Only as good as your last performance review

Many studios evaluate creatives with this system while others let the work speak for itself

The performance review — that dreaded annual ritual of filling out self-appraisal forms, cooking up fresh objectives and booking face-time with the manager — is a staple of the corporate world. Hollywood, it turns out, is not so different.

“It’s a fallacy to think that people who work in creative fields wouldn’t benefit from performance evaluation,” says Amy Friedman, senior VP of development and creative director at Nick Digital Television, and a seasoned evaluator of her own employees. “In terms of being a creative executive, it’s very much parallel to basically any other job.”

But even among execs (and those lower on the pole), the dynamism and artistic innovation the biz requires can be extremely tricky to gauge.

When Friedman is giving reviews, she finds the evaluation criterion “develops creative products and solutions” is often the most valuable.

“How do you approach a problem and solve it creatively?” she says. “This question goes to the heart of the matter. For creative people, that is it.”

Over at 20th Century Fox, recruitment veep Ellen Goldsmith is a big believer in simplifying the process.

“We really customize our performance management tools to meet the needs of the business. They’re not these complex surveys that are tied to 25 key competencies,” she says.

“But there are measurements you can take: flexibility, problem-solving, creative thinking — these are all critical things for our business.”

It goes without saying that Nicole Kidman doesn’t have to sit down at year’s end and rate her productivity on a scale of 1 to 5. Nor do those artisans who work from project to project, be they cinematographers or costume designers.

But the key to good performance management isn’t a form, but rather ongoing, year-round feedback, whether it takes place around a sitcom writers’ table or in a one-on-one conversation with a supervisor.

“Nobody in this industry can operate without feedback and still be relevant,” says Maude DiVittis, senior VP of learning and development at MTV Networks. “There’s no better industry that thrives on feedback. And that’s what performance management is.”

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