UK employees losing faith in annual performance management cycles

29 June 2018 5 min. read

A poll of the UK’s workforce has shown that annual appraisals are becoming outdated in the eyes of British employees. Over half of professionals polled described their appraisal at their current job as “pointless” or “time-consuming”.

A poll commissioned by MHR, an HR firm based in Ruddington in the UK, suggests that the traditional model of performance management is unable to keep pace with today’s fast paced economy and rapidly changing work environment. The YouGov survey of 874 workers in the UK suggests that a more agile way of working within human resources is needed in future, similar to the need for growing agility across entire operations.

The conclusion of the study is by no means new, and criticism has been heaping up for years on traditional appraisals approaches. Even so, many organisations still see their managers sit with employees to reflect on performance every few months or so, while once a year all executives come together to weigh up all performances to collate a final score. Typically this score determines key career steps, as promotions, professional development plans and salary increases are all tied to the statistical determinations of executives at present.

However, a growing number of large firms have dumped their old style performance reviews in recent times, for fear that this impersonal one-size-fits-all approach may actually exclude or inhibit talent, rather than enhancing it. High-profile firms to have jettisoned the approach include consulting industry giants Accenture and Deloitte, who both scrapped appraisals in 2015.

“Pointless” & “time consuming”

According to the research by MHR, employees emphatically consider the appraisal process a waste of time. 39% of respondents described the process as “pointless”, with the same number proclaiming the process was “time consuming”, while just 26% said that the process was “useful”.

The words UK employees most associate with appraisals

While executives are no doubt aware of these commonly held attitudes regarding performance reviews, and favour the strategy regardless as a way to boost output, HR managers in particular will be concerned with another top response. As many as 29% of British employees regard appraisals as “stressful”, and with firms increasingly needing to implement mental health and wellbeing campaigns to support workers through acute financial and workplace stress, those tasked with maintaining talent density at companies will be keen to avoid additional strain to their staff’s collective psyche.

The evaluation process has been traditionally employed to ensure top levels of output and productivity in workplaces. However, alongside the assertions that these examinations are both ineffective and panic inducing, employees also said there were better ways to get the best from them.

More regular check-ins with my manager/ employer would make me feel more engaged and focused with my work

When asked if having more regular check-ins with managers would make staff feel more engaged and focused at work, a combined 46% said they either strongly or somewhat agreed. This would potentially see quarterly or term-based evaluations superseded by more regular feedback meetings – however employers traditionally do not favour this method, as it is more resource and time intensive.

Topping that, however, far more employees said that being valued and appreciated by employers encourages them to perform to the best of their ability. A total of 46% strongly agreed with this assertion, along with a further 37% saying they tended to agree. Subsequently, more than eight in every ten staffers quizzed by YouGov said positive reinforcement would likely see their performance improve.

Change ahead

The study from MHR finds few positives in favour of appraisals. When asked to think about objectives in general, a majority of 46% did at least say that at the point of their appraisal, they feel that some of their previous objectives remained relevant. However, 16% said that at the point of their appraisal, they felt that none of their previous objectives were still useful – suggesting the sporadic nature of appraisals even limited their benefits.

The UK workforce is losing faith in appraisals

Commenting on the study, Julie Lock, Service Development Director at MHR, remarked that companies needed to seriously evaluate their policy on appraisals, rather than simply dismissing employees concerns as petty grumbling. Lock said, “With 52% of employees saying that appraisals are stressful or difficult, is there any real reason to continue with them? Just 14% of respondents said that appraisals provide all the support they need to evaluate their work and plan their career development.”

She added that the tide my already be turning against the process, concluding, “Interestingly, almost a quarter (21%) of employees said they have never had an appraisal at their current job – are those employers already ditching appraisals in favour of something else?”

MHR has recently launched Talent Check-ins within their industry-leading HR and Payroll product, iTrent. The Check-ins module acts as a framework to allow employees and managers to decide the frequency and format of conversations as and when needed. The tool’s functionality can promote team collaboration and provide a platform for effective communication and successful team working.

Elsewhere in the consulting sector, alongside Deloitte and Accenture’s experiments with different evaluation models, accounting and consulting giant KPMG is changed the way it evaluated its staff in India, in an experiment to see whether qualitative evaluations may be better suited than the traditional bell curve approach rooted within the industry. With the experiment, the Big Four firm aimed at simulating a less competitive environment, hoping that a more collaborative work culture will take hold, to the benefit of teams and clients.