Rethinking the Traditional Performance Review

Rethinking the Traditional Performance Review

Today’s post comes from Mike Leflar, a colleague of mine here at Halogen. Mike believes organizations should rethink their approach to the traditional performance review, and in this article he explains why.

A recent Globe and Mail article is one of many that discuss why traditional performance reviews are flawed. I would argue this point should come as no surprise to any person young or old who has experienced one.

Because they are flawed. There is little to no value in waiting an entire year before sitting down with your manager to hear feedback about your performance.

An effective performance management process focuses on aligning your workforce, improving employee performance, supporting employee development and driving better business results — all year round.

Does any of the below sound familiar?

  • You need to demonstrate to managers and other leaders that your organization’s performance management process is meaningful.
  • You need to improve communication and collaboration between employees and teams across your organization. 
  • You need to improve the leadership skills of your managers for an improved employee experience.
  • You need your employees to have improved self-awareness and understanding of others.

The traditional performance review doesn’t make any of the above easy to accomplish. Which is why performance management can’t be a once-a-year (or even an optional) activity. Your employees need coaching, performance feedback, direction and development. All. Year. Round.

Who hasn’t heard the adage that “your organization’s most important asset is its people?” Of course you have.

But if you, as the HR pro, want to help harness the passion and skills of all employees to achieve business results, then giving your managers some tools and training to make performance management ongoing will be invaluable.

How to make performance management an ongoing practice

Here are some tips:

1. Train managers on how to give and record effective feedback and deal with conflict. This step can’t be reinforced enough. Everyone deserves to work for a great leader. So help your managers think about feedback as a constructive way to improve performance, and get into the habit of capturing performance feedback from multiple sources in a performance journal or log.

They’ll be able to avoid the “recency” effect that comes from writing a review that only recalls the last month’s worth of performance! And you’ll help cultivate a culture of coaching and continuous improvement. These feedback and coaching templates might help.

2. Arrange for a strong goal setting process and ensure check-ins are ongoing. Are your front line managers meeting regularly with their direct reports? How are they setting goals and tracking goal achievement quarterly or annually? Do they have a way to make ongoing notes on goals and action items as part of their routine meetings?

3. When it comes to the review process more specifically: streamline it to make it more effective. When conducting the actual performance appraisal process, make a form or a discussion guide easy to follow, ensure you’re collecting the right information and giving managers access to everything they need to write a thorough review. And don’t be shy about eliminating any steps or sections that don't provide value!

4. Engage employees by giving them help on writing self-appraisals. It’s not just a matter of doing them. It’s about ensuring their self-appraisals are an honest and accurate reflection of their performance and areas for future development.

5. Shift the focus away from ratings to alignment and development. This gives employees context for their work and ensures development is a key focus of the performance management process. If there’s a gap in reaching a goal or a successful level of competence, then ensure your managers are assigning development plans to support their teams.

6. Communicate your use of the information to the organization. Help employees see value in the performance management process by sharing how your organization will use that data. For example, ensure organizational alignment of goals, support fair compensation adjustments, and identify learning and development needs, to name a few.

Then your managers can use the performance review process as a way to summarize all the awesome ongoing, two-way dialogue managers and employees have been engaging in all year long.

Looking for best practice resources to support year-round performance management? These appraisal checklists for HR, managers and employees can help make your next performance review cycle a whole lot better.

Your turn: What steps or tips would you add about rethinking the traditional performance review?


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