Reviewing the annual performance review

Between the increasing adoption of agile processes and technological advances, our workforce wants and needs more frequent feedback

We repeatedly hear that annual performance reviews are no longer viewed as effective. Nine out of 10 HR leaders believe annual reviews to be inaccurate, and recent surveys suggest that the very process designed to help develop and retain talent may be doing the opposite. Recent figures estimate that 47% of Millennials start to look for another job after their performance review results.

Today’s agile workforce needs nimble strategies, processes and tools to provide regular employee feedback. In response many companies are replacing annual reviews with frequent check-ins. Yet according to Deloitte, for many organisations the thought of changing a process that takes thousands of hours a year, and an estimated cost of millions, is daunting.

The why and how of regular employee performance feedback

We know that while happy and engaged employees lead to better business outcomes, only around 17% of the UK workforce is actively engaged at work, according to Gallup. The answer seems obvious: a significant way companies can encourage employee engagement is through frequent check-ins that offer managers a chance to connect, listen and provide valuable coaching.

This is not always the easiest practice for companies to adopt. But, while it can take time to get everyone on board with the transition from annual performance reviews to regular check-ins or one-on-ones, it is important to help leaders understand why employee evaluations need an upgrade.

Our workforce not only wants frequent feedback, it needs it. Between the increasing adoption of agile project management and technological advances like AI and machine learning, the typical pace of work is rapidly accelerating. Real-time feedback is increasingly a necessary component to foster engagement and productivity. Weekly and monthly check-ins can also provide a means to review challenges and opportunities, while giving direct feedback and outlining achievements and stretch goals.

Topics discussed in one-on-ones should include immediate workload and how employees are tracking toward existing goals, plus any training or development opportunities that could improve performance. Team collaboration opportunities can also be identified and ways to improve productivity should be addressed. Identifying job competencies and incorporating peer feedback adds to the value of the discussion.

Performance management software can boost engagement

Important ideas can fall through the cracks if one-to-ones are held with a pen and paper or on a spreadsheet. Employee reviews can be more effective when software is used to help manage the meetings and guide the conversation.

The right performance management software can help enhance the review process by providing:

  • A one-on-one management tool to help hold managers accountable for keeping these meetings and making them a priority.
  • Collaborative agendas where managers and team members can add topics in the next one-on-one. This can help ensure that the conversations don’t always focus on current workload, but also include future goals and growth opportunities.
  • Performance snapshots to make it easy for managers to acknowledge successes, as well as encourage improvement in areas where performance is less than ideal.
  • Training enrolment so managers can instantly identify and assign training courses and development opportunities. Employees who see their company providing strong advancement opportunities are likely to be less motivated to find another job.

Managers and their employees have a lot more on their plates than conducting and participating in regular performance discussions, but the potential benefits and progress that happen with regular ongoing feedback are too great to pass up. Empowering teams with the tools to ensure feedback and performance assessment are consistent can help boost engagement, strengthen employee-manager relationships, reduce employee churn, and ultimately improve productivity, all while cutting out the potentially crippling time and financial costs of annual reviews.

Jeff Weber is SVP of people and places at Instructure