By Eric Geiger
There is an ongoing debate among leaders as to the value of annual reviews. Some insist they are a bureaucratic waste of time. If you want to make a case against providing annual reviews, there is plenty of fodder to bolster your argument. Those who speak against them make several good points.
- Many managers don’t do them well, running through the motions of a template conversation, and therefore, they are often meaningless.
- Managers can be tempted to use the annual review time as a “catch-all” for necessary feedback and thus surprise employees with lots of feedback that is unhelpful, even harmful.
- Annual reviews teach people to delay important conversations.
And others insist annual reviews are important and valuable for the organization and for the people. Those who speak for them counter with:
- People long for feedback, and an annual review provides a planned conversation around expectations and evaluation.
- If every process were abandoned because of poor management, we would need to abandon much more than an annual review process. Poor managers delay feedback and run through the motions. Deal with them without losing the value of an annual review process.
- Actually, the process helps managers who struggle to provide feedback learn how to do so.
While all of the downsides can be true, I am still a proponent of annual reviews. I believe the downsides of annual reviews can be managed; the upsides are too valuable to lose.
Here are four reasons I utilize annual reviews and believe in doing so:
1. The Forced Pause
The grind of deadlines and day-to-day responsibilities often gets in the way of pausing to reflect with your supervisor. A scheduled annual review provides a pause in the work to reflect on the why and the how of the work.
2. The Opportunity for Development
Because the annual review is a pause, it provides an opportunity for the supervisor to coach the person on the team, to recommend books, to craft a learning plan. Wise leaders use the annual review time to develop those they lead.
3. The Learning
Not only can the supervisor coach the team member, but the supervisor can also learn more about what motivates the person, how he/she is feeling about their future development, and receive feedback on how the relationship is going. Every year I adjust my leadership based on learning from the team I oversee, as I ask them to evaluate me.
4. The Adjusting
Basketball and football teams use the forced pauses of timeouts and halftimes to adjust their plans, to tweak their approach to the game. An annual review allows for discussion about necessary adjustments in the role or in the approach—in ways that are best for the person and the whole team.