A Fresh Approach Replaces Outdated Process

In most companies, performance reviews are damaging to workplace culture and productivity. In some instances, they actually do more harm to employee performance.

So why do we still use this outdated system?

Well, this isn’t the case for all businesses. Performance reviews are changing, and companies such as Spotify and Amazon are shifting the dial to a self-organising team-based structure – that facilitates are more productive workplace and performance environment.

I will explain the impact performance reviews can have on business and the employee while offering suggestions on how you can conduct the process moving forward.

The dated reasons for a performance review

In the past, we have seen performance reviews stupidly scheduled for the following reasons:

  • Offering guidance on how to improve
  • Deciding on a promotion
  • Outlining an employee’s bonus or raise
  • Justifying a firing

For too long, performance reviews have been clouded with legal requirements that often justify some of the above. But the reality is, this is not conducive to creating space for improvement and paving the way for real change and praise to happen.

What is wrong with performance reviews?

While there is no silver bullet for improving performance reviews, we do notice trends that need to be done away with.

They often ignore regular and constant feedback

The formal review process is custom to anxiety and fear, and companies often forget that feedback should be ongoing. The content of the review should not be a surprise. Reviews accompanied with frequent, honest feedback can motivate employees more and make meetings much less awkward.

A performance review is useless without effective coaching

Businesses also fail to recognise that an employee is only as good as the coaching they have received. You must understand an employee beyond their performance numbers and focus on what measures can be put in place to help them succeed. Analyse whether you set them up for success in the first place.

Pitting employees against each other

Doing so can create dysfunctional competition. You want to develop a workplace culture that fosters teamwork and helping one another, and performance reviews often conflict with this. Only 22% of employees agree that their pay motivates them to do what is right for the organisation – and it is the culture and workplace enjoyment that fills the void. Ask yourself what sort of behaviour is rewarded, and do you acknowledge those who contribute to an enjoyable work environment?

Why performance reviews are biased

Through in-depth research, The Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Lab revealed patterns of ambiguity in the performance review process that disadvantage women. After reading many written reviews, the study found that women were more likely to receive vague feedback that struggled to articulate improvement areas. In contrast, men received longer reviews that outlined technical skills and expertise with great detail.

A similar study by the same institution also found that only 15% of women managers and 24% of male managers were confident about their performance evaluation process. There was a conclusion the majority of people found it to be subjective rather than rooted in fact.

12 ways you can improve your performance review process

Performance reviews are changing all over the world – for the better. I have collated twelve tips to help shape your future performance review season, foster a stronger team environment, and increase your employees’ performance.

  1. KISS
    Keep It Simple Stupid. This should not become a long process and should be coupled with regular feedback given throughout the year. Keep it short, to the point, and you will see employees engage more with the process.
  2. Look back and forward
    It is crucial to analyse the future aspirations and goals of the employee and how the manager can support this. Looking back and forward creates dynamic conversation.
  3. Outline their potential
    Focus on lessons learned rather than mistakes. Ask them where they want to go and what the journey to get there looks like.  The review goes both ways. A conversation is a two-way street, and the performance review should incorporate a section where the employee reviews their manager and the organisation.
  4. Gather feedback from multiple sources
    You want the feedback to be as well-rounded as possible with diverse opinions. This ensures that you are getting the full picture.
  5. Share a plan before the meeting starts
    This makes sure there are no surprises and puts the employee’s mind at ease before you begin.
  6. Have set standards for performance
    There needs to be a consistent standard amongst all employees, and managers should keep this across the board. Equally, employees should feel confident in knowing when they are hitting the mark and not.
  7. This should not be an annual thing
    Feedback should always be given along the way. Some people suggest using the “Annual review” as an opportunity to go over this feedback casually.
  8. Make it a conversation
    The main focus here should be to help people develop and grow, so stop doing reviews! Have a conversation and treat them like human beings.
  9. Focus on learning and growth
    How can the person get better? How can the person grow? How can the person excel? Think about this and ensure the manager removes their ego and asks curious questions with an open mind.
  10. What are their documented goals?
    This is a great time to review any previous goals they may have had and reset.
  11. Reinvent the “review” to more casual conversations
    Make it frequent and make it relaxed. Having more regular conversations removes the anxiety and makes it a normal part of the work process. It also gives managers more opportunity to be in touch with how their employees are doing.
  12. Where can you get help to reshape your performance review process?
    WCA Solutions supports clients in transforming their organisation culture, which has led to increased productivity, employee engagement, reduced employee turnover, and a positive impact on their employment brand.


WCA has developed a best practice performance process and has simple and powerful tools that work.

Reach out today to book a free initial consultation with one of the WCA Solutions experts.

Call us on 08 9383 3293.


This article was written by Bernard Mackin.

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