There is a debate among many HR departments about the actual value of performance reviews and if they actually increase productivity in the workplace or not. Some view performance reviews as somewhat of a system of rewarding only those who are favored by upper management, while many good deeds go unnoticed the rest of the year.

As employees and employers everywhere begin to dread upcoming performance review time, here is what the research says about how they are productive (or not). You decide.

Critics of performance reviews say that when only done once a year, they are ineffective at producing any real change in employee behavior the rest of the time. A Wharton University professor of Management, Matthew Bidwell, indicated that reviews tend to produce competing goals between employee and employer. Employees often do not get the kind of feedback they need to make honest assessments of their worth, and they are only focused on getting a raise. Employers on the other hand are focused on limiting raises and dishing out more work duties to already discouraged employees. The two nary meet in the middle.

To do performance reviews, they must be done correctly. The evidence is stacked up against doing performance reviews, but when done the right way they can be highly effective for a number of reasons. Sadly, only less than 40% of companies actually do performance reviews well, according to senior VP, David Insler, at Sibson Consulting in New York. This means the results are not valid and they do not accurately reflect the development needs of workplaces around the world. Employees at the bottom half of performing teams may feel like they are not heard, while other employees are not challenged enough.

Another concern with performance reviews is that oftentimes those done in a short time frame have the added pressure of just getting done, not getting done right. A WorldAtWork survey conducted in 2011 indicated that as many as 58% of HR managers give their own company performance reviews a grade of “C” or below because they don’t receive adequete training. The survey further revealed that there is an overall dissatisfaction and disconnect among US employees regarding performance reviews – with only 25% of those polled ever having received a positive review and 24% dreading their annual review significantly.

So, what can an HR professional do about the massive negative attitudes towards performance reviews? First, the performance review should be managed as part of an ongoing effort to improve workplace practices and performance. Managers should be conducting them as projects are completed, and at regular intervals. Secondly, the company can benefit greatly by implementing an outsourced, unbiased performance review system – so that all information is secure and accurate.

Over time  and better management of all your performance reviews, your employees will dread them less and will be able to get the feedback they need to be better on the job.

Photo Credit: Michal Marcol / HR