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It’s Time to Blow Up Your Performance Reviews


It's hard to believe that the end of the year is almost here. This is when many organizations are rushing to meet annual deadlines and get packed in before the holiday season takes hold.


For a lot of companies, the end of the year also means performance review season.


It’s a time to reflect on the accomplishments of the team, set goals for the new year, and determine rewards for employees. While this sounds nice and cheery, the reality is that these annual performance reviews create a heavy workload filled with stress and anxiety for everyone involved - and nobody likes it.


For employees, it’s a challenge to summarize a year’s worth of accomplishments and find alignment with goals that were set out in January. Add in the pressures of addressing where things went off track back in June, while making sure to highlight side projects, and trying to figure out if the review meeting is an appropriate time to ask for a pay raise.


For leaders, it’s jumping through various administrative hoops and a heavy mental load of trying to remember the year for individual team members and planning meaningful conversations. Leaders are often left trying to figure out how they’re going to accomplish this amongst the long list of year-end ‘to-dos’, while wondering if it’s going to have any impact.


But it doesn’t have to be this way.


It’s well known that annual performance reviews aren’t loved. In fact, a Gallup survey found that only 14% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve, and only two in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivated them to do outstanding work.


Over the years, the trends surrounding performance reviews have been on a pendulum, swinging back and forth between being prescribed and process heavy to scrapping them all together. The pendulum typically shifts when a company implements one extreme and finds that it’s just suddenly not working.


Here are four simple ways to make your Performance Reviews better - and more meaningful:


1. Stop calling it a Performance Review

It's an outdated title that implies a critique when really what we should be focusing on is accountability, goal-setting, and two-way feedback. And this accountability check-in shouldn't just be about what they are achieving but HOW they are achieving it to ensure they are aligned with your company purpose and values. By only looking at outcomes, rather than impact, you can inadvertently create a culture of toxic high performers.


2. Make it regular - annual is not enough

One of the biggest frustrations with an annual review is the timeliness of the conversations. Waiting an entire year to review an employee’s successes is just as demotivating as re-hashing their challenges. Having on-going dialogue between leaders and employees is more meaningful because it creates an opportunity to celebrate successes in the moment, identify growth opportunities that are relevant to the current state, and stay connected and aligned with business goals. Plus, the more frequent the conversations occur, the easier they are to do.


3. Keep it simple

Performance reviews can be riddled with administrative processes like comment drafting, first and second submissions, workflows, ratings, reviews, and several layers of approvals. While sometimes certain steps may be necessary, ask yourself what can be eliminated to simplify the process and make it less cumbersome.


4. Be fair, transparent, and developmental

Being blindsided is never a good feeling. In companies where the performance review was tossed aside, many employers found they were still conducting rating reviews or informally checking boxes in the background. A fair process exists when employees are evaluated the same across the board, based on appropriate, non-biased, or discriminatory measures.


Employees also need to trust the input and feedback they provide is considered seriously in the decision-making process and that managers are open about how decisions are made. Address tough feedback in a constructive and timely manner so things aren’t swept under the rug. Focus on developing talent and growing your employee’s strengths; identify priorities and give people the opportunity and tools to achieve them.


The *process-formerly-knowns-as-a-performance review* is here to stay, but you get to decide what the experience looks like by finding ways to reduce distractions, enable stronger conversations, and move your people forward in a way that aligns with your culture.