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Making Performance Reviews More Effective With More Time

Establishing an ongoing performance review process is beneficial to employees and managers. Frequent feedback increases review effectiveness and growth potential.

Amanda Beach photo
Amanda Beach
Jan 24, 20205 minutes

Performance reviews don’t have the best reputation. There’s a certain distaste that employees have for reviews, regardless if they’re managers or not. Despite that distaste, many companies still conduct performance reviews using the same antiquated processes that bred the distaste in the first place.

What if you could change that for your employees? As a manager, you have the ability to promote change at a team level, fostering a healthy appetite for feedback and growth in your employees. All it takes is a little more time.

Ongoing Reviews are the Way to Go

Performance reviews are often conducted in a single annual meeting to assess a year’s worth of employee effort. The infrequency of these meetings plays a large part in why they aren’t effective.

To be truly effective, the performance review process should be ongoing with active involvement from both you and your employees. The annual review meeting is a great opportunity to look at what transpired over the last year, but there’s more value in what you do with the time between annual review meetings.

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Implementing process changes for your team or department can be difficult, so we’ve outlined ways to structure an ongoing process that can increase effectiveness along with employee engagement and growth.

Preparing for the Year Ahead

A great time to start changing the process is right after completing annual reviews. While you have an entire year before the next annual review, you’ll benefit from getting a head start to set the right expectations with employees for the year ahead.

Make the annual review documentation accessible to you and your employees. You’ll reference it while assessing performance throughout the year and employees will reference it as they work toward achieving the goals discussed. You’ll also want to communicate to your employees about the planned changes for the performance review process and the purpose and frequency of upcoming check-in meetings.

Managing an Ongoing Performance Process

Do you have a method for managing ongoing delivery and documentation of performance information? If not, it’s never too late to find one! Because real-time feedback is critical to employee growth and the effectiveness of performance reviews, finding a performance management tool can help you conquer the task.

Checking in With Your Employees

Giving real-time feedback to employees throughout the year is one of the most effective ways to impact their performance. Weekly one-on-one meetings offer a more structured way to deliver this feedback if you or your employees aren’t comfortable with more casual, in-the-moment feedback. These one-on-ones allow for prompt feedback, whereas context can be lost if too much time passes before feedback is shared. Try discussing praise and constructive feedback separately so employees understand the key message.

Giving real-time feedback to employees throughout the year is one of the most effective ways to impact their performance.

The quarterly check-ins give you the chance to discuss employees’ performance and progress made toward their goals. Come prepared with observations and feedback to share, allowing employees to ask questions, request support, and give feedback of their own. Revisiting your employees’ goals is also key. Discuss and evaluate what goals need to be adjusted, and if any new goals need to be created. When the meeting is finished, make sure you document what was discussed and provide the documentation to employees. This enables employees to track progress, helps you prepare for future reviews, and provides justification for promotions or performance improvement plans.

Continue these practices for each quarterly check-in (aim to schedule meetings at the three-, six-, and nine-month mark). As the next annual review gets closer, you’ll want to take a few more steps to prepare.

Preparing for Annual Reviews

Preparing for the annual review doesn’t have to be difficult. When the review is a month or two away, schedule the annual review meeting and communicate to employees about what they can expect.

A great way to begin is by asking employees to submit self-evaluations before their meeting. The evaluation should include personal assessments of their performance and progress made toward their goals, along with any new goals. You should also consider new goals for your employees at this point that are based on your observations throughout the year.

It’s also helpful to reach out to your employees’ coworkers for 360-degree feedback, which should reflect your employee’s impact on their coworkers’ goals. This feedback will round out the review so it isn’t limited to your perspective.

Review what you’ve compiled over the course of the year and finalize the documentation in preparation for the meeting. Collect and review employee self-evaluations and 360-degree feedback, noting what observations don’t align with yours so you can discuss as needed. Firm up each employee’s goals so they’re specific, measurable, and personalized for their role but also aligned with the company’s larger goals (using the SMART goal method helps).

Organize the above alongside the examples, feedback, and check-in documentation gathered throughout the year into a comprehensive account of employee performance. This is where the ongoing efforts pay off! Use this to create the agenda and allow employees to add agenda items if requested.

Conducting Annual Reviews

You’ve been preparing yourself and your employees for this day all year, so everyone should feel less stress than in years past. The ongoing check-ins should have given employees a good idea of where they stand in terms of performance. The 360-degree feedback is the only exception, so provide that to employees ahead of time so they can process it privately.

If salary and promotions discussions are required as part of the annual review, tackle those first so the employee is engaged in the rest of the meeting agenda. When possible, it’s better to have a separate meeting on those topics after the review. The review covers employee performance, making it less of a surprise when you approve or deny raises and promotions.

During the review meetings themselves, you’ll want to continue what you’ve practiced throughout the year. Discuss your feedback and observations of employee performance, review and update the goals for each employee, and outline how employees will be evaluated on their progress.

After the meetings are finished and documentation has been shared with everyone, you’re ready to begin the performance review process again.

An ongoing performance review process can create impactful change to how all employees perceive and approach annual reviews. By increasing the frequency of feedback and opening up the conversation, you’re replacing that bitter distaste with something much easier to swallow, making performance reviews more effective for both you and your employees.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.