Four tips for ditching your organisation’s performance reviews


So did last week’s post convince you that your organisation should get rid of annual performance reviews?

If your answer is ‘yes!’, then the obvious next question is: ‘if not annual performance reviews, then what?’

Organisations sidestepping traditional performance review systems aren’t canning the idea of reviewing performance altogether. They recognise the need to continue to improve staff performance in some way – just one that is more effective.

These organisations are now emphasising ongoing, quality conversations between managers and teams, embedding feedback into their daily or weekly work in order to boost morale and performance.

Research shows that organisations providing their staff with regular feedback have a turnover rate 15 percent lower than those undertaking annual reviews.

Culturally, we’ve become accustomed to instant feedback – and we now expect that same immediacy in our work.

Experts say this change is driven in large part by the influence of Generation Y. PwC data shows that 41 percent of millenials prefer to be recognised for their work at least monthly – and since millenials will soon be a majority of the workforce, organisations can’t afford not to respond to their needs.

So if providing regular feedback to staff is the most effective way to manage performance, how best to achieve this?

Here are four key tips for ditching your current performance review process:

  1. Ask how things are working now

Before you change anything, take a considered look at what’s already working in your organisation – and what isn’t.

How do staff – both managers and employees – in your organisation perceive your current performance review processes? Do they find them helpful, or a hinderance? A simple survey should elicit some valuable data on how your current review processes are working, and how everyone feels about them.

This data is valuable for three reasons:

First, you might be surprised to find that some of your current processes are working well, and that managers or staff would like to keep some things about the current system – this is important to know!

Second, the data will provide you with a baseline to compare against, once you’ve made your changes.

And third, it will probably give you some valuable ammunition to convince your organisation’s leaders that change in needed.

  1. Get leaders on board

Are your senior management reluctant to rock the boat? Their support is probably crucial if you’re looking to shake-up the status quo – but they’re the ones who need to visibly advocate for the new program from the start.

So how to get them on board? Give them solid data packaged in a way that speaks to them.

Here’s where data on how managers and staff view your current system will come in handy.

There’s also plenty of independent research which show that current performance review processes aren’t working.

  1. Equip managers with the tools to make it happen

According to Fortune, it’s the people delivering performance review programs who influence its success. So, if the efficacy depends on the delivery, it’s vital to ensure those carrying out the new program are equipped to do so.

Building a process focused on regular feedback for all staff needs to be based on effective communication so managers need to learn how best to engage and have regular, real-time conversations that boost staff performance. These conversations aren’t always easy.

Here are two recent posts we’ve published on how to have challenging conversations with staff. But practice is more important than a list of advice, so training and coaching program to help managers with this key skill might be valuable.

Highlighting the goals of the new system – transparency, improved morale, better productivity, and a focus on the future, rather than the past – can also help get buy-in from sceptics.

  1. Be thorough and consistent

In the absence of a reliable review once a year, creating consistent processes for a new program is key for success.

Some organisations have adopted a ‘check-in’ system whereby two-way feedback is given often – say, on a fortnightly basis. Frequent conversations between staff and managers – both positive and constructive – reinforce positive performance as it happens, producing more engaged staff that are more likely to succeed.

Flexibility means different managers, teams or departments will need to adjust their processes on a needs basis. Ultimately, the point of the constant feedback program is for managers to have a conversation when there’s something to say, rather than when the organisation’s rules say they should.

For this feedback system to effectively replace the annual performance review, it comes down to one important question: does your organisation’s culture facilitate free and forthright discussion about performance? If so, abandoning the annual performance review will be successful. If not? The problems might run deeper than just the evaluation tools in use.

Can you see a regular feedback system replacing annual performance reviews in your organisation? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Image: Michael Coghlan.

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