Article main image
Nov 9, 2022

Employees don’t like sitting in on them; managers don’t like the time spent preparing them; and often the results resemble a retrospective account of performance, rather than constructively thinking about how to improve in the future.

When universally thought of like this, it’s no wonder traditional performance reviews are rapidly falling out of favor.

According to recent research by Corporate Executive Board, US organizations spend (or is that ‘waste’?) around $3,000 per year, per employee evaluating how well staff are doing. But this same research also revealed 66% of employees questioned felt strongly dissatisfied with the performance evaluations they received in their organizations. In addition to this, 65% of employees believed performance evaluations were not even relevant to their jobs.

Whatever way you look at it, this traditional performance reviews look like wasted HR time.

But what are the alternatives?

Recently there has been the trend for 360-degree reviews. In addition, there’s been movement towards more regular pulse survey reviews.

But according to leadership expert and business book author, Julie Perrine [author of Prove Your Skills! With a Powerful Professional Portfolio], there is another option that not many HRDs either know about or implement. And these are called ‘professional portfolios’.

To find out more, TLNT sat down with her for a Q&A:

Q: Before we get into professional portfolios, why do you feel HRDs should finally ditch standard performance reviews?

 A: “Traditional performance reviews are characterized by having long questionnaires, short discussions, and hollow critiques that feel compulsory and insensitive. The entire process is not only aggravating for management and nerve wracking for employees, but more than that, people have lost faith in them. Managing performance requires a staggering amount of time (210 hours for managers and 40 hours for employees annually), but the benefits are questionable at best, with 77% of HR executives saying they don’t believe that performance reviews are an accurate representation of employee performance. The old way just isn’t working anymore – if it ever did in the first place.”

Q: Your big idea is the professional portfolio – so what do you mean by this?

A: “With a professional portfolio, the onus is off managers and on employees instead to verbalize their performance. Instead of filling out a packet of forms and engaging in a scripted Q&A session, the employee is showing the manager exactly what they want them to see. For the employee, a professional portfolio is like writing their own performance review, which can be extremely helpful for managers by relieving them of the burden of remembering every employee accomplishment from the previous year.”

Q: What makes this approach better do you think?

A: “A professional portfolio is a visual representation of an employee’s skills, training, certifications, education, etc. Typically, it contains work samples, letters of recommendation, accolades, personality type profiles, information about volunteer work or community service, past performance reviews, and anything else relevant to their job performance (and career). Some employees present this information as a physical copy; others have a digital portfolio that serves as a website for their accomplishments. The information may also be in the form of a social portfolio on a platform like LinkedIn.

A professional portfolio shows managers what the employee has accomplished in the past six to 12 months. There’s no need for managers to try to remember what the employee did – it’s all right there in their comprehensive portfolio.”

Q: Why is it important this type of approach is considered?

A: “Although traditional performance reviews were already beginning to fall by the wayside pre-Covid, now that we’re returning to some sense of normalcy, performance reviews are coming back, probably because businesses are desperate to shore up their workforce as they brace for tough economic times. But many people on both sides of the desk aren’t happy about the performance review resurgence. This thinking has led to many organizations to reimagine performance reviews. If they can’t be eliminated altogether, perhaps they can be modified to be more efficient for managers and employees alike.”

Q: Doesn’t this just heap a load of extra work on employees?

A: “My personal view is that using a professional portfolio as the basis for the performance review is a win for both sides. During the pandemic performance reviews weren’t a high priority, as businesses moved to remote work environments. So, for two years, many companies dropped goal-setting conversations and formal evaluations altogether. Now there is a demand by employees to showcase their skills.

Q: Managers can’t just leave staff to get on with it themselves though, can they? Isn’t there a preferred way of getting staff to structure them?

A: Correct. Employees need to follow a process that I call “bringing it up to P.A.R.”

That is: P – Project or problem; A – Action and R – Result.

Here’s an example: Year-End Project Plan:

Project: There were no documented procedure for how our department handled the annual year-end project. This project included so many elements that it was very easy to forget something without a written procedure to follow.

Action: I took the initiative to create a detailed project plan to document the entire year-end project that our department completes annually.

Result: The tax and accounting teams said that my first year on the project was the most efficient year-end ever. The materials have been used to train new department employees.

This project demonstrated my abilities to:

  • Organize of a large quantity of data
  • Facilitate document production to meet strict deadlines
  • Research changes and requirements

A P.A.R. summary helps the manager understand how the employee worked a task and why it was important. While not all work samples require a summary, it’s good to get employees used to including them, especially when they’re beginning to develop their portfolios.

Q: What do you see as the benefit of this approach – beyond engaging staff more in their own performance?

A: “Even a rudimentary professional portfolio can tell a manager a lot more about the employee that they thought. Strengths and weaknesses are clearer. It’s easier to identify those who need coaching, and who are the prime candidates for raises or promotions. In the current economy, a comprehensive portfolio shows who brings value to the organization – something that’s going to be more important than ever as we navigate whatever the future holds.

Q: But is it really that easy to wave goodbye to how HR has previously did reviews?

A: “For managers choosing to switch to a portfolio-based performance review, the first year may be clunky. But as employees take ownership of their successes, documenting their time and tasks, and using their portfolios as a career development tool rather than a hastily cobbled-together requirement, those on both sides of the desk will appreciate how professional portfolios can transform the performance review into something that benefits everyone. Of course, any employee can say what they think a manager wants to hear. But a portfolio requires them to back it up with tangible proof. And portfolio-based performance reviews take the emotion and guesswork out of the process, helping managers and employees review the year from an impartial, well-documented perspective.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!