The performance review: why consistency matters

Conducting performance reviews is a tricky part of any manager’s job. They tend to hold quite a bit of weight when it comes to judging an employee’s contribution to the organization but are also very subjective, sometimes leaving employees with unfair assessments or unclear expectations. To make things worse, managers tend to let their own biases affect performance reviews so employees may not trust the performance review at all. While these issues are all unfortunate aspects of performance reviews, they happen every day in both large and small businesses.

Why it matters for employees

Popular opinion tends to say that employees will probably never even notice inconsistency in performance reviews but that isn’t always the case. There are two main categories of inconsistency, including inconsistency from one employee’s review to another, and inconsistency across one employee’s performance reviews over time. Consistency matters to employees because although they may not pull literally compare reviews, they will talk, especially when they receive an exceptionally high or low score in an area.

For instance, one of the employees at a company I worked for actually came to me and said that her co-worker received a passing score in an area that she didn’t, even though she felt their performance was equal. Although there were reasons she truly hadn’t excelled in that area and the other employee did, that would have been a tough question to answer if their performance reviews were actually inconsistent.

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Additionally, it’s difficult for employees to understand your expectations when reviews are inconsistent from month to month or even year to year. When you inform them that their performance is acceptable when it’s not, they may be blindsided to learn that they aren’t performing well later.

Why it matters for managers

Consistent performance reviews help managers in a number of ways, with one of the most obvious being the fact that it’s an important part of training and coaching employees. When employees receive inconsistent performance reviews, you’re more likely to receive inconsistent work from them. Another aspect to consider is the legal ramification of inconsistent performance reviews, which are an important part of gathering evidence to substantiate the termination of an employee. Overall, it’s incredibly beneficial to provide honest, consistent feedback.

Your role

As a human resources professional, one of your roles within the company is to assist managers in providing consistent performance reviews. Doing so involves two main considerations: performance review training and creating a formal, standard performance review form. Many assume that consistent company-wide use of a form is enough to ensure that performance reviews are administered in the same fashion across the board but the human factor of having a manager complete the review adds a variable that you can’t always control. Because of this, it’s vital that managers are trained on how to give an unbiased performance review and are educated on what is involved in each criterion.

What measures do you take to ensure consistent performance reviews? Let us know in the comments section below.

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