Ask Addi P.: How Can I Improve the Performance Review Process?

manager and employee in discussion at table with computer

Dear Addi P,

Performance reviews in our organization are a struggle. Our managers don't like to deliver reviews, and employees complain that the system is outdated. With so many different opinions about the process, I'm at a loss regarding which tools or methods we should use. What is the best way to conduct a performance review?

—Really Tired of Ratings

Dear Really Tired of Ratings,

It sounds like you're at a point where you're beginning to wish that performance reviews at your organization were dead. And you're not alone. Many business leaders have started wondering if this exhaustive process is actually beneficial to employees or the organization.

"With their heavy emphasis on financial rewards and punishments and their end-of-year structure, [annual performance reviews] hold people accountable for past behavior at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future," per Harvard Business Review.

In truth, there's not one "best" way to conduct a performance review; however, by considering your organization's needs and including essential components in the process, it's likely you can develop a way to help managers deliver performance feedback that's both useful and effective.

1. Establish Frequent Check-ins

When well-known companies such as Gap and Adobe decided to remove annual performance reviews, it made many HR professionals stop and think about the effectiveness of talking about performance once a year. Many came to the same conclusion: for today's workplace, it's not all that effective. Given the rapid rate of work, managers struggle to remember what happened 12 months ago and employees aren't able to act on feedback that is, frankly, outdated.

Enter the idea of more frequent, conversational check-ins. Rather than saving all performance feedback to deliver during the formal annual review, consider implementing a six-month or quarterly check-in conversation during which a manager can provide an employee with real-time, useful information about what is working and what to try next. When regular coaching is presented in this way, employees can make changes that positively affect their performance and help prevent long-term challenges.

2. Measure What Matters

Traditional performance measurement, based on a manager's idea of what an employee should accomplish (and how), can be demoralizing.

"Employees value a feeling of autonomy and mastery over how they do their jobs," a consultant told the Society for Human Resource Management. "Our creativity gets turned off when we're threatened, and most employees feel threatened by ratings. We like stability and control — to be in the driver's seat. Performance reviews and ratings put the manager in the driver's seat."

To allow employees a sense of control over their performance, make sure managers are focusing on what matters by taking the following steps:

-Emphasize employee strengths and how they benefit the organization.

-Identify opportunities to improve that may enhance the employee's work experience.

-Revisit progress made against any short- or long-term goals the employee set.

These conversations offer a time to measure performance and provide meaningful assessments upon which pay increases can be determined as necessary.

3. Use Technology to Aid the Process

Find ways your organization can use technology to simplify the process. Depending on the systems you have in place, identify the ways in which technology can help you, such as:

-Communicating, tracking and measuring employees' progress,

-Reminding managers when it's time for a check-in conversation.

-Providing a place to make the conversation happen and track the development.

Using technology to assist in tracking the feedback and performance process allows everyone involved — the HR team, leaders, managers and employees — to focus on the true purpose of performance reviews: meaningful conversations about helping people improve in their roles.

When you implement more frequent check-ins, measure what matters and effectively use technology to support the performance review process, your organization will be poised to not only improve current performance, but also prepare your workforce for future success.

Take care,

Addi P.

Addi P is a digital character who represents the human expertise of ADP. The questions and challenges come from professionals who manage people at companies of all sizes. The advice comes from ADP experts who have a deep understanding of the issues and a passion for helping leaders create a better workplace. If you have a challenge you'd like to pose for Addi P, complete this simple form.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and not legal, accounting or tax advice. The information and services ADP provides should not be deemed a substitute for the advice of a professional who can better address your specific concern and situation. Any information provided here is by nature subject to revision and may not be the most current information available on the subject matter discussed.

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