Performance reviews don't needto be overly complicated. In fact, simplifying them can actuallyallow for more organic and productive conversations to occur.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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How many times has your performance management process left you feelingconfused and annoyed, rather than motivated?

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If you're like me, the answer is too many. Fortunately, there isa better way. We have gone through all of the typicaliterations on our way to what we believe is the right approach. Asa marketing tech startup, the concept of an annual review process was absurd because theproduct and our roles will change dramatically in a year. Writingsubstantial quarterly reviews for a large team is better, but isstill a huge time investment that is hard to justify when whatreally matters is improving performance for tomorrow, notagonizing over whether we did a good job yesterday.

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Related: 3 secrets to continuous performance managementsuccess

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Things clicked into place when we transitioned to eightforward-facing, light-touch conversations per year. Suddenly,reviews only took ten minutes per person but they prompted theright conversations. Our employees felt like they were finallygetting regular feedback and knew how they were doing.And the consistent nature of these conversations also helpedeliminate the fear and stressful anticipation many associate withtraditional “performance reviews.”

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Here are three key concepts to keep in mind when considering howto develop a more streamlined and effective performance managementprocess within your organization:

1. Focus reviews on the future

Our change in performance reviews was paired with adoption ofmeasurable quarterly goals, at the level of both the company andeach individual employee. This allowed us to know at any time howwe were actually doing, rather than having a vague and subjectivefeeling that a particular person was a rockstar or struggling.

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These future-focused conversations are always meaningful,because they focus on achieving goals. The mid-quarter conversationis actually more important than the after-quarter; it's the timewhen employees and managers can strategize about how to finish thequarter strong. We talk about what has gone well so far, what hasblocked progress, and what the manager and employee both need to dodifferently. After-quarter conversations acknowledge what theultimate result was and focus on lessons learned for the nextquarter. But it's still all about development and how we can uselessons from the past on the next quarter.

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We also combined conversations around business performance anddevelopment into one. This not only ensures our employees have aclear understanding of how their progress maps back to thecompany's larger goals, but also fosters more positiveconversations around performance and improvement that employeeswill approach with far less tension and anxiety.

2. Make conversations about performance light and frequent

Performance reviews don't need to be overly complicated. Infact, simplifying them can actually allow for more organic andproductive conversations to occur.

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In our new, simpler process, our employees answer just fourquestions about their progress and development towards their goalsmid-way through the quarter:

  • What has gone well in your progress toward your goals?
  • What has blocked your progress, and what changes do you need tomake in the rest of the quarter to achieve your goals?
  • What is one value you want to work on? [Our values are trust,grit, customer obsession, teamwork, and compassion]
  • How can your manager help?

And two questions around accomplishments at the end of eachquarter:

  • What can I learn from this quarter that can help me nextquarter?
  • What is one value I want to focus on next quarter?

Focusing on a concise batch of questions minimizes the timemanagers and employees spend worrying about and preparing for thesereviews and helps ensure that these critical conversations actuallyhappen. As a result, employees receive more clarity on theirmanager's expectations and have a better understanding of theirindividual goals and how to achieve them by quarter's end.

3. Use technology to streamline the process

When we decided to restructure our review process, we partneredwith an HR software company called Betterworks. We wanted to besure that the new process was simple for managers and employees,and that adoption was seamless.

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Betterworks enables transparency into the progress of goals andgives our HR team the insights needed to ensure our managers arehaving these important conversations. The result has been a shiftin attitude toward reviews from both managers and employees.

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Through forward-facing, frequent, lightweight conversations,combined with easy-to-use technologies, companies of any size canreduce stress on its performance management process. You can keepthe focus on the right things: building something meaningful foryour customers and winning the next quarter.


Randal Vegter is head ofpeople operations for NewsCred.

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