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The Employee Experience Platform | Culture Amp
Why you should separate performance measurement and development
Lexi Croswell, author

Lexi Croswell

Writer, Culture Amp

Nearly 95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with how their company approaches performance reviews, and 90 percent of HR leaders believe their performance management system doesn’t deliver accurate information about employee performance.

It’s no wonder that companies everywhere are looking for a better way to evaluate employee performance.

Companies, managers, and employees shouldn’t settle – It’s time to let go of performance management that doesn’t work.

While the “death to performance reviews” rallying cry might be enticing, creating a new process is hard work. Abolishing an old performance review system without something new addressing performance, compensation, and development can spell disaster instead of revolution.

In Culture Amp's newest eBook, "Raising the standard for performance management," we present a plan for rebuilding and rebranding performance management at your company. Here, we provide an overview of how to align development and compensation in performance reviews.

The top 3 stakeholders in the performance management process

Within every organization, different stakeholders use performance reviews for different purposes, leading to a process with too many contradictions to function well:

  1. Companies want to hold each employee accountable to performance standards while also uncovering information about strengths and weaknesses to maximize individual performance and development.
  2. Managers want documentation to support their hiring and firing decisions while soliciting honest employee feedback.
  3. Employees want a formal opportunity to evaluate their compensation, but they also want to receive constructive feedback about their performance and development.   

The differing needs of each stakeholder lead to a process that historically accomplishes little. However, because companies have the most power in this scenario, they’re dictating how performance management plays out. Employees crave and need a clear path toward growth and fair opportunity to evaluate compensation, but these components are often left out.

Performance measurement and development: What’s the difference?

When companies rally behind the cry to get rid of performance reviews, they often replace them with more frequent “development” conversations. While this intention is great (we’re all about giving and receiving feedback well), it misses the mark on some of the key stakeholder needs above (namely, evaluating compensation).

So, what is the difference between performance measurement and employee development?


  • Looks back
  • Evaluates how well an employee executes their role-related expectations
  • Includes alignment to the organization’s strategic objectives
  • Focus on accurately measuring and differentiating high, average, and low performers

Measurement is an extrinsic motivator for people – their performance relates to compensation, title, and a sense of security or clarity about one's role.


  • Looks forward
  • Inspiring, equipping, and enabling employees to grow
  • Developing knowledge, skills, abilities and embracing new mindsets
  • Focus is to enhance employee performance and growth, even beyond their current role

Development is an intrinsic motivator for people – they want to develop for pure growth in their role, career, or overall life goals.

When employees and managers sit down for their performance review, employees are focused on compensation. This is the (often only) time they have to rally for compensation increases or defend their performance for a more favorable rating. This extrinsic motivation (title/compensation) shuts down intrinsic motivation (learning and growth).

So how can you make this better? Separate performance reviews from development conversations, and increase how often employees and managers talk about both.

Separate performance measurement from development

Bringing clarity to the difference between performance measurement and developmental feedback is essential. This gives HR leaders the data they need to make compensation decisions while optimizing for development year-round. From an administrative standpoint, performance data can be used to deliver strategic learning resources for employees to help focus and accelerate employee growth.

From the individual standpoint, separating performance measurement from development frees the tension of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation mentioned above. Employees can now focus on their development continuously, understanding how it fits into the performance review conversation.

Regarding peer feedback, colleagues are more likely to give constructive, developmental feedback when they know it will help an employee develop but won’t be used against them when deciding compensation.

Build a culture of learning and growth

Champion a growth mindset throughout the organization and transition from programmatic learning and development to a comprehensive learning culture.

This requires leadership commitment and resources, evolving to a growth mindset at all levels of the organization, making feedback a natural part of how people work and interact, and incorporating development into performance processes and goals.

The second piece, evolving to a growth mindset, is a concept introduced by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck. She explains there are two mindsets, fixed or growth, that influence how people succeed and are motivated. In a fixed mindset, individuals are born with a fixed level of intelligence and ability. In contrast, in a growth mindset, no matter where a person is now in terms of intelligence and ability, they can always improve.

Focusing on a growth mindset helps drive development and learning, opening channels for ongoing feedback among employees and managers.

Your performance review process matters

How you approach performance management at your company profoundly impacts your employees. Just how profound that impact is can be best appreciated through the concept of organizational justice. This term refers to how employees judge the behavior of an organization and their resulting attitude and behavior because of that judgment.

Three components of organizational justice come into play. As you read them, consider them through the employee’s viewpoint of your company’s performance review process.


  • Are the decision-making rules clear and consistent?
  • Were potential biases acknowledged and minimized?
  • Did I have an opportunity to voice my input?


  • Was I treated with respect and compassion?
  • Was I informed on how the process works?


  • Did I get what I wanted?
  • Was it appropriate and equitable?

So, what do you think matters most to employees? Process, interactions, or outcomes?

Overwhelmingly, the answer is process and interactions. When it comes to performance reviews, we don’t need to tell you that employees are often frustrated with the process. Outcomes are likely to be variable across the board. When the traditional annual review period concludes, data show that less than 10% of employees will likely be promoted. Out of the roughly 90% of the remaining workforce, someone will undoubtedly be disappointed with the result.

However, the effects of being disappointed with the outcome of a performance review can be short-lived. Evidence shows that employees can become more engaged after a disappointing review, so long as they are satisfied with the process and perceive fairness in the decision.

Illustration of a yellow graph with a line trending up and a floating hand pointing to a part of it

Are you ready to raise the standard for performance management?

Download the eBook

What’s next

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