Be honest, you dread the annual performance review routine. Scrolling through a year of notes and emails. (Or perhaps searching high and low for documentation you thought you saved?) Digging out the job description and last year’s paperwork. Setting big goals. Checking in with busy team members for input. Having the formal sit down meeting with the employee who thinks he a superstar and really he is subpar.
The process can be a pain and, no surprise, your employees probably aren’t looking forward to it either. It can be stressful and who needs more stress anyway?
Good news! You can tame the review process by taking it off your annual calendar. Really, seriously, for sure. Here’s the catch: replace it with more meetings and you can expect better results.
What? Yes, more meetings but shorter, specific and over a smaller period of time.
According to the article The Performance Management Revolution in the Harvard Business Review, more than one-third of U.S. firms are replacing annual reviews with frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees. Some have even built in the freedom to award small, frequent bonuses.
The reasoning goes something like this: Instead of focusing on past behavior once a year, focus on current performance and responsiveness to help employees deal with ongoing and future workplace needs. This forward-looking check-in routine is efficient and helps keep your organization competitive and prepared for long-term survival.
Here are a few points to consider when adopting the more-is-better approach:
1. Toss the annual review, not the prep.
You will still need to put in time and effort to have thoughtful and productive conversations with employees. Just like you wouldn’t put off doing your taxes until April 14, don’t put off the work behind a regular employee meeting. Once you get rolling with monthly or quarterly check-ins, there is much less territory to cover and the meetings are much less onerous.
2. Set monthly or quarterly meetings to review progress and goals.
Base your discussions on the employee’s job description, which tells exactly what her responsibilities are. Sit down with your employee to say: “You’re on track” or “You’re missing the mark” or “We’ve adjusted your goals to align with our company goals.” Changing priorities may point out a need to change the job description. Better now than at the end of the year.
3. Correct quickly if behavior is off track.
Consider these regular meetings as an iterative process, where minor adjustments now can avoid major problems or dismissals later. Routine meetings also can help employees better understand your company’s big picture.
4. Collect better data from employees, more efficiently.
With time for a regular conversation in place, you’ll find that you have a better opportunity to hear the type of feedback from an employee that would never make its way into an annual memo. Make sure that listening is on your agenda during these candid meetings. “From your perspective, how can we better serve our clients’ needs?” could be a good starter question.
5. Consider including the team.
While you will want to meet with your employee individually, there are benefits to an occasional team gathering to talk about shared goals and development. Build trust and foster collaboration during these sessions. Help individuals see how their performance can enhance the group’s success. Set team accountability.
6. No surprises.
No matter how often you discuss employee performance, the high points should be a confirmation of what you and the employee already know. No one should be uncovering major surprises about behavior or expectations. If that happens, it is a clear sign that communication has broken down somewhere along the line. It is fine to ditch the annual review, but clear communication is always required.
Need help adjusting your company culture from annual to quarterly reviews? Not sure the job descriptions and goal setting you have in place will accommodate this evolution? What do employees need to understand to make the most of more frequent reviews? We can help you design and implement the most efficient and effective approach for your company.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.