For years, managers and company leaders have relied on the annual performance review as a tried and true approach for providing feedback to employees, setting goals and holding them accountable for achieving results.
Is this process really encouraging high performance in your organization?
In the traditional annual review model, each year, companies ask employees to fill out a performance survey, usually with feedback from their manager, and submit the results for their file. While conducting these annual reviews costs organizations millions in lost working hours, Gallup reports that “only 14% of employees strongly agree their performance reviews inspire them to improve.”
Why? For starters, a year’s worth of productivity and performance is a lot to synthesize in one sitting. Since the discussion only happens annually, employees and managers have often forgotten the entire year’s worth of effort and productivity by the time annual reviews swing around, resulting in incomplete, unhelpful data.
The annual review survey is also usually general and open-ended so that it can apply to everyone in the organization. While convenient for photocopying and mass emailing, this approach makes it difficult to individualize the review to address each employee’s unique personality, challenges and skills. Form statements asking managers to determine if the performance of multiple team members has met their expectations are ambiguous ciphers that result in haphazard feedback or even bias rather than thoughtful assessments using agreed-upon criteria.
There’s a better, more individualized approach to inspiring and managing high performance in your team, and it involves these three elements:
1. Give Instant Feedback
Rather than waiting a year before identifying issues and relaying feedback to an employee, find reasons to share feedback regularly throughout the workweek. Take time to get to know your employees and their expectations, and use this in-depth knowledge to inform your management style for each individual.
Think of yourself as a coach rather than a manager. Give your employees the tools they need to improve on an ongoing basis, and then step back and let them achieve success. This regular guidance will help employees make quick adaptations and small changes to continuously improve and excel at their duties.
2. Set Personal Goals
Research shows that increasing job autonomy leads to happier, more productive employees, so ditch the generic goals and meet regularly with employees to empower them to set their own goals instead. When you give team members the freedom to choose goals that are unique to them and their capabilities, they will feel a more personal attachment to them, will believe in them more fully and will be more likely to actually achieve them.
To further enhance employees’ commitment, make these regular goal-setting moments part of a bigger conversation that connects their work to the greater mission and vision of the department or organization. This conversation will encourage greater team collaboration and accountability.
3. Conduct Quarterly Performance Coaching Sessions
In the traditional annual performance review model, the conversation is one-sided. By conducting quarterly performance coaching sessions instead, the conversation becomes bidirectional. Both the manager and employee openly explore what’s working, what isn’t working and what they need from each other to achieve success. They also continuously review past and future targets for performance optimization. These conversations become more meaningful and successful, and they have a stronger connection to performance.
The ultimate goal of any manager is to develop and encourage high-performing teams. If you’re stuck in a dated performance management routine that isn’t producing results, consider taking a more individualized, agile approach to guiding, motivating and rewarding your team.