Ditching the Rating Scale - Make Performance Reviews About the Dialogue

by Saba Software | Posted | Performance Management

Ditching the Rating Scale - Make Performance Reviews About the Dialogue

California Healthcare Foundation (CHCF) is a non-profit organization committed to expanding access to affordable, quality healthcare in underserved communities across the state. The staff at the Foundation is small and made up largely of highly educated professionals.

As a high-performing organization committed to continuous improvement, CHCF's leadership team found the traditional method of rating employees using a numbered scale for performance reviews wasn't leading to the kind of fruitful development conversations they wanted.

Kim Galvin

We talked to Kim Galvin, HR Director at California Healthcare Foundation, about the unique way they do performance reviews:

"What we're really looking for in performance reviews is thoughtful feedback - both positive and constructive - that will help employees grow. The rating system was really limiting and wasn't yielding the kind of results we were looking for."

No room for rankings in performance reviews

CHCF has removed all rankings and ratings from its performance review process. The questions are all open-ended, essay style. This applies to both managers' reviews of their staff as well as self-appraisals that every employee completes.

"The reality is that most of our employees are high performers, so checking a box that says 'meets expectations' doesn't provide a lot of value," says Galvin.

According to Galvin, this open-ended style review works well at the Foundation where employees across the board have exceptional communications skills. Most employees are able to easily articulate their successes, their areas of weakness and what it is they need to do to improve.

Says Galvin:

"Our performance reviews are now the catalyst for meaningful dialogue between managers and employees. As is part of our culture, the focus is on continuous improvement."

Focusing on employee development

There are limited opportunities for upward mobility at the Foundation given its small size and the fact that very few people in senior positions leave. But despite this, the organization has a very low rate of turnover. Part of the reason for this is its commitment to support the growth and development of its employees.

CHCF has two goals when it comes to employee development:

  1. Give employees who want to remain with the organization the chance to grow and be challenged, and broaden their area of expertise so that they can be more valuable to the communities they serve.
  2. Give employees who want to pursue a higher level position not available within the Foundation the skills and experience they need to go after their dream job externally.

"We make development a priority and our employees recognize that. They actively participate in putting together their own development plan and know that they have the full support of the organization behind them," says Galvin.

CHCF uses Halogen Performance™ for Healthcare to manage its performance review cycle. It's within this system that employees set individual goals tied to the larger organizational goals, and set their development plans.

Galvin explains:

"We work with employees to identify the skills and experience they want and need to develop and Halogen allows us to put a plan in place to get them to where they need to be."

Ditching the rating scales has helped CHCF and its employees think differently about performance management. Shifting the focus away from ratings to alignment and development has created value in the process. Employees receive needed coaching, performance feedback, direction and development and CHCF is building a world-class workforce.

Your turn: What tips do you have for creating a performance review process that encourages meaningful dialogue?

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