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How to Solve the Biggest Problems Surrounding Performance Reviews

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In a study of company processes influencing employee motivation, performance reviews received a total motivation score of 41 points, based on a scale from -100 to 100. Yet, for varied reasons, appraisals often fail to produce results – conducting reviews late, not setting clear objectives, using an inefficient HR and payroll solution, and inadequate management training being among the most common. Here’s how to address the common problems with performance reviews.

Late Reviews

Even the most well-intentioned manager can become so busy that he or she fails to complete performance reviews on time. But, late reviews may cause employees to feel as though their contributions aren’t valued, which can demotivate them and hinder their performance. When managers have the resources to complete evaluations on time – such as an HR and payroll solution that reduces review preparation time – it’s easier for them to follow through and conduct timely reviews.

Unclear Goals

Employees need clear, specific, comprehensible, attainable and measureable goals that are challenging and relevant to the organization’s objectives. Telling an employee to “increase production” doesn’t precisely convey your expectations. A better strategy would be to say that she needs to increase production by five units per hour by Jan. 1. This clearly articulates what’s expected of her and gives you a quantifiable basis for rating her performance.

Personal Biases

It’s not uncommon for employees to complain about the unfairness of performance reviews. For instance, an employee might assume low performance ratings are a result of a personal issue the manager has with him or her. While this is a subjective viewpoint, personal biases do exist and must be avoided during the review process.

To reduce the risk of unfair appraisals, employers can use an HR and payroll solution that allows objective, verifiable measurements, such as:

  • quality, i.e. accuracy and usefulness of the work performed
  • quantity, i.e. level of productivity
  • timeliness, i.e. whether the work is completed by a certain date
  • cost-effectiveness, i.e. how efficiently the work was produced

During performance reviews, employees may ask questions that numbers alone cannot answer. They might, for example, seek their manager’s opinion on whether they have a bright future with the company. Even then, managers should strive for objectivity by providing concrete examples to support their assessments.

Mishandling of Poor Performers

Discussing employees’ deficiencies during performance reviews is a sensitive matter that managers must handle with tact and honesty. Withholding the truth about an employee’s subpar performance only stifles growth, while revealing the truth in a harsh manner fractures self-esteem. Try to strike a balance between being helpful yet firm. For example, give the employee a thorough action plan, schedule regular follow-up meetings and explain the consequences of repeated poor performance. Additionally, inadequacies should not first be discussed in the performance review. Instead managers should address issues as soon as they arrive in one-on-one sessions.

Not all employees respond favorably to bad news. A poor performer might cry, shout, walk away or seethe silently during the review. With appropriate training, managers can learn to gauge employee reactions and respond accordingly.

Lack of Employee-Job Alignment

Employees need responsibilities that match their capabilities. Otherwise, they will not achieve their potential or perform at the required level. To assist in employee job alignment, during performance reviews you might ask employees how they feel about their roles and capabilities. Based on their responses, you can discover their untapped potential or determine whether further training or job reassignment is needed.

Failure to Keep up with Technology

By embracing newer technology that enables accuracy and efficiency, employers can implement best-practice solutions for performance reviews. For example, a single-application HR and payroll solution lets you:

  • perform timely reviews by reminding you of upcoming appraisals.
  • set clear goals based on family, department, position or employee.
  • conduct objective reviews according to required competencies.
  • establish development goals to improve poor performance.
  • create and delegate positions that coincide with employees’ abilities.

Conducting performance reviews on time shows your commitment to your employees’ success. Keeping reviews focused on what can be proven reduces arbitrary ratings. When dealing with poor performer, merging empathy with truth reveals your desire to see them grow. Discovering employees’ abilities helps you delegate responsibilities to those most capable.

These strategies can boost employee motivation, but managers cannot accomplish them alone. They need proper support – such as an HR and payroll solution that simplifies yet strengthens the appraisal process.

Author Bio: As a Human Resource Professional with over 20 years of experience, Jenny has extensive experience in management, mentoring, policy development and recruiting. Jenny's team player mentality and leadership abilities make her an elite HR Director who is always on top of the latest HR trends. She relentlessly directs associates and executives to achieve their maximum potential for both themselves and their companies.

California State Law

Why California State Laws Matter Nationwide

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Employment law constantly evolves, bringing new challenges to your HR department. By keeping an eye on changing legislation across the country, you can prepare your organization to remain compliant and be ready when laws change in your neck of the woods.

On a recent episode of Paycom’s HR Break Room podcast, we talked with Coby Turner, senior editor of the California Peculiarities Employment Law Blog and a Seyfarth Shaw associate, about a few strange employment laws emerging from the Golden State. Here are three key takeaways from our conversation.

1. Historically, California has been a trendsetter in employment law

Given California’s history as a trendsetter in U.S. law employment, business professionals should consider how the state’s laws may impact their company in the future.

One example is paid sick leave, which started in the city of San Francisco before spreading statewide. Other West Coast states – including Arizona, Oregon and Washington – since have passed similar legislation. Other California laws that have expanded beyond its borders include local minimum wage and medical marijuana initiatives.

