Breaking Up with Your Annual Review Process

By Michael Heller

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Everything you've heard in the news and all over the blogosphere is true – annual performance reviews are no more! At least, redesigned, that is. Especially considering 30% of so-called “reviews” are even hurting your performance. Aren't we trying to improve performance?

With employees and managers finally realizing performance reviews aren’t actually working the way we hoped, many are turning more towards feedback, “check-ins” and other real-time performance techniques that yield better results. Here's how to transition your feedback and performance management process to give us the boost we're looking for:

Bye, Bye Annual Reviews

As a manager, this should make you happy. No more cramming hours into the last month of the year while trying to juggle the feedback of teams of employees. Now, you can pop into their office on your way to the break room and go over any concerns as they occur. Sounds like a pretty solid solution, right? Actually, not so much.

Getting rid of the dreaded annual review isn’t the solution at all. It’s really the first step in the long renovation of the review process as a whole. The whole idea of the review is to measure performance, however, there are still factors that stand in the way of capturing a true grasp of how an employee is performing. And, 49% of HR professionals believe the performance appraisal process needs re-evaluation.

Instead of focusing on the performance review, it’s time to change your view of performance. We often allow the review to be the factor in this performance problem when it’s more to do with the way we approach employees and analyze performance. In fact, it might not be the meeting that’s the issue, but actually the manager’s inability to remember all the projects the workers completed in the last 12 months. Maybe it’s more that the employee didn’t feel like they had enough time to explain themselves or ask questions. This is all very realistic as 54% of employees say reviews are inaccurate and 76% of employees don’t feel heard during reviews.

Look At The Bigger Picture

Begin flipping your view of performance. Pay attention to the actual outcome of an individual’s work and compare it to the performance of the department as a whole. The actual performance of an employee could be heavily affected by the way their department works. For example, one employee might be doing very well performance wise, working hard and hitting as many goals as he/she can, while the department struggles and holds him/her back from seeing real progress. On the other hand, just because they seem to be doing their duties, doesn’t mean their department is thriving.

Also, consider creating your review measures around the stakeholders. How does the employee interact with their stakeholder and what type of work do they provide them? Aligning employee goals to the overarching company goals allows for the worker to see how their daily tasks affect the bottom line while also showing management the real value of the workforce they employ.

Enforcing all of these ideas is a key way to ensuring you’re measuring true performance. To know exactly how employees are performing and provide accurate feedback is something all managers should be striving for.


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