How to Make the Most of Performance Reviews?

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

Performance reviews. Love them? Hate them? If you’re like most, you fall in the latter camp. Many view formal performance reviews as a dreaded experience and a waste of time. They can cause anxiety for both the direct report and manager. But are they a necessary evil?

In one of my MBA courses, we recently read “Get Rid of the Performance Review!” by Samuel Culbert. Culbert argues that performance reviews are “negative to corporate performance, an obstacle to straight-talk relationships, and a prime cause of low morale at work.”

One technology company estimated spending $21 million per year to execute the performance review process. After surveying employees, this company found that 54% of direct reports thought the performance rating they received was accurate. Even worse, 53% of leaders believed that their direct report’s final rating actually reflected their performance.

So, direct reports are more confident in their review than the managers actually delivering the review?

Something is obviously wrong, but what should be done? A recent trend, at least for technology companies, is to eliminate performance reviews altogether. Our class had a guest speaker from Dell who shared how they came to this conclusion.

A few members of the HR team conducted an external and internal study to analyze the effectiveness of performance reviews. The team came back with several bold questions. Are performance reviews necessary, and if not, should we get rid of them? The data showed that performance reviews were causing more harm than good.

In time, the results were shared with CEO Michael Dell. He loved the idea and immediately reached out to employees: “We’re thinking about getting rid of performance reviews. What do you think?” Hundreds of people responded and almost unanimously said, “Yes! Please eliminate them!” Dell no longer does formal performance reviews. Instead, managers are required to have quarterly discussions with their direct reports. These discussions focus on performance and career development.

Dell isn’t alone. Adobe eliminated performance reviews a few years ago. In 2013, Microsoft ended its infamous stack ranking process. Several of my classmates shared that PwC recently ended performance reviews. More companies will likely follow.

While traditional performance management has its flaws, I’m not sure that all companies should end the review process. Employees need to receive feedback, especially feedback that is immediate, frequent, direct and specific. These discussions should be taking place regardless of how the company conducts performance reviews.

The onus of providing feedback falls on the managers, but direct reports are wise to initiate performance discussions. I once had a manager who asked for feedback in almost every one-on-one meeting with his manager. This may sound excessive, but it showed he was committed to improvement. When we approach our managers with an attitude of humility and a desire to grow, we’ll likely receive the guidance we need.

While these are a few steps to maximize performance discussions, I don’t have a sweeping cure-all for the performance review. I’m not convinced (yet) that eliminating formal reviews solves the problem, but we can certainly improve the process within most organizations.

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Three Steps to Successfully Manage a Career Transition

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

Last summer I interned with LinkedIn in HR, a not-so-natural move for someone who previously worked as an investment banker and financial advisor. While I was excited for the change, I showed up to the internship with virtually no experience in human resources. Sure, I had helped prior companies recruit and train new employees, but those tasks were in an informal capacity.

I felt good about the path I was pursuing, but didn’t know for sure whether HR would be the right place. Needless to say, LinkedIn took a risk when they hired me.

As I shared in a prior post, I had a great summer at LinkedIn, and I’ve since accepted a full-time offer. My career transformation was a year in the making, and I took three steps that helped me successfully manage my career transition.

Talk to everyone in that field

When I was considering transitioning to HR, I reached out to everyone I knew who had HR experience. I spoke to recent MBA grads, seasoned professionals, and even cold emailed a few Chief HR Officers. I was impressed with the amount of time people were willing to spend answering questions and sharing insights.

I wanted to know the good, the bad and the ugly, so I reached out to some who had left the field and others who had a less than stellar opinion of HR. In total I spoke with over 40 professionals, and with each conversation I felt more confident that I was heading in the right direction.

Jump in feet first

Once I felt good about my new path, I jumped in feet first. As professionals, it’s easy to get distracted by the many career options we can pursue. We often hesitate to commit to a certain path because we’re concerned we might later change our mind. It’s a valid concern, but it often prevents us from taking action.

When we fully commit to a plan of action, it’s amazing how opportunities become available. When we tell others our plan, they can ensure we’re connecting with the right people and they’ll do what they can help us reach our goals. If at some point we change our mind and decide that the path isn’t a good fit, we can always pivot. Until then, jump in feet first.

Find a role model

When I joined LinkedIn it was critical to find someone that I could look at and think, “That’s the professional I want to be.” I was fortunate to find several role models during the summer, including my manager. With role models, it’s especially helpful if you can observe how they carry themselves and how they interact with people. A lot can be learned from watching successful professionals.

LinkedIn strives to create a culture of transformation, and the company certainly enhanced my personal transformation. In addition to having a great manager, I was fortunate to have numerous lunches with HR leaders. These interactions gave me the opportunity to ask questions and receive career guidance.

By the end of the summer I felt confident that I was on the right path and I’m grateful that LinkedIn helped me transform my career.

Career transitions can be tough to navigate, but we can take proactive steps to ensure we’re heading down the right path. When considering your transition, talk to everyone you can in your prospective field, jump in feet first, and find a good role model.

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