Mid-year reviews

It’s that time of the year again.  As a manager here, June means it’s time for mid-year reviews.  I’ll confess, it’s one of the least favorite aspects of my job.  It’s not that I dislike giving feedback to my team, I don’t mind it at all, I try to do it actively through out the year.  As anyone that has had to go through the managers side of the process can attest, it’s often a painful, albeit necessary part of the job.

But what makes it so painful?  Our performance review form, based on objectives and competencies is pretty straight forward.  Our Human Resources team is one of the best I’ve worked with and they’ve done a great job building the performance form so I have no complaints there.

We use a system that Gartner places well into the upper right hand corner of that  ‘Magic Quadrant’.  Shouldn’t the system make the process at least a bit less painful?  I don’t think it is.  It’s not that the system is hard to figure out or lacking features, it certainly isn’t.  There isn’t much that you’d want to do from the perspective of a review that you can’t do.

For me, the most painful thing I think is the user interface in our tool, and from what I’ve seen, our system isn’t unique in this regard.  Many of the ‘top’ systems have the same problem.  The problem?  A well designed comprehensive performance form doesn’t translate well to the performance management system that displays data in a linear form.  I often end up printing the form out to get it out of the system.  I work my way through the form on paper and then going back to the system for data entry.  When I print it out for most of my team members, it’s at least 6 pages just for the objectives.  If I include everything we track, it’s twice that.

As a user, scrolling through page after page after page of memo fields and text boxes isn’t a good experience.  Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m doing these, I jump back and forth constantly.  Isn’t part of the point of performance management systems to make the experience more user-friendly and keep us from needing to go to paper?

There are ways that they could fix this, using more dynamic web forms that react better to the users.  I helped develop a great solution to this type of problem, but making heavy use of the mouse_over event.  Content blocks were nested and by default minimized, by moving my pointer over a header, the header would expand quickly and show the sub headers, by moving my mouse over one of those, it would pop open to show the content.  As soon as my mouse was moved off, it would roll back up and give me my real-estate back.  Admittedly, our first attempts were a bit too sensitive and it was more jumpy than the Blair Witch Project.  When it was rolled out, it was slick and the users loved it.  The printing of the long paper forms was reduced by over 80% in the first year.

At this point, vendors are building functionality to meet the needs of their customers – the HR teams.  In time, I believe that the products will develop to the point that they will be more usable for the end users, maybe it will be a more enjoyable experience.  With that, I submit this question to my readers, “Have you found a system that makes it truly easy on your managers without simplifying the performance management form?”

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