The Art and Science of Performance Reviews

The Art and Science of Performance Reviews

Performance management practices are evolving rapidly and the practice of annual performance reviews is under the gun, especially as it is tied to compensation and rewards. Last week I attended a conference at the University of Akron titled “Do Performance Reviews have a Future?”. The conference was presented by The Leadership & Human Resource Management Advisory Board. This was my first time at their conference and I was impressed. The speaker lineup included professors, attorneys, consultants and HR leaders. The speakers explored various aspects of why annual performance reviews as we have historically known them are ineffective (often counterproductive), as well as alternatives to improving the process.


Many of the findings presented reinforced concepts now familiar in HR circles. For example, Adam Ross of Goodyear discussed how Goodyear is becoming more strategic and how important it is to connect that strategy to employees. Mary Vales of Hyland Software said their culture is connected to the vision, mission and values of the company, and Hyland’s commitment to their people has helped the company move up various lists of great places to work and also driven financial results.


Mary then used a short clip in her presentation that depicted a fictional employee receiving praise and positive feedback from her boss, coworkers, family and friends in a Video Review. The video evoked a powerful and positive emotional response from the employee. It was a unique approach, and one that any employee would treasure.


Alan Colquitt from Eli Lilly took another approach, talking about the science behind performance appraisals. More to the point, he talked about the lack of factual data supporting the premises of traditional appraisal processes. For example, the idea that people are motivated to perform better with pay incentives has proven false. Instead, he said, people are motivated by goals, meaning and making progress. Alan pointed out that 95% of managers are unhappy with their company’s performance management systems. If managers are that unhappy, imagine how their people feel.


Yes, the annual performance review practice took a proverbial beating that day. However, even though many companies have abandoned the practice, most have not. Or at least not completely. The challenge is to find something that is better and more effective, and then to implement in a positive manner. This can be especially daunting in global organizations. Joseph Lubin from PRADCO gave several examples of clients that were in process with changes, and the successes and ongoing challenges they face. Madhavi Rubbo from GE discussed the challenges of changing a strong company culture on this topic, as well as rolling out a new process in waves around the world. Most examples of alternatives to the annual performance review were described as works in progress with results to be determined.


Ultimately, I am not sure we answered the conferences question about whether performance reviews have a future, but I concluded that in its traditional form, at best, the performance review is on life support.


During the Q&A session, I asked the group of speakers about the origins of the movement away from the annual review – is it rooted in managements desire to improve the bottom line, or in dissatisfaction of employees? Based on their responses, it appears this change is being driven by unhappy employees. Given the growing shift in supply and demand of talent (at least growing demand), the response was not surprising. Even so, my observation is that improving the way we evaluate and recognize people does lead to greater engagement and satisfaction, and that will lead to greater profitability.


Thanks to the University of Akron, the Advisory Board, the sponsors and, especially, the speakers for a great conference!


For help developing and implementing performance review and other talent practices that contribute to greatness, please contact me. We are happy to help.


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Talent Management Practices that Lead to Greatness

Talent Management Practices that Lead to Greatness

When LeBron James entered the NBA he was dubbed “The King” and appeared destined for greatness. Now he is the best player in the world. How he got there, though, was through a tremendous amount of coaching, practice, skills development and training.   Your people have a destiny with your company as well. Is it for greatness? That depends largely on your talent management practices. With focused talent management practices that contribute to success, your people can also reach greatness.

Consider the following list of talent management practices and see how they can contribute to greatness:

Talent Management Step Talent management Practice How it Contributes to Greatness
Identify Talent Pipeline Development Scouts for Greatness
Attract Talent Employment Branding Showcases Greatness
Hire Talent Recruiting and onboarding Selects for Greatness
Develop Talent Learning and Training Prepares for Greatness
Deploy Talent Strengths Based Job Matching Positions for Greatness
Manage Talent Performance Management Coaches for Greatness
Reward Talent Compensation and Benefits Recognizes Greatness
Engage Talent Align with Purpose Integrates Greatness
Promote Talent Succession Planning Accelerates Greatness
Measure Talent Talent Analytics Predicts Greatness
Energize Talent Culture Development Sustains Greatness

Everyone wants to be great at what they do. As you develop and evaluate your talent management practices, think about how they contribute to a destiny of greatness for your people.

