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If You Hate Performance Reviews This Might Be Good News

Felicity Stokes,

The time has come: your performance review. All year you’ve been waiting for — or dreading — what has become a box-ticking, unhelpful experience to determine whether or not you receive praise, a bonus or a sharp dressing down.

Of course, this is not the case for everyone, but for those who identify with this picture, bright skies might lie ahead. A group of executives has determined that the global pandemic has spelled the end of the performance review, or at least the performance review as we knew it, Fast Company reported.

Performance reviews are an age-old practice. Formal appraisals are widely believed to stem from the U.S. military’s merit rating system created in the early 1900s to identify poor performers, a system that was widely adopted by companies after World War II. Since then the practice has evolved, often becoming a formal ranking system for bonuses.

Certainly, some employees and managers have come to dislike the practice as a waste of time or a way to bring down morale. A Deloitte survey ‘Performance management is broken’ found that only 8% of respondents report their company’s performance management system delivers high value while 58% said it was not an effective use of time.

So these people might be relieved that the changes forced upon all businesses by COVID-19 could result in different ways to assess people’s performance. Nintex Director of Presales Vadim Tabakman told Fast Company that before the global pandemic, the software company carried out reviews every six months using metrics such as how many demos were carried out or how many events were attended. When work turned virtual, the company moved to monthly reviews and a greater reliance on regular one-on-ones and conversations.

“What I found is, although the performance reviews are important, it’s really come down to a slightly different tack in the way that I communicate with my teams,” Tabakman said. “I have a lot of one-on-ones, essentially every week. And I think it’s important to catch [performance issues] early on rather than wait three to six months.”

Tabakman also highlighted the importance of being honest with employees, of talking about how their work needs to be improved. When face-to-face contact is at a minimum, making time for these conversations becomes more important.

The only executive spoken to by Fast Company who reported that her company had moved toward more formal reviews in the last few years rather than away was Udemy’s Senior Vice President of People, Places and Learning Cara Brennan Allamano. By setting goals, she believed that people feel as though they are being really productive.

“And people are feeling very productive at home,” Allamano said. “But there are definitely individuals who have had their own challenges personally. If they’re taking care of kids [in] school, family members, we want to adjust their goals — goals that they can meet and achieve, and even overachieve.”

Setting the global pandemic aside, HR experts over the years have debated the pros and cons of performance reviews. While some believe that correctly conducted performance reviews are invaluable at assessing work and setting future targets, others believe that their set rules have become a hurdle for diversity, for example, or replace a focus on innovation with a focus on meeting targets.

We are all learning to adapt to a post-pandemic world, however, and some people will certainly be relieved that the annual performance review might not make it into the new normal.

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