employee performance evaluation

We are living in a recommendation reality. Linked In suggests people I need in my network, Amazon has another must-read Leadership book for my Kindle, and iTunes seems to know I would like an iPad version of Fast Company. And this is only in the business realm – of course Pandora selects my music, Netflix my movies, and Groupon my new neighborhood hangout. It’s true, I’ve grown quite comfortable letting algorithms guide my decision-making, but I do have standards. I will never, EVER, let a software application tell me what performance feedback to provide one of my team members of colleagues.

viaPeople has taken a stand on this important issue where many of our competitors have caved. Somewhere along the line enough clients seem to have wanted the quick and dirty approach to performance evaluation feedback that they let their professional standards be compromised. The resulting software that was developed allows managers to dump in generic, “canned” comments based on the quantitative rating selected. We all know that sometimes shortcuts are necessary to keep up with the sheer number of initiatives HR is juggling at one time. But providing managers with these “writing aids” does a disservice to everyone involved – HR, Managers, and certainly the employees being reviewed.

As far as HR is concerned, you are of course eliminating the legal scan you would typically need to make to written comments. Take this shortcut though and you will likely wind up in court anyway. Legal defensibility requires that your documentation of employee’s performance be accurate and job-related. Picture yourself sitting alongside a stern looking judge trying to explain how the performance of so many individuals who have been applying their own unique skill sets towards the achievements of a wide variety of business objectives all ended up with exactly the same comments documented in their reviews. Not pretty.

Generic performance feedback is bad for managers too. A very critical component of leadership is providing feedback in a direct and honest way. Performing this task requires proficiency in a host of skills:  skills in observing behavior, analyzing performance, exercising judgment, understanding people, giving feedback, expressing concerns constructively, coaching, and motivating others. If you take this away by giving them the easy out of a writing aid, you undermine the very development you are purporting to believe is so important.

And let’s not forget about the poor employee who gleans absolutely nothing from the bland, watered down comments that appear on her review. When she and her colleagues inevitably compare notes on their Facebook walls, the value of your company’s performance evaluation process is pretty much dead on arrival. Trust is one of the cornerstones of employee engagement, and allowing managers to use the canned approach will ultimately mean betraying your employees.

I hope I have convinced you to take this functionality off of your Performance Management system criteria list. This is truly a case where we should not feel justified to use the technology just because it exists. In this copy/paste, algorithmic recommendation happy tech world, we can all too easily lose sight of real meaningful feedback.

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