Say Goodbye to Annual Review

If you are like most working adults, your enthusiasm for the annual performance review process ranks alongside paying bills, root canals or getting a colonoscopy. Within the past year, a growing number of organizations have said goodbye to the traditional annual employee review process in favor of more meaningful real-time feedback. After decades of check-the-box reviews that are dreaded equally by both managers and employees, it’s time for leaders everywhere to stop the madness and rethink the best approach.

Before a more meaningful approach can be pursued, it is important to appreciate why the traditional annual review process has largely missed the mark in terms of legitimately helping employees develop and grow. Why is the process so disliked?

Perhaps it is because the standard scale of numerical performance ratings leaves employees feeling either exhilarated or deflated. After working hard all year to produce good work, the review can often turn into an annual numbers game that creates a sense of defensiveness and shame in employees. For example, errors or missed goals are quantified and listed in detail, leaving the employee feeling as though they have to go back and check each blunder to provide an explanation out of fear their manager will render them incompetent. On the flip side, managers with multiple direct reports can quickly become overwhelmed by the pileup of reviews to complete in support of a corporate deadline. Oftentimes, this leads to cut and paste performance summaries and arbitrary ratings. Employees walk away from their review meeting feeling underappreciated and overlooked. Additionally, frustrated managers balk at putting a lot of time into writing quality reviews when it becomes apparent that pay increases are implemented in a widespread approach for all employees, as opposed to being individually merit-based.

There are much better ways to measure success while inspiring individual growth and development. It all starts with an employer’s openness to consider a different approach that will actually help employees improve, which inherently leads to stronger output for the organization.

If you’re a progressive leader who refuses to become complacent with the “way it has always been done before”, then read on. I invite you to consider giving up the numbers game of evaluating your employees once or twice a year, in favor of finding a more effective way to help them reach their full potential all year long. Consider these ideas for transparently discussing and meaningfully reinforcing your employee’s performance on a continual basis.

  • Implement an ongoing performance feedback approach – Set up weekly or bi-weekly coaching sessions with your direct reports to discuss their progress against personal goals. Explore what’s working, what isn’t and how you can work together to maximize their success. Keep these sessions focused, short and to the point. Your concentration should be upon empowering your employee to grow.
  • Stop the peer comparison – As opposed to comparing your employee to their peers, work with your employee to establish personalized performance goals tied to specific projects. Have real-time, two-way conversations about their progress throughout the project completion.
  • Stop wasting time and money – Establish specific times and dates to complete tasks and establish milestone check-in conversations to ensure everything is progressing in the right direction.
  • Inspire better performance by igniting your employee’s self-esteem – If you want them to repeat what’s working, then point out their successes. A good rule of thumb, is for every one criticism, give five compliments to inspire the most productivity.
  • Get rid of paper and take advantage of technology – Look into timesaving, cost-effective software like to take the busy work out of establishing an on-going feedback culture with your employees. Take advantage of their free 30 day trial. Explore ways to provide instant praise for a job well done, request feedback, prepare for one-on-one coaching sessions, keep track of agreed upon action items and collect your thoughts.

Whatever path you choose, remember that any performance review alternative should never be done “to” your employee, but rather “with” them instead. The focus should always be on how to strengthen your employee’s potential by reinforcing what they’re doing right, while providing the development support they need in the areas where they are growing. Your employees want to know on an ongoing basis if they are moving in the right direction. If you make their progress a part of your regular dialogue, they will always know what you expect and trust in your commitment to help them succeed.

Are you ready to become a performance trailblazer by breaking the patterns of the past and tapping into a culture of instant performance management?

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