Annual Evaluations and Deck Chairs

Today I travelled the three hours to Tokyo for an annual performance review and, like every other assessment of my contributions to the organization, the results were … misaligned. The problem isn’t so much with the management’s ability1 to adequately assess a person’s value to a corporate entity, but with the time scale. So much happens in one year that it’s difficult to accurately assess someone. Despite the appearance that raises and promotions are based on documented merit, the fact of the matter is that rewards are still delivered to the people who have most recently delivered rather than those who consistently deliver.

What’s the alternative, though? Shortening the review wonder to every six months or quarter would consume too much time and result in people paying more attention to shallow, short-term activities rather than the more productive long-term items that carry a group of like-minded people forward. Scrapping annual reviews would be lovely, but would then make the doling out of promotions, demotions, and other HR decisions as vague and arbitrary as they were decades ago.

On the way home today I was thinking about the idea of “anonymous” karma points awarded by colleagues for tasks completed over the year. This would let peers score each other on tasks and give feedback to people about when they really helped with a problem. There would certainly be some gaming of the system attempted, but this is where effective managers could come in and call out such a rare occurrence.

Would this work, though?

I’m not 100% certain but, as someone who is not enamoured with the idea of travelling 6+ hours in a single day to hear people pretend to know what I’ve accomplisged in a year, a scoring mechanism would make the search results more transparent.


  1. or lack thereof