For help developing and implementing talent practices that contribute to greatness, please contact me. We are happy to help. Randy Samsel 216-548-0740

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A Small Business Owners Guide to Sustainable Growth

A Small Business Owners Guide to Sustainable Growth

According to the SBA, small businesses make up 99.7% of US employer firms and 64% of US job growth. Clearly we live in a country that embraces entrepreneurialism. Unfortunately, only 50% of US small businesses survive 5 years or more.


While there are many opportunities and challenges for small businesses, few are as common as finding, leading and keeping great people. Talented employees represent an opportunity and challenge for small business owners. Handled properly, great people can lead to sustainable growth. Otherwise, problems tend to ensue.


How can a business owner maximize the opportunity for having sustainable growth through talented people? The key is to create an environment that develops happy and productive people.


As this graph indicates, ‘happy’ and ‘productive’ must go together in order to have sustainable growth. If you have neither, the end is near. If you have high productivity but unhappy employees, turnover will be high which will eventually erode productivity. If you have happy employees but low productivity, profitability will suffer. It is only by achieving both that growth can be sustainable.


Most business owners are adept at figuring out how to raise productivity for their particular business. Doing so while creating a culture where people are happy can be a bit trickier. According to Gallup’s employee engagement surveys, only 32% of employees are engaged at work (involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work). Disengaged employees do not promote higher productivity. So what is a business owner to do?


A great formula to use is to: have great people (current and future employees) who are aligned to the company purpose/mission + make sure each has the opportunity to use their strengths on the job + help each realize their career goals while helping the company succeed.


While this formula for creating a winning culture is understandable and logical, there are a lot of moving parts – like recruiting, on-boarding, training, managing, motivating, retaining, etc.. A strategic, aligned and intentional approach to executing the pieces/parts of the formula provides the best chance of success. We recommend developing a Strategic Talent Plan as a guide. Click here for access to our free guide to creating a Strategic Talent Plan. Armed with a well written and executed Strategic Talent Plan, business owners can dramatically increase their likelihood of success.


For additional help creating your plan, please contact me. We are happy to help.


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Leveraging Strengths in Executive Job Search

Leveraging Strengths in Executive Job Search


Many seasoned professionals write their resumes and cover letters with as many skills and buzz words as possible, and list every area they ever worked in no matter how small or how long ago. While that may be helpful for computerized keyword selection, it is not an effective approach for executive level job search. Hiring managers rarely look for someone who can “do it all”. Instead they look for evidence of leadership and accomplishments.

Rather than trying to appear as if you can handle all tasks equally well, we recommend leveraging your strengths and accomplishments to differentiate yourself. Every study by major consulting firms shows most corporations lack the depth of leadership they need to reach their strategic goals. What are your strengths? Is leadership a major strength of yours?

Here are ten skill areas that are nearly universally in demand for executive level roles. Start by rating yourself in each area, low to high in these (for a strengths rating form that will give you a more detailed assessment in these areas, please email a request to

1.    Fundamental skills and experience for your discipline (accounting, HR, etc.).
2.    Strategy formation and execution.
3.    Technology use and implementation.
4.    Leadership of people and projects.
5.    Communication skills.
6.    Decision making.
7.    Change management.
8.    Customer focus and interaction.
9.    Industry connections.
10.    Global awareness.

Another, even more objective method of determining your strengths is to use the assessment tool that is part of the book Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.
Once you are confident about your true strengths, the next step is to tie those strengths to objective, quantifiable and significant career accomplishments. Then you have the building blocks for a resume, cover letter, elevator speech and interview content that are uniquely yours and will differentiate you in a very positive way.

