The Problem with Spreadsheet-Based Performance Reviews

Published on
Feb 27, 2023
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Performance reviews are a critical part of managing and developing employees. However, many organizations still rely on spreadsheet-based templated reviews, which are manual, disconnected, and full of flaws.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the numerous issues with using spreadsheets for performance management and why organizations need to move to a modern system.

Why Spreadsheets Fall Short

Spreadsheets are ubiquitous in the workplace and get used for all types of purposes they were never designed for. In terms of performance reviews, using spreadsheets leads to a fragmented and biased process that harms managers and employees alike, especially when used for annual reviews.

Some specific problems include...

No Standardization

With spreadsheet-based reviews, it's difficult to enforce a standard method of evaluation from person to person.

You may use a spreadsheet template to structure the review process, however, performance criteria can be interpreted differently and each manager ends up developing their own approach.

This lack of consistency across the organization makes it impossible to fairly compare employees and calibrate ratings.

Without standardized competencies tied to job roles, performance management lacks objectivity.

Prone to Errors

Spreadsheets are error-prone, especially when used at scale. With so many spreadsheets floating around, data entry mistakes are inevitable. Even a minor formula error can throw off review scores. Without proper validation rules built-in, it’s impossible to catch all the data inaccuracies.

Employees may end up with improper reviews due to something as mundane as a typo.

Manual and Inefficient

Combing through massive spreadsheets is a time-consuming chore for managers. All the administrative work bogs them down rather than helping them provide meaningful feedback.

The manual nature of spreadsheets also leads to delays in completing reviews.

HR must constantly hound managers to fill out their spreadsheets properly and on time.

The lack of workflow automation makes the process extremely inefficient.

Infrequent Evaluation

In then end, because manual review cycles take so long to complete, organizations default to doing them once a year - the minimum amount possible.

As such, most teams are just "checking a box" rather than actually putting meaning into the process.

Lack of Insights

With performance data trapped in individual spreadsheets, there’s no way to get a big-picture analysis.

Leadership lacks the insights needed to identify competency gaps, inform training programs, and spot high-potential employees. HR doesn’t have easy access to the data required for strategic talent management.

Spreadsheets provide limited snapshots rather than an integrated view.

Breeds Distrust

The lack of transparency around spreadsheet-based reviews breeds distrust. Employees may feel reviews are biased or unfair.

Managers also can’t explain ratings beyond how they feel in the moment when they're filling out endless cells in endless sheets.

Opaqueness leads to tension and morale issues.

The Superior Alternative: Performance Management Software

Addressing the many flaws with spreadsheet-based performance reviews requires adopting modern performance management software, such as WorkStory. Such systems provide the structure, transparency, integration, and analytics lacking with spreadsheets. Let’s explore some of the key advantages:

Standardized and Customizable

Performance management software standardizes the review process across the organization through customizable workflows and competency frameworks.

Consistent job-specific competencies can be defined across all employees. But systems can also remains flexible to tailor aspects for certain roles and preferences.

Efficient Evaluation Tools

Sophisticated performance analytics help managers evaluate employees more objectively. Intuitive ratings scales, assessment tools, and calibration features reduce personal bias.

Additionally, more efficient processes allow for more people to participate and contribute over a longer time period - both factors fostering to a more objective view of performance.

Automated notifications can also streamline the process and ensure reviews get completed on time.

Real-Time Feedback

Ongoing feedback and goal tracking can allow managers to have more meaningful performance conversations as well.

Additionally, employees may elect to request feedback at any time, making it a daily part of work rather than an annual anxiety-inducing event.

Development Planning Integration

By integrating development plans with performance reviews, managers can identify growth opportunities and training needs.

Employees feel empowered to own their development path and ongoing progress check-ins hold both parties accountable.

Analytics and Reporting

Robust reporting provides insights into workforce competencies, strengths, and gaps. Trends and patterns can be analyzed at an organization, departmental, and individual level.

HR has access to the holistic data it needs to support strategic decision-making.

Transparent Processes

Employees can have access to the performance review platform and understand how it works.

This transparency can breed trust and perceptions of fairness from employees.

Continuous Improvement

With all performance data in a single system, best practices can be rolled out globally with ease.

The software centralizes processes and information for continuous optimization.

No more spreadsheet headaches!

The Way Forward

The problems with spreadsheet-based performance reviews are plentiful. They harm effective management, frustrate employees, and cripple HR.

Transitioning to dedicated performance management software like WorkStory solves these issues through automation, analytics, transparency, and integrations.

Spreadsheets can’t cut it any longer - to manage and develop talent effectively, organizations must move to software purpose-built for the task.

WorkStory Performance Review Process Webinar
Hosted by Matthew Meadows, Josh Smith
In this 20-minute overview and product demo, Cofounder and CEO, Matt Meadows will show you how you can use WorkStory to streamline your performance review process — in just minutes — while significantly increasing the amount of feedback your team members want/need. You’ll learn why hundreds of teams are using WorkStory to operate their performance management process and how they’re getting tons of time and energy back because of it.
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How companies are using WorkStory's "One-Click" review process to transform and scale their performance reviews so that team members can develop their skills throughout the year

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