UK employees suffering ‘appraisal apathy’

The Cezanne HR team recently conducted a survey of 1,000 employees to assess the current state of UK performance management, and it’s safe to say that the findings make for an interesting read.

Nearly half of the employees we polled (49%) said they are either indifferent to, or dread, their performance reviews. Indifference to performance appraisals was widespread across the board (33%) but grew in line with age (45% of all ‘baby boomers’ said they were indifferent) and length of service – two in every five workers who had been with their company for at least five years stated an indifference towards performance reviews.

Our research clearly highlights a significant apathy amongst employees when it comes to appraisals – a finding that comes in the wake of the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest Labour productivity report which revealed UK productivity fell by 0.5% in Apr-Jun 2019 – the sharpest drop in five years.

While a third of employees said they were ‘indifferent’ to performance appraisals, nearly one in five (16%) admitted to ‘usually dreading’ or ‘always dreading’ them, and of these, nearly two-thirds (64%) cited their reason as ‘finding the process uncomfortable’ or ‘believing them to be a waste of time’.

Is infrequency fuelling indifference?

Despite widespread recognition that companies need to be more agile and outcome-focused, the majority of performance reviews continue to be an occasional event, with less than a quarter saying they had monthly or more frequent reviews, and close to 40% reporting that their organisation works to only one annual review.

More concerning still, one in four UK employees has never had a performance review in their current organisation (24%) and more than one in ten (14%) has never had a performance review. Of these, more than two thirds (68%) feel they would benefit from having a documented performance review if given the opportunity.

Of those who do have more regular performance reviews, the majority cited a need for ‘more focus on career opportunities and training’ (top answer) and ‘more focus on future goals and objectives (second to top answer) when indicating what they felt could be most improved.

Performance tech still a rarity

Survey results also indicated that the slow adoption of performance management technology may be a contributing factor to the UK’s productivity problem. Surprisingly, only 20% of employees reported using online performance management software, while nearly half (42%) of UK employees’ performance reviews are still being documented in printed form, creating admin-heavy processes, increased data security risk, and making it all too easy for performance objectives to be filed and forgotten.

A wake-up call for business

This widespread indifference towards performance reviews in the face of a UK-wide productivity issue should be a wake-up call to business leaders. It’s a point that our Director, Sue Lingard elaborates on, saying: “For the most part, employees want to do a good job, but they need clear goals and to feel invested in, whether that be by unlocking access to new training or other career progression opportunities.

“By setting clear and attainable performance goals and ensuring regular, constructive and future-focused performance conversations, organisations will create the most optimum environment for ongoing performance improvement and productivity.”

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