It is hard not to read several articles a day bemoaning the performance appraisal process, and how it should be abolished. There have been a lot of reasons given for wanting its demise. However, I have discovered the real reason. Much like lawyers make the worst clients, and doctors make the worst patients, HR professionals make the worst appraisers.
How do I know this?
I have attended the SHRM Annual Conference for 16 straight years and spoken to hundreds of speakers. I have served on the Green Bay Area SHRM Chapter Board and read the reviews of every session. I have had the privilege of being on the WI SHRM State Conference Planning Committee for eight of the last ten years and have read the attendee reviews of over 500 speakers. It is embarrassing that individuals who should know how to do performance appraisal appropriately, provide such poor and inadequate feedback.
Take a gander at some of these “gems” left by attendees and imagine yourself in the shoes of the speaker(s) receiving them:
- “I hate 6:30 am classes.” “Not to mention 6:30 is quite early.” “Maybe have earlier in the day…I was tired and may not have retained all the material.” I understand that you are trying to maximize your recertification credits, but no one is forcing you to attend the conference, let alone an early morning or late afternoon session. Further, how does this in any way help the speaker?
- “Room is too hot.” “Room was freezing.” I’m sorry that the room temperature did not meet your needs, but, again, how does that help the speaker? How will it help him or her improve the content? Save it for another area of the attendee survey.
- “Horrible Speakers.” The session was a bit dull and boring.” As a professor who gets student reviews every semester, I can get 29 out of 30 positive ratings, but the negative one is going to be the one I mull over and remember. Unfortunately, there is nothing provided as to how and why the session was horrible. Where is the information that could help the speaker do better? Would you like to receive this comment about you and your performance?
- He wore a suit and was quite formal (for a session by an attorney on labor law).” “Her shoes were ugly.” Again, how does this help the speaker? Your taste may be different than theirs. Further, if this is where you choose to focus on in your appraisal, maybe there are other underlying areas that might be more appropriate. Unless there is something outrageously wrong with the outfit, it might help NOT to focus on attire at all in your feedback.
- “Didn’t realize the keynote and the breakout session were the same speaker.” The program was available four months in advance, and you didn’t bother to read it before attending?
- Two people evaluated and gave a 100% very satisfied rating…..to a speaker who canceled at the last minute. C’mon, man. Really?!?!?
I know many of you have prepped for and passed the certification exam with SHRM and/or HRCI. You certainly spent some time understanding the performance management process. You certainly know that you should focus on behaviors that employees (or speakers) have the greatest control over. And, this is the kind of nonsense that speakers are receiving?!?!?
Hence, the number one thing you should NOT do at the SHRM Annual Conference is to give speakers bad feedback. Praise when warranted. Be critical, but be constructive. Help them understand what they did poorly, and how they could improve.
If you can’t even do that well, given your training, please get out of the profession. You are making the rest of us look bad.