For some people, the words “performance reviews” evoke a sense of angst and apprehension. At the mere mention, employees envision a serious sit-down during which the boss combs through the past six to 12 months of work and assigns a virtual grade to their performance.
Some of the questions upon which the grading hinges include:
- Did the employee meet or exceed expectations (e.g., performance against goal)?
- If so, what are the specific measurable outcomes as a result?
- If not, what particular areas of improvement will ensure a better performance next time?
- For top performers, what opportunities for growth will ensure the next review shows the employee doing even bigger and better things?
- How did the performance benefit not only the employee’s standing in the company, but also spur the company’s competitive market rank, revenue growth, etc.?
Managers charged with assembling the reviews dread the time and energy required to ensure a process that is both qualitatively and quantitatively of value. Once (or even twice) yearly reviews, require dredging up months of activities and results and comparing them to last year’s goal plans, which is both tedious and stressful.
However, research shows how old-school review models are evolving into contemporary, as-you-go methods involving more-regular and casual exchanges between managers and employees. For example:
Frequent Progress Touchpoints
According to the Employee Engagement Group in Could 2017 See the Death of the Performance Appraisal, “A growing body of data suggests that the traditional annual or twice-yearly performance appraisal may have outlived its usefulness. Today, information is both transparent and instantaneous, goals are mutable, and organizations of all kinds are ditching the paper trail.”
“Managers and employees alike are looking for less formal and more frequent touchpoints to check in on progress, development needs and engagement.”
Regular “Check-in” Meetings
Donna Morris, EVP, Customer + Employee Experience at Adobe in the article, “2017: The Year Performance Reviews Get the Axe,” referenced Adobe as having “abolished our annual performance review nearly five years ago” and instead is now focusing on regular “check-in” meetings between managers and employees to articulate “clear expectations, performance feedback and career growth.”
As a result, Adobe has saved 100,000+ hours of managers’ time formerly spent on formal reviews as well as spurred an increase in “involuntary attrition,” which enables them to do “a better job of identifying and communicating when people aren’t meeting expectations,” according to Morris.
Frequent Feedback Via an App
GE, another large company, who “popularized the toughest form of formal annual review,” has abandoned their annual review process and replaced it with “frequent feedback via an app.” The PD@GE (Performance Development at GE) app enables 300,000 global employees to gain instant performance feedback 24/7. This ditching of their annual performance reviews came after more than 30 years of conducting “the toughest form of formal annual review.”
Regular Feedback Sessions
Sharlyn Lauby, publisher of HR Bartender, says, “Regardless of what you think about performance reviews, feedback isn’t going away.”
Lauby links the value of “regular employee feedback sessions” to performance improvement and notes that this can be feedback from managers as well as colleagues. She also points out how the nuances of feedback fuel a further need for training: management needs training on delivery feedback and employees need training on processing feedback.
The world at large has become accustomed to at-their-fingertips feedback, and the area of performance feedback is no exception. Quicker, more continuous and real-time feedback not only appeals to millennials who were raised in a digitally instantaneous environment, but also to every other generation of workers whose lives, both personally and professionally, have become virtually embedded and driven by technology.
Moreover, companies have learned that frequent check-ins with staff enable them to agilely rectify core issues that would otherwise slow productivity and profits, as well as activate lagging innovators and other differentiators in a hypercompetitive market.
While traditional methods of reviewing employee performance may be less effective in today’s on-demand culture, the value of the review remains constant. Management must provide regular reviews to maintain peak staff performance that assures company shareholders are reaping full financial value from the company’s overall performance.