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Increase the Frequency: Getting the Most Out of Performance Reviews

Business News Daily Editor
Business News Daily Editor

A new study finds that most employers have their managers hold performance discussions at least once a week.

  • The once-dreaded performance review has become an integral part of employee/manager communication
  • Less formal, more frequent, reviews are part of conversations between managers and employees regularly and may not have a written component.
  • Some aspects should still be memorialized, and managers should make sure employees are getting the support that serves their needs.

Gone are the days of employees only receiving performance feedback once a year. While employers still might conduct annual performance reviews, a growing number of companies supplement those evaluations with regular performance discussions throughout the year, according to a study from HighGround, an HR software solution provider.

Just 7% of managers only have performance-related conversations with their employees once a year. For most, these check-ins are far more frequent. More than half of those surveyed said they have conversations with their staff members about how they are faring at least once a week.

"The performance management landscape is dramatically changing," the study's authors wrote. "Processes that, for decades, were intermittent are becoming more continuous."

Younger managers are leading the charge of holding more regular performance discussions. Nearly 60% of bosses between the ages of 18 and 35 hold weekly check-ins, as opposed to 39% of managers between the ages of 52 and 70. [Looking for performance management software? Check out our best picks list here .]

"The majority of the time, these conversations go beyond quotas and deadlines to focus on performance and development," the study's authors wrote.

The research found that, of the managers who meet with their employees at least once a week, 61% say they use that time to address the employee's personal performance goals, with 29% using the time to talk about overall career progress and advancement.

Both managers and employees feel better about the results of these discussions the more often they are held. Of the managers who have weekly performance-related conversations with their employees, 73% strongly feel these meetings help them better track their employees' progress, compared to 67% who hold them monthly and 52% who only have them once or twice a year.

"Among employees, positive feelings toward performance conversations are also linked to frequency: The more often they discuss performance with their manager, the more likely they are to feel strongly that these meetings lead to better work," the study's authors wrote.

Since these meetings happen so regularly, most managers don't feel the need for them to be extended conversations. More than 80% of those surveyed said their performance check-ins last less than a half-hour, with one-third lasting less than 10 minutes.

The research shows that one way managers could improve these discussions is to stop focusing solely on their employees. Only 43% of bosses use the time to ask their workers how they can do a better job of managing.   

"When managers don't use the opportunity to talk about their own and the company's performance, check-ins turn into one-way conversations," the study's authors wrote. "Instead of providing an open forum, they risk leaving their employees feeling constantly on the defensive."

Moving forward, HighGround says, there are several steps employers can take when moving away from traditional annual reviews. First off, it is important to figure out the right frequency for performance discussions.

"HR leaders looking to move away from the annual review process should work with managers and employees to determine the optimal meeting cadence," the study's authors wrote.

The research discovered that organizations that build in peer-to-peer reviews see greater value in the performance management process. HighGround suggests employers find a way to gather feedback from co-workers to get a more complete view of their employees' abilities and areas to improve.

It is also important to make sure that performance check-ins are a two-way conversation and not just a report card. HighGround advises managers to not only talk about their employees' strengths and weaknesses but also their competencies as supervisors and company goals.

"Expanding the breadth of coaching conversations to address these issues will help companies promote the honest communication necessary for a productive check-in," the researchers wrote.

The study was based on surveys of 525 managers and 525 employees.

Tips for conducting a productive performance review.

  1. Share the format in advance. It is helpful for the employee to know what to expect, and by doing this, you will find out which employees are going to take the time to prepare. If there is a performance scale, it should be explained. As suggested by this can also help avoid focusing on just recent events.

  2. Solicit feedback from others. This may not be practical to include every time if you are having performance conversations weekly, but input from colleagues, subordinates and other managers, commonly referred to as a 360 review, should be included at least twice a year to get a broader perspective on the employee's performance within the organization.

  3. Solicit input from the employee as well. Ask the employee if they would like more frequent conversations and ask how you can be a better manager for them. Some employees have definite preferences on how they can best perform, and their input is helpful.

A tip sheet from Vanderbilt University's Human Resources Department discusses the goal-setting portion of the performance review as a critical aspect that sometimes gets overlooked. Remember that goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Aspirational, Realistic, Timebound): This way, you have a foundation for the employee to follow for the next review period and tangible success factors to evaluate.

The Vanderbilt sheet also notes that while constructive suggestions are a key component of the review process, major performance issues should have been addressed at the time they occurred, rather than postponed for discussion at review time.

Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock
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