April 12 Responses

Asked to propose alternatives to annual reviews, HR pros campus-wide emphasized providing year-round feedback, replacing rating schemas with goal setting, and looking beyond immediate supervisors for fairer, more comprehensive appraisals:

1. Provide more frequent feedback

“Performance evaluation needs to be an ongoing process. There should be, at minimum, a quarterly review that ensures items are not forgotten, better reflects overall performance, and reduces surprises.”

  • Adopt more holistic view: Base evaluations on regular, ongoing appraisals.
  • Meet quarterly (or more often): Make formal and informal feedback a year-round priority.
  • Start from day one: Define goals for every new employee and use that initial goal plan as the basis for ongoing reviews.
  • Emphasize self-evaluations: Develop straightforward tools (e.g., brief web surveys) to establish goals and track accomplishments.
  • Deal with issues as they arise: Frequently exchanging feedback can make it easier to address performance problems in real time.

2. Re-think annual performance ratings

“In my opinion, the performance rating descriptors have limited value outside of the immediate unit or supervisor. There is a great deal of inconsistency across campus and even within colleges, divisions, and departments.”

  • Eliminate ratings altogether: Acknowledge that overly subjective or ill-defined ratings can decrease motivation.
  • Make ratings “pass/fail”: If ratings serve an essential function, simplify and standardize the options—for example, use them solely to establish whether performance is satisfactory.
  • Factor in frequent reviews: Avoid the tendency to base ratings on recent performance by calculating cumulative assessments from quarterly (or more frequent) reviews.

3. Focus on goals instead

“Each department should set competency goals for areas like teamwork, communication, etc. Managers should also establish technical goals specific to job functions and address them separate from competencies. Technical goals assess what employees accomplished, competencies how they did it.”

  • Look forward, not backward: Goals focus on the future, while ratings are anchored in the past.
  • Revise as needed: Adjust goals on the fly—including in between formal reviews—to recognize individual achievements and reflect organizational needs.
  • Connect individual and organizational goals: Establish how each employee’s work supports a larger mission.

4. Link compensation with performance

“I think money is among the strongest motivators for employees to strive to go above and beyond…Compensation is a form of praise and reward that is absolute, unquestionable, and valuable to all employees.”

  • Strengthen connection to annual raises: Continue to emphasize merit in apportioning available salary funds.
  • Award special compensation: Enhance and promote options for recognizing exceptional performance.

5. Expand the range of feedback sources

“As we empower employees to work toward goals more autonomously and develop cross-functional skill sets, each employee touches other departments and stakeholders more than ever.”

  • Adopt tiered system: Combine assessments from immediate supervisors, unit heads, and other reviewers for a more complete picture.
  • Include peer feedback: Draw on colleagues’ perspectives.
  • Solicit comment from customers: Look beyond the unit for additional feedback.

6. Consider additional innovations

“With variations between units, job types, and supervisory styles, we can’t expect one form or process to fit every need.”

  • Offer menu of review options: Establish basic performance-management goals and let units and teams choose the best ways to meet them.
  • Maintain continuity: Develop “change-of-reviewer” plans to accompany supervisory changes.
  • Establish supervisor accountability: Hold managers responsible for developing and sticking with review processes.