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Increase the Frequency: Getting the Most Out of Performance Reviews

Increase the Frequency: Getting the Most Out of Performance Reviews
Credit: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock

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 percent 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 percent of bosses between the ages of 18 and 35 hold weekly check-ins, as opposed to just 39 percent 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 percent say they use that time to address the employee's personal performance goals, with 29 percent 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 percent strongly feel these meetings help them better track their employees' progress, compared to just 67 percent 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 long conversations. More than 80 percent 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 percent 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 own 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.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.