It Is Time To Eliminate Annual Assessments

An employee's annual assessment can do more harm than good, by de-motivating employees with inappropriate performance measures. It’s always better to regularly meet with your employee and take in what’s going on.

Lack of feedback is what employees and executives criticize most, according to a study by the American management firm Saba, which surveyed 1,200 human resources managers and employees in August 2016. Even worse, a third of evaluations diminish employee performance, according to an Israeli-American study. 

“How do you evaluate someone who works 1,800 hours a year? It's impossible. It only ends in frustration,” says Philippe Zinser, founder of Heritage HR, which advocates for the abolition of the annual assessment. He says this type of expeditious encounter, often ill-prepared, only puts the employee in a defensive mode. The exchange is even more infantilizing if the employer notes the performance on a scale of 1 to 5 or 10. “We want to deal with professionals, but we are rated as children,” he states.

The manager often takes this opportunity to tell the employee everything they need to improve on, but this is not the right context, according to Zinser. He believes we must resolve problems within three days of their occurrence, otherwise the discussion loses its meaning. The evaluation report must also not be forgotten somewhere in a binder afterwards.

Replacing the annual assessment

Zinser says a manager should meet their employee at least three times a year to take stock of their progress. These ‘collaborative meetings,’ as he calls them, must be an opportunity to set goals with the employee and help them project themselves into the future. Moreover, wage negotiation must be done in a separate meeting.

The ideal scenario is to drop the evaluation grid completely and ask simple and open questions, such as asking if they are fulfilled with the work they are doing. This seemingly innocuous question opens the discussion to real concerns. The employee must understand that this is not a questioning session or an assessment of all their errors.

Some companies have adopted a 360-degree assessment method, whereas evaluation is done by various sources, including colleagues. This provides a more accurate picture of an employee's appreciation and performance, as the employee generally spends much more time with colleagues than with supervisors. In the early 2000s, Cirque du Soleil pushed the concept even further, allowing employees to self-evaluate. The evaluation document was signed by the employer and the employee, who both had to agree with what was written.

This type of evaluation, however, requires a change of culture within the company and a great maturity, both from the executives and employees. “It's a movement of substance. The new generation no longer wants to be evaluated and managed in a hierarchical way. Businesses are changing, but they are reassured to see that others have done so before making the leap,” says Philippe Zinser.

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