Once again, performance reviews are getting a bad rap.

performance reviews MotorolaSeveral colleagues shared this recent article, The end of 'valued performers' at Motorola, in Crain’s Chicago Business announcing the ‘new’ way that Motorola Solutions is implementing performance management. The first sentence of the article really caught my attention and I felt compelled to share my thoughts.

“Motorola Solutions Inc. pulled the plug on check-box employee ratings after CEO Greg Brown and human resources boss Shelly Carlin found themselves agonizing over how an executive might react to being labeled just a 'valued performer' rather than 'excellent' or 'outstanding.'”

I am going to assume that the driving force behind making the change to the performance management process was related to senior leadership’s inability to deliver what could be perceived as ‘bad news’ to an executive. We all know that it is important to be able to differentiate exceptional performance from good or mediocre performance. Leaders must be able to clearly articulate their assessment of performance in a way that is honest and productive. If not, we will be running our businesses like third grade classrooms rewarding all children so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Everyone gets a prize!

I applaud the CEO and HR leaders for putting the focus where it belongs - on ongoing dialog and coaching between employees and managers. We all know that this works but let’s be honest, this is part of a manager’s job. Ongoing goal setting, feedback and coaching is the foundation of performance management and can exist with or without the use of performance ratings. If managers were held accountable for doing this all along then the traditional ‘labeling’ system may not have been perceived as such a big problem. 

We make judgments on the effectiveness of processes, products and services every day and we are comfortable doing so. The effectiveness data that we collect drives important business decisions. Leaders need to become more comfortable making judgments about the effectiveness of employee performance and communicating those judgments to employees to ensure effective decision making on talent. Performance review ratings are just a small part of performance management. Let's stop blaming performance reviews and put the accountability where it belongs.