or bi-annual):


It is called "Review" because the prerequisite is "Real time on going constructive feedback”, which should be happening in the organization. This is just an opportunity to "Review" such performance instances and jointly work on "Development action". They are not mutually exclusive.


Problem statement: The real time ongoing constructive feedback isn't happening. Many a times, managers don't know what they don't know. They are hesitant in providing feedback, lethargy, lack of clarity over goals etc. Little or no investment in "People management" facet in managers.if "Performance is managed” that results in "Business is managed", hence it is an integral part of business.


Demand-Supply situation: When the job market picks up, all these populist, re-inventing the wheel initiatives surfaces. I wonder why such "So called initiatives" were not taken during the recent recession time.


Recommendation: Focus on the problem statement "Ongoing real time constructive feedback" and fix this fundamental before any innovation.


2. Bell curve: Simply put, 10 runners run a 100 M race and naturally you will have 3 of them finishing at the 1 , 2 and 3 places. Do you give them gold, silver, bronze medals? Or just because the rest 7 of them lost those places by nano-seconds, so you split the medals equally to all of them? If you are a manager and have a team of say 10 members who do similar roles (If roles are different then the yard stick would vary), all of them are provided with ongoing feedback and also everyone's progress on the yardstick to made known to every one objectively. They all know why someone is in the top of the list, reasons behind and they also know as to what they should do to get there. They look up to each other, learn from each other and grow as a team. Bell curve is accepted. But if there's no objectivity, transparency, measurable criteria, it boils down to sheer subjectivity and the so called "HR Process" of bell curve is blamed by most of the managers. Bell curve is natural but you don't have to force-fit just because you need to meet some numbers rather have your team's performance managed by the basics.


Problem statement: Lack of objective measurements, transparency, real time feedback


Recommendation: Unless you fix this, no matter what curve we design or lack of it, we would be busy in solving this problem eternally. The problem is not with the bell curve itself, but how it is interpreted and executed. You may choose to have a bell curve or not, but have objectivity and transparency prevailed along with real time ongoing constructive feedback.