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Should Performance Appraisals Really Be "Fun"

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OK, I get that its marketing. Almost anything to grab attention. Still, I was surprised to come across the following ad on Google search results from Halogen Software, a major company that sells automation software for performance reviews.

Performance Appraisal Ad Claiming It Can Be Fun

I am bemused at the idea that somehow, we can make performance appraisals "fun", and then it struck me that the ad is indicative of a completely confused set of priorities about doing performance reviews, and their place within a performance management system.

Things To Keep In Mind About What Performance Reviews Are Really About

  1. It's impossible for any software or technology to significantly improve the value of performance reviews, because quite honestly, the value lies in the CONVERSATIONS that occur in discussing performance, identifying barriers to performance and working together to remove them.
  2. It's not about "fun". I get that almost everybody hates the process, but that's primarily because it's implemented poorly, and focuses on the manager sitting in judgment of the employee. That pits manager vs. employee. When done properly managing performance is about employee engagement, creating meaningful work, reducing conflict, reducing micromanagement, and a lot more. But fun? No, not fun.
  3. Some things will never be fun but are worth doing. Drawing up a will with a lawyer is important but its not fun. It's not meant to be fun. Go to an amusement park, read a good book, or whatever turns your crank for fun. Some things, like managing performance are worth doing because of the PAYOFFS.
  4. In the ad, Halogen talks about making appraisals simple. Well, we've had over-simplification, and ticking off boxes on those dreadful evaluation forms for decades, and THAT is part of the problem. Simple is not always good. Useful is good. 
  5. Managing performance is simply good management, but that's not the same as doing just performance reviews, and good management isn't always "fun" or simple. It's about harnessing the power of people to pull in the same direction to meet the goals of the company, while at the same time, helping employees grow and improve. If we've gotten to the point where we have to make these things "fun" or simple, then our companies are in big trouble.

Conclusions On Fun And Reviews

Fun, and making things simple are distractions, much like performance review forms. They talk away from our focus, and look at managing performance as a necessary evil that we have to dress up in fancy dress. We need to teach companies and managers that the payoffs can be phenomenal.

We don't look at making a visit to the lawyer more fun. Or having a prostate exam fun. Or many other things. We do those things and many others because there are strong reasons to INVEST in them. That's what we need to do with performance management.

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