2. Prepare your business beforehand

When a city implements a law, other cities and states wait to see how successful it is. Did the law hurt businesses? Did businesses leave the city or state? In most recent cases, like San Francisco’s paid sick leave, the answer is no.

According to Coby Turner, these changes often improve the lives and engagement of employees, which leads to organizations experiencing less turnover and more success. Turner said once a “test” city’s new legislation plays out, other cities or states may petition similar legislation on ballot measures, and employees may be the ones who push their representatives to enact such initiatives.

It’s important to be aware as these changes occur, so you never play from behind. Prepare for such changes to come to your own city or state, as word spreads fast. When top talent hears that paid sick leave or predictive scheduling are requirements in another state, they may want – and expect – the same. For employers outside of California, this makes paying attention crucial, especially if your organization wishes to attract and employ millennial talent from across the country.

3. Watch for updates on predictive scheduling and equal pay laws

Getting a lion’s share of attention is California’s measure on predictive scheduling, currently in the state’s legislature. Such laws in the cities of Berkeley and Emeryville require employers to give employees a certain amount of notice of their weekly schedule; employers making last-minute changes are penalized. Those cities also require employers to offer part-time employees more hours before hiring new people or temporary workers.

California also has instituted one of the stiffest pay equity laws in the country. Several similar laws already have been enacted, particularly on the West Coast and in various metropolitan areas across the U.S.

Additionally, the Golden State also recently required supervisors to undergo training against sexual harassment and bullying – topics expected to grow more popular within the larger national conversation about workplace harassment.

To learn more about California and its laws that gained nationwide impact, check out our posts dedicated to the golden state:


Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, California, Compliance


by Caleb Masters

Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

NCAA Tournament

Swish! 5 Talent Lessons I’ve Already Learned From the NCAA Tournament This March

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If you’re like me, you’re involved in the NCAA Tournament in some form or fashion. If you’re not actively watching the games, you are connected to the spectacle in one of two ways:

You filled out a bracket.

It’s team-building 101 in many organizations and goes something like this:

  • You complete your bracket.
  • It gets busted in the first weekend (meaning you have no chance to win after the first two rounds).
  • Then the inevitable happens: Someone with zero knowledge of basketball leads your office pool and just gives you a shrug when you ask about their secret. (Their secret, by the way, is that they don’t overestimate their knowledge of college basketball.)


You connected to the tournament via the inevitable Cinderella story.

This year’s Cinderella stories in are many, but none are better than history’s first No. 16 seed, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, knocking off a No. 1 seed, University of Virginia. If you didn’t hear about that upset, chances are you live under a rock and consume no media whatsoever. The upset was so perfect that Final Four legend turned color commentator Chris Weber noted that UMBC could stand for “U Must Be Cinderella.” Corny? Yes. Perfect? Also yes.

Swish! 8 Engagement Strategies to Drive Game Winning Performance, a bracketology webinar for management styles! 

Watercooler chat about basketball is hard to avoid in the month of March, and it’s also hard for HR pros like me to avoid turning it into a learning opportunity. With that in mind, here are five talent lessons I learned from the first weekend of The Big Dance:

1. Uniqueness wins because it’s hard to prepare for.

Whether it’s hoops or business, being different from others means you’re hard to prepare for. Syracuse deploys a defensive scheme called the 2-3 zone, while most other schools use a man-to-man approach. That means they are hard to prepare for, which was key when knocking off one of the tourney favorites, Michigan State. When you have a strategic plan that’s different than your competitors and the talent to pull it off, your organization will get unexpected wins – simply because you look and feel different from others.

2. Conservative approaches decrease your margin for error.

UMBC’s aforementioned upset of Virginia is a great example of this truth. The UMBC Retrievers play a conservative style on both offense and defense; they aren’t incredibly talented, but they execute their base strategy very well. That conservative approach wins a lot, but in a “lose one game and you’re out” type of environment, it can be deadly. The other team gets hot, and suddenly, you’re out.

The moral of the story? Even if you have a great team, never stop trying to upgrade the talent you have. Conservative approaches in basketball (the “grinding out wins” mentality) are used because they are the best way to win with average talent. The same thing is true in business.

3. Great individual talent can overcome huge disadvantages in company size and resources.

If you ever find yourself going up against Microsoft, Google or whoever the 800-pound gorilla is in your industry, never forget that a key hire with high talent can help you win more than your share, regardless of the product or service you’re providing. This is shown to be true time and time again in this month’s tournament. Whether it’s UMBC beating Virginia, or Buffalo taking down Arizona, once you step onto the court, only five players can play. Get yourself some great talent and unbelievable things can happen.

4. Matchups matter a lot – whether you’re competing on the court or responding to an RFP.

Every project, implementation or sales pitch is different. The most successful companies have managers who know how to get the most out of human capital – and tweak their approach based on the client or prospect in front of them. The most successful coaches do the same thing: Create new plans for each game, based on the challenges that are presented.

5. Great leadership is easy when you win, but more valuable when you lose.

It’s easy to look great as a coach when you win. But take a look at this compelling video of Virginia coach Tony Bennett after the UMBC loss. Being able to console your team members and show them the way forward after a crushing defeat, layoff or other negative event is key. Bennett does this with grace, which means he’s teaching and supporting in a way that transcends the game at hand. Your best managers do the same.

