Performance Reviews Management

Image of note paper with sketches of happy face, moderate, and sad

By Maelle Gavet

It’s time to rethink work for the COVID-19 era—performance management is the first step

I’m a huge fan of formal performance reviews. In my 10 years leading technology companies, I’ve come to see these exercises as invaluable. When done right, they can change careers, take working relationships to the next level, and increase employees’ happiness and sense of purpose. They can engender empathy between employer and employee.

In an ideal world, employees would receive constant feedback on their performance and would, at any point in time, know what they do well, how they can leverage their strengths, and what they need to improve. Managers would regularly meet with their direct reports to discuss how to support and adapt targets and projects to each employee’s ability and aspirations, professional and personal. The HR department would use reviews as a way to identify career opportunities, training needs, and unique skills waiting to be applied to existing and future business challenges.

Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. Everybody gets busy. Most managers dread and even avoid delivering criticism, no matter how constructive and useful it can be. Performance targets and expectations are not always clarified—and when they are, they are soon outdated, especially in fast-growing businesses like tech startups. Most one-on-one conversations tend to be focused on what the employee can do for the company (i.e., on his/her/their deliverables) and barely address what the company can do for the employee and how confident the employee is feeling.

The pandemic has shattered our ability to separate the personal from the professional. Companies have yet to catch up.

Originally published on August 17, 2020