Ah, the annual review. It arguably tops the charts as one of HR’s least favorite activities. In the past, performance reviews have often come down to simply checking a box in an employee file. Not surprisingly, the effectiveness of this dreaded HR process has been under serious scrutiny. In most organizations, in fact, the annual review is being replaced by more frequent employee check-ins.
But the informality of many of these check-ins, while more comfortable for all parties, poses the danger of undermining their intended goal by not effectively tracking and managing performance. Finding the right performance management and review process for your organization is critical to your ongoing success, for both you and your employees.
Here are three steps you can take to build a more concrete, effective performance management process at your organization.
Be Intentional but Realistic
In many cases, moving directly from the very structured annual review to less-structured one-on-one conversations can result in meetings that only skim the surface of performance management. And the truth is that employees largely crave structure. The solution? Establishing frequent check-ins with concrete goals can furnish much better results than just checking in when underperformance is detected.
Being intentional about meeting checkpoints — possibly once a quarter or every other month — can help employees get a better grasp on their performance and provides smaller, more realistic goals for them to work toward. To prevent these check-ins from simply becoming another box to check, consider taking a performance coaching approach. Invite employees to assess and offer feedback on their own performances. This collaborative process increases engagement and employee buy-in.
Getting swept up in the work cycle can distract us all. This is often the biggest enemy to effective performance management. We rarely pause to evaluate the “how” and “why” of our performance process. This often translates to empty promises to “do better” without putting a plan in place to actually make that happen.
This is a problem at an organizational level, but it begins with each employee and their performance coach. By training managers to give constructive, meaningful feedback and set goals and expectations for employees during scheduled check-ins, you can set the tone for actual change. Consider setting a company-wide structure for one-on-one check-ins. That consistency makes changes in performance easier to manage — and to measure.
Set a New Normal
In order for performance management to be most effective, the collaborative check-in process has to occur regularly. This new process has to become an expected part of the employee life cycle. If employees know what to expect from their coaching check-ins, they can be prepared — and being prepared is the first step to making actual changes to performance.
Progress relies on consistency. Teaching managers to align employee goals with company goals sets a standard. And building upon small goals to reach larger performance milestones makes change more accessible. Once these goals are understood and ingrained in the employee life cycle, employees can take small steps toward huge improvements.