Ratings—Kids look, Dad Exceeds Expectations on Occasion!

As performance review season is thrust upon employees and managers this winter, the mumbling about our HR systems galvanizes our employees. If there is one thing most can agree upon, is that we really don’t like our performance review process. Based on my experience, one of the Top 10 Flaws with our performance review systems is the Rating.

In the United States, we grow up with grades. Those grades lead to lists….the A Honor Roll, the B Honor Roll and bumper stickers that say my kid is smarter than yours. Somewhere along the way, performance reviews in our organizations and businesses thought it would be a good idea to roll out ratings for their employees. Instead of A, B, C, D and F, we took our school-based 5 point rating scale and dressed it up. By the way, what happened to E?

Back to my point, at work:

A= Exceeds Expectations
B= Exceeds Expectations on Occasion
C=Meets Expectations
D=Below Expectations
F= Needs Improvement

Can you imagine thousands of employees riding home on their bus, train or car and running into their home with their awe-inspiring rating ready for a prominent spot on their fridge? Look kids, Dad Exceeds Expectations on Occasion! Perhaps an after-market of a bumper sticker series.

‘My (Wife/Husband/Partner/Dad/Mom) Exceeds Expectations at (Insert Company XYZ)

Ratings are de-humanizing. Inaccurate. Subjective and rarely serve the employee or organization positively. Progressive employers are blowing up their rating systems as I type. Good for them. They’ve grappled with the question of what is the point of the rating? If it’s to recognize top talent or the lowest performers, there are certainly more effective ways to do that. In most cases, organizations bought expensive suites of HR Information Systems and they work beautifully from a technical perspective, but they fail miserably when consumed at the individual level.

In the late 90’s and into early part of the 21st century, sophisticated consultancies advocated for forced ratings and bell curves in our organizations. By that, I mean managers needed to slot their employee ratings into a bell curve. Like sheep, we all followed General Electric and did the same thing. The problem with the forced ranking system is the law. Several iconic companies like GE, Ford and Conoco started to see a spike in employee lawsuits based on discriminatory practices that the forced rankings created.

Any way you look at it, rankings create cultural bankruptcy and legal vulnerabilities. For those that have taken down the path of getting rid of their ratings, like Medtronic, my hat’s off to you for Exceeding Expectations on Occasion.

J. Forrest is Founder of Alignamite and also Owner of Employee Strategies Inc. where they both improve performance by the companies and employees resulting in creating their places a better place to work. And no, they don’t use performance ratings.

Blogging by J. Forrest