To Review or Not to Review . . . Annually

Two people with coffee cups sitting across from one another at a table
photo by joshua ness

If you are reconsidering whether to continue the practice of annual performance reviews, here’s some food for thought:
According to Gallup, only 14% of employees strongly agree that their performance reviews inspire them to improve. Considering the amount of time and money that organizations spend on performance reviews, is it worth it? This BBC article makes the point that these annual reviews can not only be unhelpful, but can potentially harm the best-performing employees.

For many managers, there can be little to no feedback about how to conduct an effective performance review. So, when it comes time to give an annual performance review, traditional approaches to feedback can make performance actually suffer. If you find that the only time you give employees feedback is during their annual review, by the time you are giving praise or correction, those issues are in the past and have either been resolved or can feel like the praise is an afterthought and the correction is coming out of nowhere.  Another thing that can overwhelm both a manager and an employee is when an annual review tries to roll too many things into one conversation: feedback on improvement, setting any bonus or raise, and giving any praise. If this is the only feedback conversation an employee has with their manager, it can be intimidating and stressful and even high performing employees can become defensive.

So what are some other options? FastCompany suggests that it may be more effective to replace annual reviews with frequent “check-in” meetings and that the strategy of MBWA (Management by Walking Around) can yield great results. Checking on employees every day and giving them real-time feedback on areas where they can improve, as well as things they are doing well, allows for performance measurement that is consistent and straightforward. A little personal attention goes a long way, and it is important to make sure that you let employees know that you are not checking on them, but listening to them, observing how they work, and addressing any concerns you or they may have. Even if your organization has an annual performance review, using the MBWA strategy helps ensure that when it comes time for that annual conversation, there are no surprises and the review can focus on strategies for improvement and development.

The articles cited in this blog post are helpful, but if you are looking for more information, the Library has these books in our collection:
Performance Reviews: Evaluate Performance, Offer Constructive Feedback, Discuss Tough Topics
The Quick and Easy Performance Appraisal Phrase Book: 3000+ Powerful Phrases for Successful Reviews, Appraisals and Evaluations by Patrick Alain

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