Employees Need Regular Feedback: Ditch your Annual Performance Review

You probably heard about Adobe shocking the world in 2012 by eliminating their traditional performance review. They got a lot of push back from critics, but they held strong saying the results of their old evaluation system just weren’t working any longer. Their performance reviews were taking up too much time and effort. And the kicker was after all that effort, internal surveys showed that their employees felt less inspired and motivated afterward and turnover increased. Instead, they want their managers to do a regular check-in.

Traditional annual performance reviews are broken. Four out of five workers are dissatisfied with their performance reviews. In fact, most of the time, there’s no plan for improvement and no one really follows up or is held accountable for decisions made in performance reviews. Do they even have any value at all?

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Performance reviews have been happening for centuries. Along with the industrial revolution, the process became more defined and mechanical—as the jobs and workers became. But they’re antiquated and inefficient today.

How do people really feel about performance reviews?

Employees just want to know what’s expected of them and whether or not they’re living up to expectations. They also want to make sure the manager cares and values what they’re contributing. They want you to notice their performance without having to tell you.

Supervisors and managers agree with employees that they already know how you’re doing. So, why are we having this drawn-out, lengthy discussion about things you both already know? Ultimately, they want employees to be happy, engaged at their work and successful, but don’t like doing this in this formal process that takes up so much time.

How can companies fix this broken process?

Performance reviews have been handed down generation after generation. We need to shift the way we look at performance reviews and focus on three areas:

• Make it simple. It can’t take a lot of time. And HR shouldn’t have to harass managers to make sure they’re getting them done. It needs to be spread out and feel just right. Make it easy for them to do!

• Make it accurate. Managers don’t want to feel out of touch. They don’t want to have to wait months for the next performance review to bring up something they need to discuss. By that time, details are gone and it might not seem relevant. Feedback MUST happen right away; your yearly review isn’t going to cut it anymore. Constant affirmation or guidance sets expectations.

• It must motivate. Remember Adobe and how their employees were coming away from performance reviews feeling unmotivated? That’s the exact opposite of what they should be doing. If you’re waiting to bring up that good thing an employee did, you’ll have missed an opportunity to recognize them in the moment and motivate them to keep repeating the behavior. Just think how much more could have been done in that time! They would have been making improvements long before and accomplishing so much more. And if you’re setting goals along the way, it feels more real and attainable. Oh, and don’t forget the follow-up. You can’t just have employees set goals. Check in regularly and measure how they’re doing.

Performance management is more than just asking some sample performance review questions and checking a box; it’s about cultivating culture and inspiring employee growth.

Performance management is more than just checking a box; it’s cultivating culture and inspiring growth.

It’s time to quit doing performance reviews and start managing people. You’ve got to start painting the real picture of each employee’s performance. It doesn’t happen just once or twice a year. That picture is a continual work-in-progress.