We received about 600 responses to this week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on associate reviews, and there were some interesting twists.
First, while most firms, 60%, only conduct reviews once a year, a growing number, 35%, are providing six-month reviews as well.
A handful of firms split the difference, conducting six-month reviews for laterals and first-year associates, but then defaulting back to once a year. Others are conducting mid-year reviews for “underperforming” associates only, which doesn’t appear to be a great recipe for great press.
Of course, not many associates think that they’re underperforming:
* Almost 90% of respondents said that their reviews were “positive” (29%) or “very positive” (57%).
* Only 6% of respondents said that their reviews were “negative,” and only one percent thought they were “very negative.”
* The remaining 7% thought their reviews were simply “neutral.”
But even though almost 90% of respondents thought their reviews went well, that doesn’t mean they thought the reviews were fair. In fact, about a quarter of associates who thought their reviews were positive still said that they were actually more likely to look for a new job in light of those reviews.
Find out more about how associates reviewed their reviews, after the jump.
Although almost 90% of respondents thought their reviews went well, less than 80% thought the reviews were actually fair.
* Not surprisingly, most of the associates who received negative reviews (and all of the associates who received “very negative” reviews) thought they were unfair.
* About 35% of associates receiving merely “neutral” reviews also thought they were unfair, presumably because they expected more positive feedback.
* But about 10% of associates receiving “positive” reviews thought they were unfair, and even a handful of associates who thought their reviews were “very positive” still thought they were unfair.
The difference between how reviews went and how secure associates felt about their jobs afterward is even more striking.
* Only about half of associates felt “more secure” (36%) or “much more secure” (18%) about their jobs after receiving their reviews.
* Another 9% felt “less secure”, and 4% felt “much less secure.”
* About 44% of associates who received merely “neutral” reviews felt less secure about their jobs after their reviews.
* But so did 11% of associates who received “positive” reviews and 2% of associates who received “very positive” feedback.
So, why are even the associates with positive reviews unhappy about them?
Most likely, what seems “unfair” to the associates receiving positive reviews is not the substance of the reviews themselves, but rather the bonus that follows them. As one commenter put it:
One thing that might also need to be considered is that some of us have raises linked to our reviews now. My latest review was excellent, but they still screwed me on my raise due to “economic concerns.” So while my review itself was positive, I’m more tempted to look for another job because of the pittance raise they gave me as part of it.
These “economic concerns” obviously impact job security, not just for the “underperformers” getting weak reviews, but also among associates who are only receiving average reviews. In the current climate, even “neutral” reviewees might get caught in the crossfire if a firm decides to make cuts. And 44% of them appear to be worried about just that.
The economics are also making quite a few star performers look for new employers with more appealing bonuses. About 25% of associates who thought they received “positive” reviews, and 5% of associates who received “very positive” feedback, said that they were more likely to look for a new job in light of their last review.
Conversely, only six percent of associates who received merely “neutral” reviews said that they were less likely to look for new jobs, with 54% going the other way. (Associates receiving negative reviews were uniformly more likely to look for new work.)
But are the economics also affecting the substance of the reviews, rather than just the size of the bonus?
Maybe. None of the respondents in practice areas like investment management, energy, and bankruptcy reported bad reviews, but 16% of structured finance associates and 12% of real estate associates were given poor marks.
Perhaps they have a legitimate gripe about fairness after all.
Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.