The Evolution of Performance Management

Performance Review

Many organizations are moving away from the traditional yearly performance reviews which are being seen as tedious, stressful, and often ineffective.  There is significant preparation and effort that goes into completing the usually lengthy form and let’s face it there isn’t much value returned when performance is discussed once a year. For the most part, employees are either unhappy or apathetic with their annual review and often complain that their manager hasn’t remembered all the good contributions they have made and specifically feel they are just pointing out the bad.

The typical goal of the annual discussion is to deliver constructive feedback and the employee expectation is that a compensation increase would be provided when meeting or exceeding job expectations.  Managers are encouraged to keep notes throughout the year so they could build these details into the appraisal and provide specific examples of both good and poor performance.  But seriously, who wants to wait an entire year to get praise on a job well done or to learn of and correct bad performance much later when at the time you didn’t even know you were underperforming?  Instead, you have 12 months of repeated poor behaviour when you would have been willing to correct and improve performance “if you had only known” and understood the situation.

Organizations are realizing the importance of creating a culture of continuous feedback and learning.  The benefits are two-fold in that the employee stays engaged and motivated, and there are improvements which enable organizational goals being met.  Engaged employees prefer to know how they are doing and want timely feedback on a regular basis.  If the manager fails to continually check in and provide feedback, then the employee is likely left feeling that management doesn’t really care. In this scenario the annual review can also often be adversarial or seen as a negative justification for a lower-than-expected bonus or raise.    

Benefits of providing ongoing feedback:

  • Constant interaction and “real conversations” between the manager and employee help to build trust and improve the overall relationship.
  • Managers can provide immediate feedback to address poor performance, prevent bad habits forming, and to facilitate improvement.
  • Shorter conversations that involve coaching in the moment are more effective than lengthy discussions once a year. 
  • Feedback is relevant and more effective when it’s in real time whether it’s praise on a job well done or coaching to improve.  There is a greater chance of employees repeating their good behaviour or correcting poor performance.
  • There is less stress, anxiety and tension that typically comes with formal annual reviews for both the employee and manager.
  • Employee growth and development improves when performance conversations happen more frequently.  At the same time regular feedback helps both individual and organizational goals being met much quicker than the traditional annual feedback.
  • It is considerably better to help the employee correct performance in small steps instead of presenting them with a long list of goals once a year (often well after the behaviour was exhibited) which they suddenly need to improve.
  • Employees are more engaged when their manager takes an active interest in their performance and provides constant feedback.
  • Regular communication on performance will help managers improve in delivering performance feedback. 360-degree feedback from employees will also help managers with their own communication skills, management style and decision making. 

Tips in transitioning from annual reviews to providing continuous feedback:

The first step is to equip your managers with skills to provide effective coaching.  This might not come naturally to your leaders and with any organizational shift you want to ensure you are communicating the benefits of the change and provide the right training to ensure a smooth transition. If you have a dedicated trainer or can organize coaching skills training for your managers, this will help them learn the techniques and qualities required to become an effective coach.

Set goals that are measurable and attainable as it’s particularly important to make sure your employees understand how to succeed.  Allow them the opportunity to come up with their own solutions to issues and concerns.  Everyone learns more quickly if they contribute to problem solving. Employees will be encouraged if they are successfully reaching smaller goals along the way rather than unattainable and unrealistic expectations.  You can even take it a step further and involve them in the goal setting process.

Employees will also need to be informed that there is a new performance management process in place and be sure to highlight that the new process is much better than the old and will be beneficial to all.  When you explain the reasoning behind the evolution you have a better chance to encourage “buy-in”. Given that most employees dread the yearly review, most will likely respond favourably towards the change.

Once you cultivate a culture that focuses on continual coaching, feedback and follow up, it will become more natural for your leaders to discuss learning opportunities and your employees will be more open to receiving feedback. Decide how you want to go about delivering feedback and be sure to keep an open door or set aside time when you will be available for employees to ask questions.  Depending on the nature of the job, determine whether you need to set a regular time to meet each week or every other week, or whether coaching in the moment is more appropriate because the employee’s role is more hands on.

Depending how many employees report to you or how frequently you meet, you should keep notes to help you remain organized and to record important feedback points (in both directions).  Conversations that are authentic with real examples of what you observed will be more meaningful and impactful.  You may become so busy with day- to-day operations but try not to delay feedback that requires immediate change so that employee don’t pick up bad habits. Reviewing key points from previous conversations is also a great way to assess improvement and establish momentum.

A final but equally important suggestion is to not focus continually on improvement areas but regularly praise good work habits and show genuine appreciation for a job well done.  Providing continuous feedback will help your organization grow and will elevate your average employee to a superstar. Contact Bridge Legal and HR Solutions for practical guidance on managing employee performance – (647) 794-5442 or at 

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