Leverage your strengths in your job search and you are much more likely to find opportunities where you can truly make a difference.


To learn how to leverage your strengths, please contact us.


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The Talent Magnet Quiz

The Talent Magnet Quiz

By all measures, talent is becoming more difficult to attract. Competition for top talent is increasing and talented individuals are becoming more selective and discerning. In order to attract and retain top talent, organizations can benefit by becoming an employer of choice.

What goes into becoming an employer of choice? How attractive is your company to talented individuals? Here is a quiz to help determine how attractive your organization may be.

1.    Is your company growing and profitable?
2.    Is your company a market leader?
3.    Does your company have a positive reputation on Glassdoor? In talent communities?
4.    Has your company won awards for being a great place to work?
5.    Does your company support the community through giving back?
6.    Does your company have a well-defined and publicized mission, vision and value statement?
7.    Does your company have a record of promoting from within?
8.    Does your compensation plan include competitive salaries plus bonus opportunities that reward performance?
9.    Is your benefits plan competitive?
10.    Do you have well defined and followed policies and procedures for the following: Hiring? Onboarding? Performance management? Training and development? Succession planning?
11.    Do you provide mentors and coaches?
12.    Do you conduct exit interviews for individuals leaving the company? Do you track turnover?
13.    Do you have examples of talented individuals who have excelled in your company?
14.    Does your company have a well-defined talent strategy?
15.    Is your talent strategy embedded in your overall strategy?
16.    Do you market your employment brand internally and externally?
17.    Do you have a high performance culture?
18.    Do you understand what motivates your people?
19.    Do you have a positive corporate culture?
20.    Does your senior management team lead your talent attraction efforts?

Few companies have the right answers to all these questions. Even if a company does, there is no guarantee that company will easily attract all the top talent it seeks. Similarly, scoring poorly on the quiz does not preclude a company from attracting top talent. However, the more of these questions you can answer positively, the better you can understand your strengths and challenges in attracting top talent. Armed with that understanding, you can plot your course toward becoming or maintaining an employer of choice status. By definition, that will make attracting and retaining top talent easier.


For help evaluating and improving your talent attraction, management and retention practices, contact Randy Samsel at . There is no cost for an initial consultation.



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Talent Supremacy

Talent Supremacy

Leaders, Answer These Ten Questions For Talent Supremacy

Recently I completed the Human Capital Institute’s (HCI) program to become certified as a Human Capital Strategist (HCS). The program was awesome, as were the instructors and other participants. The tools and techniques we learned were practical and complemented the theoretical subject matter. I’ll use all of what I learned to help clients identify, attract, hire, develop and retain the talent they need to reach their goals.

While the seasoned human resources professionals were completely comfortable with the subject matter presented by HCI, I wondered how non-HR people would relate to the topics – especially business leaders. For me, many of the terms and tools we discussed struck me as HR speak (9 box grids, Belbin’s Team Roles, onboarding, engagement, etc.). So I put on my business-owner hat and tried to view the main topics in terms that made sense and that would help me understand the critical nature of strategic talent management.

If you are a business leader, answer these questions to see if you are among the talent elite:

1. Do we have a vision for our future?

2. Do we have enough leaders and other talent to reach our vision?

3. Do we know who our best performers are now and will be in the future?

4. Do the best people (ours and others) want to work for us?

5. Are our people fired up about our vision?

6. Are our people equipped to get us to our vision?

7. Are our leaders equipped to get us to our vision?

8. Are our people maximizing the use of their strengths?

9. Are our people committed to our vision?

10. Are we tracking our people progress?

If you answered yes to all ten questions, congratulations! You have the talent, leadership and people processes you need to reach your goals. You win!

If you did not answer yes to all ten, join the club. Very few companies have talent supremacy. A well written and executed strategic plan, supported by a well written and executed talent plan can help you fill in the gaps.

All organizations are only as good as their leadership and talent. Getting to ‘yes’ for these ten questions will help you win.

For help reaching Talent Supremacy for your organization, send an email to


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