Reconsider the Performance Review

“What if feedback were so frequent that performance reviews became irrelevant?”

This is one of my tweets from awhile back. I don’t have the data anymore, but it was the most re-tweeted tweet of my entire tweeting career. It struck a nerve.

At the recent Professional Development Conference for the Central Iowa Chapter of the Association for Talent Development, fellow training professional Kai Gillespie delivered a breakout session on this very topic.

Kai is a part of an organization that is moving away from traditional annual performance review to an ongoing process. This isn’t isolated; this is part of a movement in organizations of all sizes. More and more we find that traditional annual performance reviews rarely have a major impact on behavior and productivity. But, research keeps showing that frequent feedback, positive and critical, have a much greater impact. So, what are some ideas from Kai on how to transition from the annual review to a culture of frequent performance communication?

First, note that development efforts are not top-down. Instead, they are employee-owned, manger-supported, and company-focused.

You can’t do this until you are sure that your institutional values are clear and you have specific behaviors associated with them. As a part of that, model the behaviors you want to see in others.

For example, if  Integrity is a value, find ways to point out how integrity matters. “DeAnne, your honest response to that client in which you said ‘I’m afraid we won’t have the capacity to deliver this until Wednesday’ instead of telling them what they wanted to hear is a perfect example of how we do things here.”

Secondly, as a manager, understand that you have to embrace the whole person. Know about their family, their circumstances, their background, and other factors that impact their life. This way, their performance fits within this context. Some leaders shy away from letting those factors influence decisions, worrying that it is a lowering of standards. It isn’t; it’s enabling empathy.

To make frequent performance communication happen systematically and ingrain it into the company culture, managers enable frequent 2-way feedback through development of solid relationships and longer meetings, which are focused on development and are held no fewer than four times per year.

Expect life-changing conversations, and don’t shy away from this power.

Train mangers to both handle this approach and embrace change. This shift can be uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding.

An article Kai recommends can be found and here.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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