2020-03-17 HR Examiner article Jamie Resker Modernizing Performance Management photo img cc0 by simone hutsch epV3faRsmLw unsplash 544x641px.jpg

The old way of fixing Performance Management relied on tweaking ratings and competencies. Today, most people have learned that continual adjustments to an outdated process isn’t the answer. How can you be sure that your Performance Management process is actually evolving and thriving?

How Evolved is Your Approach to
Performance Management?


How Has Performance Management Changed In The Last Decade?


The Old Way of Managing Performance

I once heard a VP of HR speak about the success of their most recent performance management (Performance Management) cycle. The benchmark for success was a 90% completion of performance reviews. No mention of the value to employees, managers, or how the work was improving people’s performance. It’s like a teacher collecting student papers and not reading and assessing the work, but instead giving a passing grade for handing in the paper.

Tweaking and Automating

The old way of “fixing” Performance Management was tweaking ratings and competencies. I once tried to fix ratings inflation by renaming “Meets Expectations” to “Solid Performer.” It sounded more positive, and I was sure I had found the fix. Nope. Rating inflation continued. The other fix was to move the existing paper-based system online. The system was now automated. Paperless. Yay. I heard someone say, “We automated our paper system. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.”

Hoping Managers Were Managing

Assuming that telling managers to “give feedback early and often and no surprises at performance review time” (but give an honest appraisal) was occurring. Being surprised and annoyed when a manager reported an employee’s pattern of problem performance, wanting HR’s help with a PIP or exit plan, and then learning that previous performance review ratings show no indication of underperformance (a big HR pet peeve, but part of our own making).

What Has Changed in the Last Five Years?

New Thinking Emerges: Most people have realized that the continual tweaking of an outdated process isn’t the answer. Continuous performance management went mainstream with Adobe’s Death to Performance Reviews announcement. New thinking has emerged about the value of growing and developing people throughout the year via continuous conversations.

2017-03-27 HRExaminer photo img jamie resker profile photo 200px

Jamie Resker, HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Still Skeptical and Relying on Outdated Process

For many, the idea of moving away from annual reviews to continuous performance management is still revolutionary. Many HR and Leadership teams are stuck in old thinking about the need to rate and document last year’s performance. The main sticking point seems to be the inability to come up with a solution to make pay decisions without ratings. Pay decisions can be made outside or ratings. Here’s how.

Growing Wave! But even if many organizations are still stuck, a flash flood of organizations proudly publicize that they’ve gone away from traditional processes. What began as a quiet buzz has grown into a siren of articles, talks, and technology platforms to help HR make the shift.

Ratings on Shaky Ground: The big question for many HR pros is how to remove, but still measure and track performance. Performance Management is still Performance Management; we need to track and measure progress, but how? Here’s how I do it.

The Future Of Performance Management

People, Not HR: Performance Management has been a top-down designed system serving HR’s needs to document and inform pay decisions. Performance management is no longer an “HR told me I have to fill in this form “administrivia” process.” The future of Performance Management puts the employee at the center. The employee population represents the largest stakeholder in the organization, followed by People Managers, followed by HR. The system should be designed and built with what employees want and need.

Conversations, Not Forms: We will continue to see the use of traditional forms and process shrink, replaced by solutions that emphasize face-to-face performance develoPerformance Managementent conversations that set employees and managers up for success to focus on what is working now and how to be even more effective moving forward.

Flexible System: Conversations will move beyond typical 1:1 meetings focused primarily on tasks, projects, status updates, and other transactional topics. Managers and employees will have a menu of questions and topics that can be changed or adjusted from meeting to meeting. No more form-driven processes, but a system that helps guide and direct a quick and targeted conversation that is useful, informative, and helps strengthen the manager and employee relationship.

Support and Training: Performance management training was about how and when to fill in the forms. We now have to invest in building the skills and capabilities of managers and employees to engage in conversations. These skills don’t come naturally to most, but they can be learned. Today’s Performance Management training will focus on providing the tools and skills to engage in productive performance discussions.

Technology as an Enabler: Beware of technology, including apps that claim to automate performance feedback. You can’t take the people and conversations out of the equation. Do use technology to help remind people to have conversations, facilitate dialogue, and house notes. The work isn’t the technology; tech is the facilitator and enabler of real-time dialogue.


Evolving Performance Management is no longer a new concept. There’s everything from “blowing up” performance management to “we will keep, but supplement annual reviews with ongoing conversations.” I meet CEOs and heads of HR requiring HR candidates to share how their thinking and approach to performance management has evolved.

I’m inspired daily with the stories I hear about HR pros making progress on the modernizing Performance Management front. Have you made changes to Performance Management? Please share your stories, successes, and lessons learned!

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