Continuous Improvement, Core HR, Process Improvement

Nobody Likes Performance Management

Nobody likes performance management.

Not the managers. Certainly not the employees. Not the HR team who has to roll it out year after year, and not the HRIS team that has to reconfigure the form YET AGAIN because leadership wants to “tweak” the process in response to some random article they read on the internet … well, actually they didn’t READ it, but someone described it to them.

Why We Still Do Performance Reviews

Given the fact that all of the above is (probably) true, why do we persist in putting people through performance reviews? Lots of reasons, and none of them are particularly compelling:

  • Tradition. It’s how we’ve always done it and we couldn’t possibly NOT do it.
  • Misguided hope. If we force managers to fill out a form, they’ll finally talk to their employees about development goals.
  • Merit justification. If they score a certain amount, we’ll let them get a raise.
  • CYA. We need a paper trail in order to justify putting you on a development plan so we can fire you.

It’s Not About the Tech

What’s missing here is a compelling strategic connection to the wellbeing and performance of employees. And yet, whenever I see an article about performance management, it’s almost always about the technology, not the concept itself.

In a past role, I was asked to help improve the annual performance review. People were frustrated by both the technology and the process itself. They were also frustrated by the end product of the process — a minimal merit-based pay increase.

When we started our project, we didn’t have much time, so we focused on minimizing the technology pain points — form length, approval paths, etc. But for a larger revamp of the process, we needed to have a deeper conversation with leadership about their goals. We said, “The team has the expertise to build you any process you want. What we want to know, though, is WHY you want this process, and WHAT you want it to accomplish.” And they couldn’t answer.

Technology should be in service of a strategy. Unless you know why you are undertaking a process, you shouldn’t even consider applying a technology to implement it.

What’s Your Performance Management Strategy?

As you think about changing performance management in your organization, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Why do you think performance management is important?
  • What outcomes do you want it to produce?
  • How does it help you achieve your organization’s strategy and vision?

Until you have solid answers to all of these questions, there is no point in moving forward with changes.

Otherwise, you’re just spending money on a new way to do an old process that nobody likes.


  • Mary Faulkner

    A principal with IA, Mary has more than fifteen years of experience working within organizations undergoing HR transformation. At her core, Mary is a builder and a problem solver. Her HR experience includes operations, learning and development, leadership and organizational development, and performance management.


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