Why people despise performance management—and 3 ways to avoid that

Posted by Kathi Enderes on August 8, 2019.

In the quest to create meaningful experiences for the workforce, there may be no area in which organizations have stumbled as much as they have over performance management. The never-ending litany about appraisals and reviews, ratings and rankings, biases and unfairness has made clear what’s wrong with performance management and how workers can become disengaged with the process. Not surprisingly, our research identified an abysmal Net Promoter Score (NPS®) 1 of –60 for performance management.2 But we’ve heard enough of how performance management is despised. Now we need to hear more of how organizations can go about making it better—and how to get it right.

Getting it right means that an organization’s workforce accepts and is satisfied with the performance management process and how that process contributes to the broader human experience that organizations are trying to create. But what many HR professionals are facing is how to get from here to there.

From our recent in-depth study on performance management3 and our ongoing work in this area,4 Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP, has identified the top 10 drivers of satisfaction among workers today.<sup>5</sup> This blog post focuses on the 3 drivers that also relate to improved workforce and business outcomes:

  • Use continuous performance management, providing frequent, multisource feedback.
  • Train managers on feedback, and leverage them to communicate the value of performance management.
  • Help leaders to create in-the-flow learning opportunities and portray mistakes as learning opportunities.

The figure below shows the reported outcomes of satisfaction with performance management. For a discussion of all 10 satisfaction drivers, as well as a more in-depth look at why performance management is generally despised, Bersin members can review How to Make Performance Management Less Hated on Bersin.com.

Source: Bersin, De loitte Consulting LLP, 2019.

Use frequent, multisource feedback

For those organizations that treat performance management as a once-a-year event to cross off the list, check-ins and feedback can be a good place to start developing how managing performance can add value to the business and, especially, how it’s considered (and even valued) by workers. Although this can be quite the cultural change for many companies, HR (with help from C-suite champions) can encourage workers and managers to discuss progress, performance, and successes as well as to identify areas for growth and development.

Organizations that have already made this change have woven these 30- to 60-minute conversations in weekly or biweekly. Not only does this rate of one-on-one time foster familiarity and understanding between workers and managers, but it can also profoundly open the communication flow between them. These outcomes further empower workers in their performance while building a relationship of transparency and trust.

Perhaps more importantly, individuals also need frequent, timely feedback from others—colleagues, partners, customers—who know their work and interact with them on a regular basis. Workers must be able to give and receive feedback openly and constructively.

Train managers on feedback, and leverage them to communicate the value of performance management

Enabling managers to more easily have these types of coaching conversations with their direct reports is key to making regular check-ins effective. The most successful organizations provide support to managers in the flow of work, leveraging just-in-time tools, resources, and guidance on how to work with their team members. Through this support, managers can learn how to begin conversations, conduct check-ins through simple and quick videos and podcasts, create slide decks to facilitate discussion, and more. And as managers become more comfortable with giving and receiving feedback, they can also become advocates for how well these conversations can encourage improved performance and contributions.

Although HR can be a great champion for communicating the true value of performance management to workers, these messages might fall flat unless they are carried forward by line managers to their teams. It’s the reinforcement in daily interactions where the satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—with performance management takes root. Not surprisingly, workers are much more satisfied with a performance management approach that they perceive as valuable.

Don’t just fail fast—fail well and learn from it

Everyone makes mistakes. We’re human and that’s how we learn and grow. But in some organizational cultures, it appears that there’s no room for errors and, therefore, no room for growth and development. If people are afraid to try, then they won’t experiment or take risks to change for the better. It’s important for workers to see how leaders at every level of the company deal with mistakes—both those they themselves make and those of others.

In some organizations, leaders openly discuss in town halls and other informal settings how they’ve made mistakes and what they learned from them. This type of communication demonstrates to people that their leaders are open to mistakes, that they encourage appropriate risk taking, and that they value learning more than risk avoidance.
Leaders can also help workers learn by creating opportunities for their development and growth in the flow of work. As we pointed out in our High-Impact Performance Management study, leaders should shift their focus from the process of performance management to the individual.

… A leader’s role must expand to empower others to think and behave differently and drive an environment of accelerated learning. Additionally, they must serve as true people leaders for their teams by coaching, communicating, and role-modeling a new mindset—a truly human-centered leadership approach.6

In summary

One key element these three satisfaction drivers have in common is that they focus on elements of continuous growth and development—which should be the primary focus of performance management today. Not only does performance management need to be continuous, it needs to be part of the daily work in order to be truly effective—and be valued by the workforce.

Members can receive more insights and guidance on improving performance management in their organization by reading and downloading the full article, How to Make Performance Management Less Hated. Not a Bersin member but want to know more? Visit the Bersin website.

Kathi Enderes, PhD, is a vice president and the talent and workforce research leader at BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP.


1 The “Net Promoter Score” (NPS®) is based on the fundamental perspective that every company’s customers can be 1. divided into three categories: promoters, passives and detractors. Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.
2 High-Impact Performance Management research, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019.
3 (1) Seven Top Findings for Enabling Performance in the Flow of Work, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Kathi Enderes, PhD and Matthew Deruntz, 2019; and (2) The Performance Management Maturity Model, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Kathi Enderes, PhD, 2018.
4 High-Impact Performance Management research, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting, LLP, 2019.
5 How to Make Performance Management Less Hated, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Kathi Enderes, PhD, 2019.
6 Seven Top Findings for Enabling Performance in the Flow of Work, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Kathi Enderes, PhD and Matthew Deruntz, 2019.

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