Annual Reviews Are a Terrible Way to Evaluate Employees
To maintain morale, stay connected to employees and avoid attrition, managers should check in with their reports every week
demoralize /dɪˈmɔ:rəˌlaɪz/ 使士气低落;使失去信心;使泄气；If something demoralizes someone, it makes them lose so much confidence in what they are doing that they want to give up. ◆The ship’s crew were now exhausted and utterly demoralized.
anomaly /ə’nɒm(ə)lɪ/ 反常[事物]; 异常现象；If something is an anomaly, it is different from what is usual or expected.
akin to something 相似，类似
fall into three broad buckets: …体现在三个方面…
idiosyncratic /ˌɪdɪəsɪŋ’krætɪk/ 乖僻的;怪异的；If you describe someone’s actions or characteristics as idiosyncratic, you mean that they are rather unusual. ◆…a highly idiosyncratic personality. 非常乖僻的个性
gritty /’grɪtɪ/ 含沙砾的；坚毅的；（对不好事物的描述）逼真的，真实的，活生生的；◆ a gritty description of urban violence 对城市暴力的真实描述 ◆ gritty determination 坚定的决心 ◆ a layer of gritty dust 一层沙尘
Gena is a really hard worker. She does technical contract support for real-estate salespeople in Southern California at one of the largest agencies in the country. She enjoys the work and is proud of the culture of the company. Her computer login data reveals that she starts work at the same time every day, and, with the exception of an hour for lunch, she remains connected and active until she shuts her computer off at 6 p.m.
And yet she is now interviewing to leave the company she loves.
Why? Because she’s just experienced what millions of workers experience: the annual performance review. And she’s been left so demoralized that she now wants to quit.
Gena, who asked to be identified by only her first name, isn’t an anomaly. Gallup data from the 2020 version of their continuing workplace research reveal that 86% of employees don’t think their annual review is accurate. In a 2018 Adobe Inc. study of a representative sample of 1,500 office workers, 22% reported that they’d even burst into tears during their review.
For millions, the annual performance review is akin to going to a bad dentist: Before you go, you dread it; while you’re there, it’s painful; after it’s done, nothing’s fixed. And yet the annual review remains a reality for most workers, even in these changed Covid-ian times. Gartner data shows that 81% of companies are considering redesigning their performance-management systems with the addition of more frequent “touchpoints.” Nonetheless, research by both World at Work and XpertHR reveal that between 63% and 80% of organizations say they still do the annual review. Most companies, large and small, hand out bonuses or variable compensation annually, so for them it makes sense to allocate these funds in the context of a once-a-year discussion about performance. It doesn’t always make sense, though, for the workers themselves.
对数百万上班族来说，年度绩效考核就像是去看一位糟糕的牙医：去之前，你心情忐忑；看的过程中，痛苦难耐；看完过后，一切如故。尽管如此，年度绩效考核仍是大部分上班族绕不开的现实，即便在被新冠疫情改变的当下，仍旧如此。市场研究公司Gartner的数据显示，81%的企业正在考虑重新设计绩效管理系统，引入更频繁的“接触点”。不过，世界薪酬协会(World at Work)和人力资源咨询机构XpertHR的研究显示，63%-80%的机构表示，它们仍然会进行年度考核。大部分企业，无论大小，每年都会发放奖金或是可变薪酬，因此对企业而言，根据一年一度的绩效考核来分配这些奖金也是可以理解的。只是对员工来说，这种做法有时并不合理。
The failings of the annual performance review fall into three broad buckets:
They are too infrequent. They are dehumanizing. They are irrelevant to real-world performance.
Goals set at the beginning of the year are irrelevant by the third week of the year. Data from ADP’s human-resources systems reveal that, after inputting their goals, fewer than 4% of people go back and check their goals even once during the year. In the real world, your actual work has precious little to do with your goals. Work happens in a continuing flow, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week.
You, the worker, experience successes and joy and struggles and frustrations, in this flow—and you want to talk to someone about it in the moment, when it’s all still vivid and fresh in your and your manager’s mind. Instead, the annual review asks you to store it all up for your once-a-year performance appraisal.
Little wonder that you feel tense and anxious going in: You know you and your manager won’t be able to remember what you’ve actually been doing beyond the very recent past; you also know that you have to get all your passions, anxieties and hopes out on the table because you won’t get another chance for a year.
Gena went into her review knowing that she was highly regarded by her agency—so much so, in fact, that the prior month they had used her as part of a study to learn how the very best contract-support people did their work. She was hoping for confirmation that she was seen very positively, a discussion about how she might learn and grow, and, perhaps, a 4% raise.
She got none of these things. She got told instead that she was a 3.
“I’m a 3?” she asked. “What’s that mean?” She was told that all employees were rated on a 7-point scale. Only a very few people were ever given 1s or 2s; if you got a 6 or a 7 you were basically fired. So her 3 put her solidly in the upper-medium range of performance. When she pushed back and asked about her work techniques being modeled for the entire company, there was a pause. “Look, we would like to have given you a 2,” her manager said. “But we’ve run out of 2s.” It’s a forced curve, she was told, so while they said she deserved a 2, they just didn’t have any left. “Perhaps you can just think of yourself as a 2,” her manager said.
Gena didn’t want to think of herself as a 2. All she wanted was someone to talk with her about her—her skills, performance, her hopes for tomorrow, her dreams of a fulfilling career.
And no, she didn’t get the 4% raise. That was only for 2’s.
