Q&A: When 80% of people hate performance reviews, how can we make them better?

David Watson, Product Marketing Manager, Zenefits
Jul 7, 2022

Why do 80% of people hate performance reviews? Before opening that can of worms, we have to first understand why companies even conduct performance reviews in the first place. To help unpack this topic is David Watson, Product Marketing Manager at Zenefits, joins this episode to share the three most common pitfalls of the performance […]

Why do 80% of people hate performance reviews? Before opening that can of worms, we have to first understand why companies even conduct performance reviews in the first place.

To help unpack this topic is David Watson, Product Marketing Manager at Zenefits, joins this episode to share the three most common pitfalls of the performance review process companies fall into. While different, tune in to hear how they often go hand in hand and what you can do to avoid them.

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On this episode, you’ll hear:

  • [00:42] The purpose of performance reviews
  • [01:37] Conduct reviews more frequently
  • [02:15] Focus on the present and future, not the past
  • [02:50] Shorten the performance review
  • [03:33] Make it easy for everyone


Welcome to POPS. The shows that shows you how to shift from human resources, paperwork to people, operations for the new world of work. How by answering one question at a time I’m David Watson, product marketing manager at Zenefits here to help you answer the question, why do 80% of people hate performance reviews?

First, we should ask ourselves. Why do companies even conduct performance reviews? Well, whether it’s pen and paper, Excel spreadsheets, or a dedicated software tool, most companies today commit time and resources to running some form of performance management process. So why do we do this? There are three main reasons.

First. We want everyone rowing the boat in the same direction. We need to articulate the actions and outcomes that are important for the company and for the team. We need to communicate these goals to our employees, and we need to hold our employees accountable for achieving them. Second. We want to keep our employees productive.

An engaged workforce is a productive workforce and studies show that nothing drives engagement like regular constructive feedback on an employee’s progress toward shared goals. And third, we want our employees to improve the cheapest source of talent is internal hires. But our employees can only grow into bigger roles.

If we take the time to help them understand what skills they need to develop and how they’re gonna develop them. So even though performance reviews are conducted with good intentions, why does so many employees still load the process? While there are three common pitfalls of the performance review process that companies fall into and they often go hand in hand.

First we conduct reviews too. Infrequent. Often just annually or semi-annually, it’s a well-intentioned decision meant to reduce the workload on employees, but it leads to outdated feedback. How relevant are the things you worked on six or 12 months ago compared to what you’re doing today. And it also leads to negatively biased feedback because the actions and the outcomes most likely to be remembered six or 12 months later are the ones that were most visceral at the time.

The high drama assignment that went off the rails and the not low drama project where every milestone was hit on time and on budget. Second, typical review processes, focus on the past what an employee did as opposed to what they’re doing now. Now incorporating backward looking information is absolutely necessary, particularly when it comes to assessing whether an employee met the goals needed to warrant consideration for bonus payments.

Raises and promotions, but all too often, the conversation stops after this. Look at the past to develop your employees. It’s essential that the conversation shifts to the present and to the future, what the employee is doing, what they should be doing and how the manager. And the company will help them grow in a bigger roles.

Finally, we make reviews too long out of a desire to capture a comprehensive view of an employee. We pepper reviewers with questions and sacrifice quality for quantity. This leads to low completion rates reviews, plague by comments. Cut and pasted. From a review to review and a reviewer, fatigue and apathy.

Remember then embracing the opportunity to develop employees. Managers come to dread performance management season. Luckily, these are all very solvable problems. A lot of people, operations managers find it helpful to meet with their employees on a regular basis to talk through an employee’s performance, as opposed to once or twice a year.

Additionally, make it easy for your employees to complete the review process. Longer processes can be draining and prevent employees from providing legitimate feedback. With that being said, I’d like to leave you with this question. What gaps can you currently identify in your performance review process and what are some ways you can make the process more consumable for your staff to ensure you’re getting the feedback you need?

Thanks for joining us today. If you have any questions for us, click the link in the show notes, or if you’ve got other ideas and feedback about our show, feel free to send them to [email protected]. Take care.

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