A New Take On An Old Practice: Rethinking the Performance Review

“Get Rid of the Performance Review!” That was the title of an article in Monday’s WSJ. I’m certain many employees read the headline and thought, “If only it were that easy.” In the article, author Samuel A. Culbert promotes nixing the tired annual performance review in favor of a “preview.”

His message is simple: instead of looking back, think about what’s going to happen next. The essence is that instead of reviewing what your employees did, consider what they are going to do and how they will achieve their goals in the future. It’s sensible and makes good business sense to have your employees think about what they are going to do better, not what already happened that can’t be fixed. Culbert rightly advocates that a boss should “guide, coach tutor, provide oversight and generally do whatever is required to assist a subordinate to perform successfully.”

But, because of the anxieties associated with a performance review, that goal is lost to things like concerns over pay raises and disruptions to teamwork. In Culbert’s alternative, a preview becomes an exercise in problem-solving and promotes discussions among teammates who are going to work together more effectively and efficiently than in the past. A preview focuses on the future, and, according to Culbert, “promotes straight-talk relationships for people who are up to it.” Although a preview may not be for the fainthearted, it can be a useful mechanism to re-tool your old performance review checklist in favor of a more dynamic activity aimed at promoting employee and business development.