Annual performance reviews have long been a common strategy for employers to provide formal feedback to employees. Often, any updates to compensation are also discussed during this process and are closely connected to employee and organizational performance. It is easy to understand how workers could experience stress and anxiety during performance reviews due to the infrequent cadence and potential impact on personal growth and compensation.
Over the past few years, human resources leaders prioritized other personnel matters over annual reviews, including how to manage high turnover during the Great Reshuffle. Employers also recognized the burden that employees were facing with unprecedented health concerns and caregiving responsibilities. Some companies put annual reviews on hold, while others placed less emphasis on goal setting and performance measurement.
Lower COVID infection rates, a more challenging economic environment, and increasing layoffs are causing employers to rethink several personnel-related policies, including whether now is time to reintroduce annual check-ins.
Fresh Approach To Employee Feedback
The return of the performance review doesn’t mean that employers need to roll out the same playbook as before. A recent article from the Wall Street Journal highlights several companies that are trying something new.
Autism-care provider Ascend Behavior Partners recently implemented a formal ongoing performance management system. The program includes an online assessment that takes managers about ten minutes to complete, followed by brief one-on-one conversations with their direct reports. This new process adds structure to performance conversations and better prepares managers for delivering feedback to their staff.
Earlier this year, Adobe introduced a tool for employees to request instant feedback from anyone in the company. Adobe also recognized that anxiety before annual reviews could be distracting for some of its employees and managers. In response, the company is opting for shorter, quarterly performance conversations as a better approach to realizing the goals of sharing feedback. More frequent check-ins allow managers to highlight performance concerns in a timely manner and help workers get back on track and identify areas of improvement. These year-round conversations contribute to annual compensation increases, bonuses, and promotion opportunities.
Increasing the frequency of feedback is one of the most important changes for performance reviews an employer can make. Being intentional with the setting and structure of each discussion is also critical for managers to keep in mind.
“I believe in continuous performance management. I always tell my direct reports that if either one of us shares feedback at a formal review discussion that comes as a surprise, then we aren’t doing our job of sharing candid, transparent feedback in a timely manner. When implemented properly, everyone can iterate and improve in the moment, leading to more agile teams and better performance. Despite not sharing new information during the formal review process, I still find these meetings very helpful to make sure everyone is aligned on performance and discuss career growth within the company.”
– Nick Patel, Wellable CEO
Stay interviews can be a powerful exercise as part of a broader framework for performance management to facilitate candid, two-way communication. Employers should embrace any insights gleaned from these conversations, even if it leads an employee to a new role within the company that better aligns with their skillset or ambitions.