Do Performance Reviews and Ministry Go Together?

Performance Reviews. Should we or shouldn’t we? That is the question. Pastors, Executive Directors and leaders in Christian ministry are split on the issue. Some look for a more biblical approach. Others adapt what works for other organizations to their ministry context. For others it falls low on the priority list compared to the day-to-day pressures.

Rather than answering this important question for you – I want to share with you some things to consider as you make a decision that is right for your people and your ministry.

Impact on People

“I am so excited, I have my performance review tomorrow” – said no one ever. The leaders and staff that I talk to don’t enjoy them. Without exception. Some see the value – but reviews are not something anyone looks forward to. A 2014 study found that 60 – 90% of employees (including managers) dislike performance reviews. Giving employees a rating actually sends people into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Some type of ‘brain hijack’ occurs.

Staff may hate the process. They may struggle with the way the message is delivered, but most people want to know how they are doing. However, saving it all up for one conversation a year is intimidating. Emotions can get in the way. Fear can make it hard to hear.

Accuracy in Results

The Corporate Executive Board reported that 90% of Human Resource professionals do not believe the annual performance review is an accurate reflection of people’s work. We like to think its an objective process – but simple brain science can show that bias is in play. The Neuroleadership Institute refers to an expedience bias – the brain’s tendency to rely on information that’s easiest to get to solve a given problem, with the ultimate goal of preserving energy. Biases are a big deal! They deserve a lot more attention, so check out this article on bias influence.

Investment of Time

Leaders invest a lot of time and energy (thus money) into the annual review process. If they are not accurate or misrepresent performance, it might be time to re-think how this thing is done. Instead of using a number, use words to describe the performance you see which requires more conversations and set clear goals and expectations. A well delivered annual performance review can require up to 200 hours of a leader’s time. What if that time instead was invested in conversations with employees?

Overwhelmingly positive outcomes are being reported as leaders shift to more frequent strategic conversations. They are seeing better communication, less administrative burden and increased focus on employee growth and development.

Final Thoughts

Whether you let the performance review live or die in your organization, people need actionable feedback for any performance conversation to be effective. Real time strategic conversations can apply new skills right now – helping your people think through new approaches for handling situations at the time instead of months later.

It becomes a way of leading so that whether you do an annual review or not, the impact is the same. People know where they stand. They know where to get support to change what they do and how they do it. The know they are valued. They know how they contribute to the bigger picture. How do they know? Because you are telling them so every day!

If you would like a few more tips on how to engage strategic conversations, download my Ultimate Leader Guide HERE.

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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