Rater Fatigue: When Everything Is Important, Nothing Is Important

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably given some thought to what a good performance review form should look like. Obviously, form content will be different for every organization, and it should reflect your culture and core values. But one thing that every HR Administrator should consider when crafting review templates is the overall length of their forms, and how long it will take to complete them.

It can be tempting to build forms that capture all the relevant aspects of your workforce’s performance. For example, you’ll probably want to start with core values, since they define the culture of a workplace. From there, add any relevant competencies that should be measured, both company-wide and position-specific. Then add management competencies for anyone in a leadership role. Next up are goals: individual, team, and strategic—you’ll need them all. Be sure to add SMART goal measurements for each to make sure they’re trackable. Forward-looking performance targets should be next, followed by professional development metrics. Compliance and safety should be added for anyone in a hazardous work environment, and there should be a professional and technical proficiencies section to track skill-building and certifications. Finally, include a section for open-ended questions to be completed by employees, managers, and any 360 reviewers.

If you follow this process, then you’ll be sure to have a comprehensive review form… that no one will want to complete. It’s too much. By making everything significant, everything loses significance.

Customers often come to us because their current review process is too time-consuming, so we know that when it comes to reviews, there’s a ton of value in keeping them short. Doing so can be more challenging than creating a thorough (i.e., longer) review. This quote from Blaise Pascal, the 17th-century French mathematician, comes to mind:

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

In other words, creating something comprehensive takes time, but whittling it down to something concise and meaningful takes even more thought and effort.

Why opt for shorter forms? Two primary reasons:

1. Shorter forms yield better data. When reviewers have to fill out 20, 30, 50, or more review elements, Rater Fatigue sets in. They start strong, but after a while, even the most diligent managers and colleagues start to fade, and when that happens, the quality of their responses fades as well. By keeping the number of form elements down to 15 or fewer, reviewers stay focused and offer thoughtful feedback. The result: More accurate data to inform big-picture performance management decisions.

2. Shorter forms keep people from hating reviews. Let’s face it: Reviews are often stressful for everyone involved. Long forms with lots of questions just make people dread the process even more. And remember, managers and 360 raters have to complete multiple reviews, so the effects of a longer form are compounded. Keeping it short keeps your people happy. And keeping your people happy means they’re more engaged and doing better work.

You know who’s great at helping organizations shorten their review forms? Reviewsnap’s stellar Customer Success team. I work with these bright and positive problem-solvers on a daily basis here in our Seattle office, and I’m always so impressed with the consultative approach they take to getting our customers set up. Because they work with organizations of all types and sizes, they’re experts not only with the Reviewsnap platform, but also with best practices for reviews in general. If you’re open to it, they’ll guide you on how to keep your review forms concise, thereby making them more useful and less painful for your teams.

Concerned that your forms may be on the long and painful side? Reach out to your Reviewsnap Account Executive and we’ll be happy to provide some feedback. If you don’t have an Account Executive, click here and we’ll connect you with someone on our team who can give you advice.