Are your employee reviews making performance worse? Key takeaways from Scismic’s event

Last week, we invited Dr. Joanne Kamens to present research around performance reviews and advice on how to deliver feedback effectively. In case you couldn’t make it, we wanted to share key takeaways from our event.

1. Surprisingly, performance reviews are often found NOT to be effective.

  • Traditional annual reviews worsen performance 1/3 of the time
  • Less than 30% of employees feel their reviews are fair or accurate
  • Only 20% of employees feel motivated by their reviews
  • Employees are 3x more likely to be motivated and engaged with weekly feedback compared to traditional annual reviews

2. We spoke with employees to learn their key concerns around performance reviews, which include

  • Unclear goals
  • Not understanding how to improve or not given examples of how to improve
  • Differing messages from leadership in a matrix environment

3. Dr. Joanne Kamens presented a unique feedback system implemented at Addgene which did away with the annual performance review process.

  • Traditional annual performance reviews create anxiety and waste hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee hours for a process generally shown to be ineffective at driving employee success.
  • Real time feedback is much more effective and allows the employee to improve more quickly, and also be affirmed in real time when they do a good job. This way feedback becomes less scary.
  • “Any suggestion is an opportunity.” Think of how feedback can be supportive and as presenting employees with an opportunity to grow.
  • Implementing a constant, continuous discussion atmosphere also mitigates the biases that has been shown to be play a large role in annual reviews.

4. Not everyone can eliminate performance reviews entirely. If you need to work with your existing system, we recommend reviewing the Gallup report to implement best practices in your performance development process. We have summarized key points below.

a. Establish expectations

  • Set clear expectations. Communicate what success looks like, which will also help your employees prioritize goals.
  • Make expectations collaborative. Give your employees a voice in their own development, asking what interests them and what they want to improve on.
  • Align your employees' goals with corporate goals. Share how these goals fit into the company’s mission and the bigger picture.

b. Continually coach

  • Check in and give feedback at least 1x/week, including positive feedback.
  • Focus on growing your employees' natural strengths. While some weaknesses will need to be addressed to allow for smooth team workflows, research shows that developing employee’s strengths will have higher ROI. As an example, teaching a right-handed person to improve penmanship with their right hand will have much quicker and better results than trying to get this person to write legibly with their left hand. Look up strengths-based development to learn more.

c. Create accountability

  • Create dedicated space for reflection and evaluation.
  • Remember to credit your employee’s achievements and winning moments
  • Incorporating multiple metrics can help qualify performance. Avoid numeric scores without context. Employees have a hard time understanding what a perfect score looks like, and each manager scores differently.
  • During the dedicated reflection session, understand your employees' career dreams and how you or your organization can support them. Not feeling like they can grow in the company is the number one reason employees leave their organization.

5. Even though you’re managing people, you also may have a manager yourself! Here are some tips for you in your reflection/evaluation sessions. 

  • Keep a record of your winning moments.
  • Think of examples of how you met/exceeded expectations before your review.
  • Acknowledge shortcomings and think of ways to address them.
  • Bring feedback for the manager regarding what has been helping you (managers need affirmation too!) and what you need.

We hope this has been helpful! If you have any questions, email us at [email protected]!

Subscribe to our newsletter below to receive more helpful advice and be updated on future events. Our next event will be on Creating a Winning Benefits Package, on May 25, 2-3PM ET. Hope to see you there!

Scismic is a tech platform that helps biotech companies find qualified scientists and grow diverse scientific teams. Our specialized algorithm accurately targets relevant candidates for faster hiring, and is 2x more effective in bringing in underrepresented scientists. Learn more about us here.

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