You’ve likely heard the trend over the last few years about prominent companies like Amazon, GE, and others nuking traditional performance reviews organization wide. There is no question the amount of inefficiency plaguing the traditional performance review process — it is laughable. Go figure when your company mandates managers talk once a year in December about underperforming in a documented-less March.

The statics do not surprise us.

It is not a coincidence that when millennials started to hit the workforce a decade ago, the complaints of performance reviews became louder. Years later, big behemoths have finally gotten rid of the dreaded and inept once-a-year annual review. It’s not that millennials were wrong, even my crazy Auntie down in Boca, the one that still pinches my cheeks with her nightmare inducing crab claws, guilts me if I don’t see her at least once a year.  

We can go on and on about why performance reviews got a bad rap, who’s to blame, and if they are effective once a year. But the reality is they are coming back and they’re coming back in a way that is millennial-approved.

I don’t have a Wakefield Research report or 3 years of Gardner-Quadrant-Magic-Ronco Product with Orange Clean data on this. This theory comes from feet on the streets and hundreds of coffee stained-shirts.

So why are performance reviews becoming en vogue?

The simplest answer: millennials are starting to manage. And just like our parents and our parent’s parents, managing is really hard.

Direct reports want to know: “who’s my boss?,” “what’s my job?,” and “am I doing a good job?”

You’d be surprised how difficult that can be with so many moving parts and a generation who works from home a lot. If you’re wondering, I did publish this while working from home.

And if you don’t tell them frequently, your employees get anxious, disorganized and unfocused. Managers and direct reports need to talk about performance reviews more than once a year.

That is why quarterly performance reviews are coming back. Not that clunky once-a-year garbage.

These quarterly performance reviews are simple, mobile, and intuitive. Best of all, we can type our responses and feelings into a computer just like when we asked our 8th grade date to the holiday dance over AIM or text.

The reality is yes, millennials want feedback, managers have a very difficult time delivering feedback (One Minute Managing is hard!), and most HR people are stuck between a rock and hard place.

One one hand, HR wants to put in some process, but on the other, there’s been a decade of complaining about how bad and ineffective “annual reviews.”

This leaves HR with 1 of 2 options.

  1. Leave it up to the manager.
  1. Mandate performance reviews.

There are pro’s and con’s of each.

Leaving it up to the manager sounds good in theory. However, this gives immense autonomy to the company and requires incredible discipline from each manager. Unless it’s a small group of extraordinary people (who do corporate crossfit), this route does not work for an entire company. Heck, it’s enough if managers occasionally hold 1:1 meetings

The Pro: managers love HR because they are not forcing a process on them.

The Con: The reality is managers (the majority) do not provide the answer to the three questions above properly so your entire workforce is at risk. In addition, little oversight could cost you your job or any real credibility in the organization for not having something when it comes to performance management. After all, everything leads back to the CEO.

Mandating quarterly performance reviews is the other option. But you’re likely thinking, “Jon, we just got rid of performance reviews because of all the data behind how they didn’t work and were ineffective.” True, but it’s likely you got rid of an annual process that was coded on software from the same mainframe NASA has been using since the Kennedy administration. Let’s just put it this way, in the year 2017, if your annual review process is costing your managers 200 hours (like documented), you’re doing something wrong.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with mandating every manager meet with each of their direct reports 4 times a year.

We are talking about: Four. Times. A. Year.

I know people who travel to Brisbane, Australia four times a year.

The Pro: There is something in place that ensures feedback. The frequency is not over-engineered or time consuming. You have your ducks in a row regarding performance management in the organization.

The Con: It takes work to mandate something.

In conclusion, simple, mobile, intuitive performance reviews are coming back. They’re needed for today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. Done right (and pick the correct vendor), HR is a beacon of trust and hope rather than a process enforcer.  

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