Why should annual assessments be discontinued?

Outdated, a source of de-motivation and frustration, a fool’s game… According to Philippe Zinser, lecturer and HR coach, annual appraisals are no longer in vogue. Interview.

Hello Philippe. What are the main problems with annual appraisals?

P.Z. First of all, their frequency: summarizing a whole year’s work in forty minutes or so is very frustrating for employees. Especially among the younger generation, for whom it makes no sense.

Secondly, managers tend to talk mostly about what they haven’t done well, especially over the last three months, as this is fresher in their minds.

As a result, it’s an unpleasant time for both employees and managers. I know a lot of people who hate this kind of moment at the end of the year, because they realize how absurd the exercise is and how embarrassing it can be.

What approach do you suggest?

P.Z. We go back to basics and ask ourselves: why do we have this type of meeting? That’s why we recommend more regular meetings, at least twice a year, if not once a quarter. Neuroscience tells us that we memorize well the actions of the last three months. It can be as little as 20 to 30 minutes. Regularity is more important than duration.

Secondly, we’re teaching companies to adopt an approach based more on listening than judging. The very word “assessment” conveys this unbalanced relationship from the outset. It sounds very academic. For our part, we speak of “collaborative encounters”, because these should be reciprocal exchanges. We need to rediscover the meaning of a career meeting.

Is that the aim of these meetings?

P.Z. Yes, we want employees to be motivated and to look to the future. That’s why we suggest talking only about the positive and the future.

The negative must be dealt with progressively. It’s a question of managerial courage: when you’re a manager, you have to have the courage to say why things aren’t going well quickly. According to the three-day rule. Otherwise, the employee doesn’t understand why, at the end of the year, all the misery in the world falls on his shoulders. If, in December, the employee receives negative feedback on an action taken in February, he won’t understand. Why didn’t you tell me before?

The difficulty is that it’s usually during these meetings that the question of salary evolution is raised…

P.Z. That’s a mistake. This should be a separate subject. If we talk about salary, we talk about salary. But we don’t beat around the bush with the appraisal as a preamble. That’s the best way to avoid telling each other the real story! Both employee and manager are already in a negotiation mindset, which skews the whole essential part about collaboration and personal development. It’s like a game of liar’s poker.

The paradox is that I sometimes have managers tell me that they mention negative points during annual appraisals… so that employees don’t ask for excessive pay rises! In terms of demotivation, you could hardly do worse…

Why do most companies still carry out annual appraisals?

P.Z. Because they’ve always done it! It’s something that’s always been done everywhere, so why stop? Maybe there was a time when it had some effect. But today, it’s clearly no longer a good practice.

It mixes money and personal development, it’s often the manager who speaks more than the employee, it’s all about teamwork and yet it’s all about personal objectives…