Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming — and so routinely useless?

Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming — and so routinely useless? Why is HR so
often a henchman for the chief financial officer, finding ever-more ingenious ways to cut benefits and
hack at payroll? Why do its communications — when we can understand them at all — so often flout

reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating a forest of paperwork for
every minor transaction? And why does HR insist on sameness as a proxy for equity?
It’s no wonder that we hate HR. In a 2005 survey by consultancy Hay Group, just 40% of employees
commended their companies for retaining high-quality workers. Just 41% agreed that performance
evaluations were fair. Only 58% rated their job training as favorable. Most said they had few
opportunities for advancement — and that they didn’t know, in any case, what was required to move
up. Most telling, only about half of workers below the manager level believed their companies took a
genuine interest in their well-being.
None of this is explained immediately in Vegas. These HR folks, from employers across the nation, are
neither evil courtiers nor thoughtless automatons. They are mostly smart, engaging people who seem
genuinely interested in doing their jobs better. They speak convincingly about employee development
and cultural transformation. And, over drinks, they spin some pretty funny yarns of employee
weirdness. (Like the one about the guy who threatened to sue his wife’s company for “enabling” her
affair with

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