Friday, July 15, 2011

Gen Y Speaks Out on Performance Reviews

The start of my "Trophy Case"Image by marusin via FlickrI’ve talked about performance reviews in the past. I’ve been on both sides of the performance review myself – as an employee and as a manager. I’ve also been in the middle, as a manager executing guidelines handed down from above. And I’ve been involved in performance reviews as a middle manager, attempting to ensure equity across a broader team.

The question of performance reviews for Gen Y – those entering the workforce now and for the past ten years – is of particular interest to me, as the youngest of my children prepares to enter the workforce.

About a year ago I responded to an article where Samuel Culbert, a UCLA business professor, said that performance reviews were “dishonest and fraudulent,” a claim that I declared was a bit of a stretch. But I’m not the only one who has a beef with Culbert’s position. Kyle Lagunas, an HR market analyst at Software Advice, recently wrote a blog post of his own, responding to Culbert and another article written by Ira Wolfe called Trophy Kids: What Goes Around Come Around.

Lagunas is a Gen Y employee, and proud of it. He takes exception to Wolfe’s view that “whether we hit foul balls or home runs over the course of a year, we expect to be applauded and rewarded,” arguing that his generation “doesn’t need their hands held or their egos stroked daily.” Here’s a summary of what he has to say about performance reviews, along with my response:

Lagunas: We don’t get it. If performance reviews are so important, why are they so poorly executed? Dust off your thinking caps, modernize your reviews, and capitalize on your most valuable asset (your people).

Martin: Ouch. I agree that people are our most valuable asset, but you need to recognize that (if you have a good manager) delivering bad news at a performance review is as hard on him as it is on you. It’s not just Gen Y employees who don’t want to hear bad news at a performance review; it’s tough to deliver that message to anyone.

Lagunas: Lose the sugar coating. We suffered through the recession, too. Though strong, our idealism has definitely been tempered. If our performance can improve, tell us. Give us strong, actionable feedback with measurable goals. We can take it.

Martin: Performance reviews are not black and white – they are fraught with grey. I agree that all employees need strong, actionable feedback, and I’m a big fan of measurable goals, but don’t expect me to be able to tell you exactly what to do to succeed. Success will change from day to day, and I need you to be flexible enough to roll with that.

Lagunas: Connect with us. Don't make regular feedback so complicated. There are simple solutions that can make this easy for you. Offices with instant messaging clients know this. They’re a great tool for maintaining informal lines of communication (which we love).

Martin: I’m all for regular feedback and communication. Clarity is key. That said, too much is lost when feedback is provided via instant messaging. A simple “nice job presenting today,” via IM is fine, but if you blew it today, IM is not the tool I would use to tell you that.

Lagunas: Positive reinforcement isn’t a bad thing. Whoever demonized trophies should think again. Rewarding good performance can be as simple as an “Atta boy!” or “You go girl!” sent via email – and they go a long way in giving Gen Yers a sense of accomplishment.

Martin: I miss the days when organizations regularly held recognition meetings and promotions and awards were announced and celebrated in public. I don’t think managers are neglecting Gen Y – in fact, I suspect they give more feedback to those newer workers than their more experienced workers – but with more on their plates, smaller budgets, and larger spans of control, there is just so much they can do.

My thanks to Kyle Lagunas for entering into this dialogue. You can read his entire blog post here.

What’s your take on performance reviews?


Anonymous said...

Evan at the grand age of 57, I still like to get positive feedback of a job well done (call me a big kid) and whilst no one likes negative feedback and criticism, it is just as important.
The issue I have with performance reviews is that many companies use them as a big stick or carrot (depending on how you are doing) so that you end up worrying more about what your review will be like than the actual job, or you end up only doing things that will affect your review status in a positive manner instead of what you believe is the right/best thing to do for the company. In this day and age of 'do more, do more, do more' it also becomes a competition with your co-workers to keep your job, not something that fosters the best in people (desperation maybe). It was covered in This NPR show

I'm all for feedback but I prefer it from my peers. Anything coming via managements smells of being part of my ultimate performance review and that makes me wary.

Had to post anonymously so my employer cannot find this and use it to beat me with LOL!

Anonymous said...

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Liz Fichera said...

I think where performance reviews go wrong is when they become a "checkmark" activity--something that has to be done once a year. There's nothing wrong with continual feedback, especially after something particularly postive or negative has occurred nor is it something new either.

Liza said...

An employee should never hear feedback...either bad or good, for the first time during an annual review. A good manager will compliment good performance and discuss and mentor performance that needs improvement through out the year...

Anonymous said...

Liza -- you are so on the mark with your comment. I've run into managers who would drop bombs onto people during review time.... Or warn people that their performance was lacking when the year was 80% over which does not give any to resolve the issue.

Liz -- for far too many organizations, the review is a ticky mark that needs to be made. Along with yearly goals setting. For some organizations, the employees have no say in setting any of their goals and given canned goals they must submit as is..

It's no wonder many people don't believe in performance reviews.

Colette said...

You all make some great points.

Anonymous -- I agree that there are many (ahem) older employees who feel the same way as this Gen-Yer does. Thanks for making that point.