Every year, I’m reminded how much commonality there is between the NCAA Tourney and our lives as talent professionals.

I just wish my bracket weren’t busted after the first weekend.

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Posted in Blog, Featured, HR Management, Leadership

by Kris Dunn

Author Bio: Kris Dunn is a partner and CHRO at the Atlanta-based Kinetix, a national recruitment process outsourcing firm for growth companies. He is the founder of two industry-leading blogs – Fistful of Talent and The HR Capitalist – and has written more than 70 feature columns for Workforce Management magazine. He previously served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular.

How to Build a Harassment-Free Workplace Culture

How to Build a Harassment-Free Workplace Culture

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Sexual harassment quickly can deteriorate – and even derail – any organization, making anti-harassment training vital. However, most companies address the issue with employees by pushing training that is routine, which is often ineffective on its own. Effective prevention of harassment in the workplace starts with creating a culture that identifies and rejects unacceptable behaviors.

Although an HR department’s role is primarily to protect the interests of the company, adopting policies and procedures for harassment and discrimination can help align the interest of both the organization and its employees. What steps can businesses take to balance both interests?

Accountability from the top down

Workplace culture is the reflection of an organization’s values, behaviors and attitudes. A healthy culture is critical to attracting top talent, driving employee engagement and retention and improving performance.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s June 2016 report, “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace,” leaders can take several steps to improve workplace culture surrounding harassment:

  1. Emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion. Harassment prevention based solely on a compliance mindset is unlikely to be successful.
  2. Conduct surveys to determine whether employees experience harassment in the workplace. The results should determine whether employees feel harassment – if it exists – is tolerated.
  3. Implement effective policies and procedures, then conduct trainings on them.
  4. Support the policies, procedures and training with resources, whether time or money. There is no better way to convey to employees that efforts are authentic and credible than by dedicating sufficient company resources.
  5. Vest any department, team or task force charged with creating and maintaining a harassment-free workplace with the authority to make decisions.


Training that does not simply check a box

A healthy culture of equality starts with the tone from leadership. Organizational leadership must take an active role in defining acceptable workplace behavior, ensuring these behaviors are part of the company’s stated values, and investing in programs to promote a positive environment.

Although most people could identify blatant harassment such as “quid pro quo” – that is, offering to give an employee something in return for the employee’s satisfaction of a sexual demand – not all forms of harassment are universally recognized.

Anywhere from 25% to 85% of men and women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, according to the EEOC. The wide divergence in the percentage is due, in part, to a knowledge gap of what actually constitutes sex-based harassment. When asked whether they have experienced unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion at work, the percentage of women claiming harassment was much lower. However, when explained that sex-based harassment includes “gender harassment,” which are hostile behaviors without sexual interest, the percentage increased dramatically. Gender harassment differs from unwanted sexual advances in that the behavior aims to insult and reject a person based on gender stereotypes.

To create an environment free of harassment, employees throughout the organization must understand clearly conduct that is acceptable and that is not. Implementing interactive training on reporting procedures, unacceptable conduct and, more importantly, applying policies consistently – regardless of position within the organization – can dramatically improve culture.

A compelling business case

Put simply, employers should invest in preventing harassment not only because it is wrong, but because they have a legal obligation to do so. However, a deeper dive reveals organizations have an incentive beyond moral and legal to mitigate harassment: a financial one.

The direct costs to an organization are staggering. According to the EEOC, since 2010, employers have paid $698.7 million to employees alleging harassment through the agency’s administrative enforcement pre-litigation process. If a claim advances to litigation, the impact tends to grow even more substantial; for example, according to eBossWatch’s review of all harassment litigation in 2012, employers paid more than $356 million for workplace harassment complaints.

Although less measureable, the indirect costs can be considerable. Reports of pervasive sexual misconduct within high-profile organizations have dominated the headlines for months. Allowing – or in some cases, encouraging – a culture of harassment and discrimination has caused substantial reputational damage to those organizations.

More importantly, the human toll is significant. Employees subject to a hostile work environment can experience mental and physical harm. Depression, anxiety, chronic headaches and sleep, respiratory and cardiovascular problems have been linked to those experiencing harassment. When employees experience these conditions, companies suffer from decreased productivity and increased turnover.

When organizational leadership prioritizes creating a harassment-free workplace culture by emphasizing values of diversity and inclusion, implementing effective training, allocating sufficient resources and applying policies and procedures consistently, the interests of the company begin to align with those of its employees.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Employment Law, Featured

Matthew Paque

by Matthew Paque

Author Bio: Matthew A. Paque is Paycom’s Director of Legal and Compliance. In this role, he is responsible for Paycom’s legal affairs including compliance and risk management. He has served in a variety of leadership and legal positions in both the private sector and in government. Before joining Paycom, Paque was an attorney at the law firm of McAfee & Taft and previously was Assistant General Counsel at Tronox a global mining and chemical company. He holds a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. from Oklahoma City University. Paque is also an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business.


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