In a perfect world there would be no annual performance or development reviews, it would just be something that happened naturally in the day to day management of people  – true or false ?

Well it’s not a perfect world so for many organisations now is the time of year when preparations start for the annual performance and development reviews – for some managers this is when they review what was planned last year for the employees development and realise very little has been done. Why does this happen so often ? Here are some of the key reason

  1. Change – Things change and a year is a long time in business, but too often these changes are not reflected in the development plan of individuals. The reason is often that the annual review and associated personal development plan are seen as a seperate process rather than an integral way to achieve the businesses objectives, including managing change that inevitably occurs throughout the year.
  2. Avoidance – For many involved in the process it can be seen as ; stressful; confusing; contentious; irrelevant; inconvenient and if this is the case it’s naturally that some might seek to put of such experiences.
  3. Inexperience – Often managers are trained in the review process itself but not areas such as communications skills; how to create development opportunities from the daily job; coaching; etc.  In many organisations managers are appointed for their ‘technical’ capability not their people management capability and this part of the job can be challenging, particularly where performance issues exist and need to be addressed.
  4. Process – For a process that takes up so much time and as such money, it’s one that is rarely measured; can we truely say it works and delivers more than it takes?  HR like things neat and consistent (I know after working in HR for 30 years). As such competency frameworks and associated appraisal processes are designed to try and cover everyone in the organisation, that’s simply not possible if you want the process to work. I recall a large retail organisation developing such a competency framework and review process which suited its retail side of its business but not its logistics or B2B operation and was totally unfit for use in these areas and particularly so at a senior management level.
  5. Leadership – Ironically whilst the senior management team should be spending much of their time developing others, it’s probably the area where they spend the least. It’s  the chicken and egg scenario – “I can’t spend time coaching and developing others because I have to firefight as I don’t have anyone else capable of firefighting instead of me” – sound familiar ? Perhaps more time invested in coaching might even reduce the fires needing to be fought.   If your senior management don’t visibly support employee development why will more junior management. The result is often a process complied with annually at best but not used as an effective tool to drive the business forward.

So what to do?

Well there is no one answer because all your organisations are unique and even sub groups within your organisation have some degree of uniqueness.  By their nature every annual review process I have ever seen attempts to treat the maximum number of people in the same way, such as by using a a single competency framework across their entire operation – it might look neat and tidy in a presentation but can the competencies really be the same across departments; at different levels of the organisation; internationally; etc – doubtful.

Perhaps we should stop seeking a one size fits all solution and accept that the key to good employee coaching and development is a trained and competent manager not compliance of a process that is held in the same regard as the business planning or accounts processes but doesn’t deserve this status – if you didn’t do any annual reviews but spent all that saved energy and expense on training the top 10% of managers in people management would you be better or worse off ?

The Metis App is a free management tool that enables competency assessment and coaching guidance by creating a bespoke framework from 27 key competencies.

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