Performance Reviews: Bouncing Back From Failure

by Srikant Chellappa Sep 26,2019

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

At the beginning of the year, hope always springs eternal.

We are filled with enthusiasm and promise for the year ahead. As HR managers, you might be especially thrilled to apply new processes you have learned and read up about, with visions of assured success floating right before your eyes. So you devise some killer performance reviews strategies. They seem destined to work. At least on paper, they seem unshakable and look like they are going to change the course of your organization.

Fast-forward to the end of the year. You realize with some regret and horror that despite your best efforts, your performance management strategies tanked, and tanked hard. As demoralizing as it is to see all your hard work devolve into rubble, it is absolutely important not to fall into a deep funk, convinced that you are an absolute failure. Instead, after taking some time to mourn your lack of success, it is important to turn your mind towards being analytical.

Here’s the thing. Performance review strategies fail all the time. Nobody lands on the right formula right away. It often takes some particularly steep twists and turns to end up with the right strategy. You are not alone, despite how you feel about it. So instead of rashly slashing your whole plan for the next year and trying something completely new, it’s time for you to put on your thinking cap and evaluate.

Where did you go wrong?

Take a long hard look at your plan and the end results of the plan. What did you plan for and what did you achieve? Break it down to its base components so that you can zero in on what worked and what did not work. Pay special attention to the problem areas and the obstacles you ran up against. Was there not enough participating or did the strategy suffer because there were too few people to implement it? When you break down the areas where you failed, it becomes easier to recognize what solutions you could have adopted. Hindsight is always 20/20. What may have not been evident then will be evident now.

Recognizing where you have gone wrong is crucial to your next performance reviews strategy. You do not want to make the same mistake next year. By identifying your issues, you can work on them and stay on top of them the next year. Or at the very least you will know what not to do.

Also read: The Performance Management Guide for Beginners

What worked?

There must have been at least a few aspects of your plan that worked. Identify those. It does not bode well to only dwell on failures. Achievements are still achievements, even when they are a part of a much bigger failure. Congratulate yourself on things that went well. These can probably be carried on to the next plan as well. Maybe you received a lot of participation. That’s a good thing right? That means, everyone at your organization is enthused about performance reviews and is willing to participate in the process. Or maybe one of your successes is that your management is supportive. That in itself is a big win because oftentimes, performance management strategies fail because everyone – especially senior management is not giving their full buy-in.

Can your plan be salvaged?

Before you dispose of your strategy, it is prudent to go over your plan once more. Maybe with a few slight modifications, you can use it for the rest of the year since it does not make sense to abruptly switch tracks in the middle of the year. However, this also depends on how badly your plan failed in the first place. Most issues are salvageable. But if it is something along the lines of poorly drafted templates, lack of transparency or confusion regarding participating, it is best to bin the plan and start afresh. Sure, it will be a pain, but at the very least you are not left with a mess to wade through at the end of the year.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2023.

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