Each worker is unique in what they love and loathe about their work. Even those who excel at the very same job excel differently—excellence in any job is idiosyncratic. Research from the ADP Research Institute’s series of global studies of more than 50,000 workers from 27 countries reveals that workers who report they find love in what they do, and are good at it, are far more likely to be engaged, resilient, and experience less stress on the job, regardless of what their job is. They are far less likely to express an intent to leave, or even to be actively interviewing for a new job.
说到工作中的好恶，每个人都不相同。即便是从事同一类工作的佼佼者们，也通常是在不同的方面有所长——不管干什么工作都能干好的人，只是异类罢了。安德普翰研究院(ADP Research Institute)曾对27个国家的逾5万名员工进行过一系列研究，结果显示，那些声称自己热爱工作且具有良好工作能力的员工，无论其工作类型如何，都更有可能展现出敬业精神和韧性，同时感受到的工作压力可能也更小。此外，他们表达出离职意愿的可能性也要小得多，即便是积极参与面试、寻找新工作的概率也要低很多。
The annual performance review, as expensive and as time-consuming as it is for companies to do—in a case study I coauthored for Harvard Business Review, Deloitte calculated that the process took the firm’s managers up to two million hours a year—pays no attention whatsoever to the unique loves, loathings, passions and strengths of each worker. All the really meaty details that a manager might want to explore to help a worker get better at their job are missing from the annual review. Replaced instead by vague feedback about whether they “hit their goals” this year, and what rating number this warrants.
对企业来说，年度绩效考核成本高，又费时。我曾与他人一起为《哈佛商业评论》(Harvard Business Review)编写过一个案例研究，我在里面引用过德勤(Deloitte)的数据，据它估计，企业管理人员每年共计最多要花200万个小时来完成年度绩效考核。不仅如此，每名员工的好恶、热情和长处本就不同，对此，年度考核完全覆盖不到。至于所有真正有意义的细节——管理人员或许想以此为切入点来帮助员工提升工作表现——在年度绩效考核中则处于缺失状态。取而代之的，是对员工今年是否“完成目标”的模糊反馈，以及根据完成情况给予评分。
Performance reviews miss the gritty, granular, unique raw material of real performance.
The annual review should be dead, a relic of MBO’s, KRA’s, OKR’s and all those falsely precise acronyms spawned in the Jack Welchian 80s and Andy Grovian 90s. But they aren’t. They live on—still today, OKR’s lurk inside the performance appraisals at many Silicon Valley tech giants. And they are among the reasons so many companies will wonder why they can’t keep their talent. Why one day the Genas of the world—sound, hardworking, well-intentioned people—suddenly up and quit.
年度绩效考核应被废止。它是MBO、KRA、OKR（译注：三者均为绩效管理工具，分别意为目标管理法、关键结果领域管理法、目标与关键成果管理法）以及所有那些看似准确实则不然的首字母缩略词体系，它们诞生于杰克·韦尔奇(Jack Welch)的上世纪80年代以及安迪·葛洛夫(Andy Grove)的90年代。现实是相反的。年度绩效考核依然存在——时至今日，许多硅谷科技巨头的绩效考核中仍有OKR的影子。之所以会有如此多的企业不明白它们为何留不住人才，这便是原因之一。有朝一日，全世界的“吉娜”——那些可靠、努力、善良的员工——会突然辞职，也是因为这个原因。
The irony is that the solution—what should we replace them with—is quite simple. Split the annual review in two: performance measurement and performance development. Do the performance-measurement part once a year, if yours is the sort of company that hands out variable compensation once a year. Though even here, you can drop the rating and just go straight to offering the worker the variable comp you feel they deserve—no need for the dehumanizing fakery of the forced-curved rating.
And do the performance-development part the way all good coaches (and good parents, yes?) do it: Ask every manager to check in with each team member for 15 minutes every single week. In the check-in they’ll ask just a couple of questions: What did you really love doing last week, and what did you loathe? And, What are your priorities this week and how can I help?
These check-ins aren’t for delivering feedback. Workers want attention, not feedback, and mostly attention on where they’ve shown glimpses of something good, and how they might show more of them. Cisco has tracked more than 3 million check-ins over the past four years, continuing them as a way to stay connected to their employees through the pandemic. Those managers who check in with each employee for 15 minutes every single week drove employee engagement—how committed and excited each employee is at work (as measured by surveys)—up 77% and actual first-year voluntary turnover down 67%.
When we humans get this sort of frequent, light-touch, in-the-moment attention on what we love to do and how to do more of it, we stay, we stay connected, and we stay productive. When we don’t, we up and quit.
This might seem straightforward, but we seem to have set up our organizations to actively prevent it from happening. For example, in all the news about the struggles of healthcare workers during the pandemic, one factor that rarely arises is the number of employees a given supervisor is responsible for, known in the HR world as “span of control.” In most hospitals the ratio of nurse supervisor-to-nurse is 1 to 60. How can that poor nurse supervisor check in with their people each week, even if for only 15 minutes, if they have 60 people to check in with? Well, they can’t. So they don’t. And so these 60 nurses feel unseen, with no connection, disengaged. And they leave.
Rather than focusing on managers’ span of control, companies should focus on their span of attention—and get it right, so that each manager can check in with (not check up on) each worker. Replace the expensive and cumbersome annual review with a weekly light-touch check-in, and companies may very well solve not only their hiring and attrition problems—but their well-being and productivity challenges too.
Marcus Buckingham is the author of “Love + Work: How to Find What You Love, Love What You Do, and Do It for the Rest of Your Life” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2022), a Wall Street Journal bestseller. He is currently head of People + Performance Research at ADP Research Institute.