Love them or hate them, performance reviews are here to stay — but they don’t have to be painful

Just the idea of a performance appraisal is enough to evoke feelings of dread in the average employee and manager. Managers and employees alike tend to regard appraisals with pure apprehension, for a number of very genuine reasons. They’re too bureaucratic, they’re too infrequent, they aren’t effective, they take up too much time and they are rarely meaningful. You might have wondered, on more than one occasion, if you would be better off eliminating performance reviews altogether.

Tempting though this idea may be, ridding your company of performance management processes entirely is rather like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A number of organisations have tried this and found that staff performance has deteriorated. Your performance management system might not work as it is, but rather than throwing in the towel, there are practical steps you can take to make performance discussions meaningful in your organisation.

The fact of the matter is, companies need performance reviews – just not in the way that they have been done in the last 20 years. HR and senior management need to know how employees are performing across the organisation and what personal development is required; and employees need feedback on how they are doing. The good news is that the performance review is improving and evolving, to the benefit of both manager and employee.

Below are just a few ways you can adapt your performance review process to make it more effective and meaningful for all involved.

Have more regular, but more informal, performance check-ins

If you hate performance reviews, it might sound counterintuitive (not to mention, completely unappealing) to improve the situation by introducing more of them. However, regular, meaningful monthly check-ins are actually far more time efficient and useful than a single annual appraisal. Companies such as Microsoft and Deloitte have arrived at this assumption and now enjoy a range of benefits, including improved retention, increased employee engagement and better performance.

Annual appraisals try to get too much accomplished in one sitting. There is simply too much to discuss: goal completion, achievements, issues with existing processes, goal setting for the year ahead, training and development, and more. It makes much more sense to carry out informal monthly discussions, which will keep everyone updated on existing progress, and it will also give the managers an opportunity to address performance issues as soon as possible. What’s more, this is something employees increasingly want. Employees want to build a relationship with their manager, and they want frequent feedback. In fact, 72% of employees under 30 would love to receive daily or weekly feedback from their manager.

Eliminate performance ratings and stack ranking

Our understanding of human performance has moved on, and neuroscience research has made it increasingly clear that performance-ratings systems all too often negatively impact an employee’s motivation and productivity. Not to mention, performance ratings are generally far more subjective in nature than we believe them to be, which seriously calls their efficiency into question.

On top of this, stack rankings systems have been increasingly falling out of favour. General Electric, the company famous for introducing the notorious rank-and-yank system, have eliminated the tool as part of their performance management system. Microsoft and Amazon have also eliminated ranking, for good reason. They’re time-consuming, subject to bias and terrible for employee morale. There are more effective, future-focused methods to assess performance than performance ratings that can be incorporated into your performance management system.

Keep performance discussions future-focused

Performance discussions should be about improving future performance, rather than placing a great deal of focus on past mistakes and poor behaviour. It’s important we learn lessons and grow as a result, but spending performance discussions berating employees for their errors isn’t productive or helpful.

Instead, discuss what the employee’s future goals are, and what steps can be put in place to ensure those goals are met. If employees require training and development, managers should make sure they are provided with all the tools and assistance they require. Ultimately, this will result in greater levels of motivation, and your employees won’t dread their regular one-on-ones.

Empower your employees to take control over their own performance

Independence and autonomy have quickly become the top workplace perk and one of the leading HR trends of 2017. It’s very simple — employees who feel they are respected and trusted to perform their work on time and to a high standard will be more motivated, loyal and productive. Micromanagement is counterintuitive, as is rigidly attempting to control the method by which the employees choose to work.

Consider giving your employees authority over their own SMART objectives. Ask them what motivates them, and what restricts their performance. In your performance reviews, make it clear that your employees are important to the growth of the business, and they are in charge of their role and their career progression. Eventually, employees will demonstrate greater pride and confidence in their work, and they’ll feel better able to take the driver’s seat during performance discussions.

Make use of performance review software to facilitate the whole process

The principles of continuous performance management (regular performance reviews and frequent feedback) have been proven to increase employee engagement and productivity, but they require the right tools to work effectively. For a busy organisation, this can pose a problem, particularly if the software and tools they have in place don’t support this way of doing things.

Using cloud-based performance review software can help you organise and monitor regular discussions. It can facilitate real-time feedback, plan and track SMART objectives and gives HR and senior management visibility of performance activity throughout the organisation. On top of this, well-designed performance management systems such as Clear Review, have interfaces that are incredibly intuitive and easy to use, meaning that they don’t require any training, so introducing them into your organisation is quick and painless.

If you’re looking to revolutionise your performance management system, get in touch with our friendly team at Clear Review and book a performance management software demo.