In our last newsletter, we included a great article: “Are performance appraisals pre historic?”


The writer makes some good points for reflection, which match the general headline claims that are abounding right now about the unsuitability of performance appraisal for today’s organizations.


I agree completely with the notion that the way performance appraisal has been run and organized over the last decades is no longer viable because of changing organizational structures, and ways of working. What I do query however is the viewpoint that an annual review is no longer appropriate, and must be replaced with regular conversations. I do not mean that I don’t think regular conversations are a good thing. On the contrary, they are vital. My point is that the two are not mutually exclusive. Both should be carried out; just differently from in the past.


Firstly, it is critical to identify who will carry out these regular conversations. This is most likely to be the project leader who has the line of sight over someone’s work and contribution.


But people also need someone who cares about their overall performance, progression and development. Moreover, they also want wider recognition and visibility in the organization. This is often vital for career development and promotion. A formal annual review fills this space. It provides a valuable ‘helicopter’ view of performance, and as organizational structures become increasingly fluid, it also becomes a record of what someone has done. One of my financial services clients finds the annual process invaluable for analysing their business results and for identifying where individuals have gaps in their experience to be addressed through the forthcoming project allocations.


But who carries out this review, and how is it run when relationships between line managers and individuals have become more distant, and annual goal setting has become an anachronism? My solution to this is to place the individual firmly in the driving seat. This goes beyond the traditional ‘self-appraisal’ to giving the individual full responsibility for collecting in feedback from different sources, for recording the work they have done and results achieved, for showing they are aligned with organizational values and the strategic direction.


The model that is emerging for us is that there is an annual review – or perhaps annual record is a more appropriate term. Depending on the organization, this often provides a link to the pay review. There is also a separate review at a different point in the year to discuss longer-term development.


CIPD’s insightful “Could do better” Report into performance appraisal, December 2016, suggests that a key problem with performance appraisal is that it generally aims to achieve too much. Reviewing performance, especially where it links to pay, is incompatible with discussing development, especially longer-term career development. The latter conversation is more important than ever in our fast-moving world where talent is once again becoming scarce and where studies show that learning and development are the key retention tools. Be cautious, therefore, not to dump performance appraisal completely but to revise it, update it and make it more suitable for your business, and your people.


Come and talk to us – and create the organization of tomorrow. The Scala Group is shortly launching an online learning guide for HR professionals to support you in designing new performance appraisal processes for your organization. 

The Scala Group combines world-class consultancy & Pinsight™ technology for better leadership hires, talent reviews & impactful leadership development. Click here to find out more


©Copyright Janice Caplan 2017