Complaints about performance reviews are all too common in the workplace. Managers feel like they are wasting precious time going through a process that doesn’t have much meaning, and employees aren’t receiving feedback that helps them to grow and develop as professionals. So, what can organizations do to fix this problem?

The first step is to take a hard look at your existing performance management system. How long has it been the standard process, and why was this system design created initially? Having a historical background can be helpful in determining how to improve the process and where you should go from here. It’s also helpful to solicit feedback from employees and managers at all levels to find out what’s working and what needs to be improved upon.

As an organization, determine what you want to measure, including competencies, core values, working toward the mission and vision, and other organization-specific criteria. Give some consideration to whether or not you can have a one-size-fits-all model that uses the same measurement for all positions or if you need customization for certain job categories and/or levels in the organization.

Many forms and processes are overly complicated. Performance management is an area where simplification may be best. Think about managers who have a large span of control and have to complete many reviews in a short period of time. How can you make the process streamlined but also substantive for the employee?

Once you make changes to your performance management system and forms, training is crucial to ensuring that employees and managers understand their roles in the new process. We often incorrectly assume that managers know how to give good feedback, but there are many managers who don’t feel confident in this skill. Training also needs to provide opportunities for employees to practice receiving feedback in a safe environment and allow managers to practice giving both positive and constructive feedback in that safe environment. It’s helpful to have one-on-one coaching opportunities for managers who need additional assistance and enrichment with this skillset after the initial training session.

For managers who struggle with performance- conversations, provide conversation starters and sample questions during the training. These materials can be in the form of a job aid they can refer back to after the training. For example, you could review the start-stop-continue method with them and provide sample questions like these:

  • What is the employee not doing currently that you want them to start in the coming year?
  • What is the employee doing, if anything, that is hindering their performance?
  • What is the employee doing well that you want them to continue?

Training should also include a review of how to use the forms and, more importantly, why the organization has a performance management system. Employees and managers need to understand the business case for the process and what’s in it for them. When there’s a clear understanding of these two tenets, performance management systems are seen as a value-add in the organization and not simply a task that managers and employees are forced to do every year.