Should performance appraisals be abolished?

23 suggestions for improving the performance management process

Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl 

For many employers, it’s that dreaded time of year once again – time to do performance reviews. Few managers or employees look forward to this often painful process. 

If not done properly, performance reviews can lead to disengagement, poor morale, allegations of favouritism, increased turnover and even legal action. Therefore, there’s little wonder some experts are starting to call for the outright abolition of performance reviews. 

However, I wouldn’t necessarily go that far. When handled correctly, performance appraisals can provide meaningful feedback, communicate expectations, motivate employees, facilitate employee development and career planning, and assist employees in attaining individual and organizational goals and objectives. 

The following are some suggestions on how to facilitate effective performance management in your organization – grouped into five broad themes. While some suggestions are organizational or systemic in nature, others come down to individual managers. HR can help by providing appropriate coaching, training and communications around the performance management process. 

Goal setting and evaluation 

  • Allow employees input into setting their own performance goals.
  • Ensure employees develop “SMART” (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals as part of the performance planning process.
  • Cascade clearly defined organizational goals and objectives. Ensure individual goals relate to organizational priorities.
  • Ensure individual goals are congruent with the organization’s vision, mission and values.
  • Ensure a similar level of challenge is built into individual goals and objectives for employees at the same level.
  • Allow employees to change goals partway through the year where they no longer make sense.
  • When evaluating the completion of goals, consider extenuating circumstances, shifting priorities and new organizational realities.  


  • Set objective standards of performance; ensure those are communicated across the organization.
  • Train managers on employee performance standards and expectations – particularly with regard to the same or substantially similar roles.
  • Develop, communicate and enforce performance distribution guidelines with respect to performance ratings. Apply those guidelines to larger groups (of perhaps 50 or more employees) to ensure alignment.  


  • Have some type of review process to ensure fairness and consistency before ratings are finalized and communicated to employees.
  • Create an escalation or appeal process for employees who do not agree with their assessments; involve the manager-once-removed where necessary.
  • Coach managers on how to avoid bias and favouritism; include suggestions on avoiding rater errors such as recency, primacy, central tendency error and the halo/horn effect.  


  • Develop and communicate expectations and timelines well in advance.
  • Provide employees an opportunity to complete a self-assessment.
  • Ensure managers take the performance management process seriously and actually set aside time to complete performance reviews.
  • Obtain buy-in from unions where applicable.  


  • Ensure managers actually have a performance review discussion with their direct reports. Don’t just complete a form and hand it to the employee.
  • Provide training to managers on how to handle difficult performance conversations without demotivating employees.
  • Ensure managers have ongoing performance discussions, feedback and coaching sessions with their direct reports. Remember, nothing in a performance review should come as a surprise to the employee.
  • Include both positive and negative feedback in the review. Don’t personalize negative feedback.
  • Ensure managers provide adequate context for performance management by explaining what’s required of employees. What does superior performance actually look like?
  • Explain the link between pay and performance where applicable.  

Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, visit

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