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Are Annual Reviews Sabotaging Your Workplace?

By Ben Murphy

Are Annual Reviews Sabotaging Your Workplace?

By Ben Murphy

Does your company rely on an annual review to keep employees and managers on the same page? How does that work for you? Be honest.  

Most employees hate annual reviews and feel they’re a huge waste of time. Worse yet, managers can often feel the pressure to pick a flaw or an area of improvement to discuss, with little to no evidence to back their claim. The only thing that comes out of these meetings is a disconnect between the manager and their employees… maybe even some feelings of resentment.  

How To Manage for Success 

We’ve had the opportunity to work with thousands of companies and pull out the best techniques used to create engaged working relationships. That’s why we created our Manage 4 Performance™ software – to help you revolutionize your employee’s engagement and performance by bringing out the best in your people. It starts with developing tangible management and performance goals for every position in your company and then custom-coaching employees to be as successful as they can be in hitting those goals. 

But to be an effective coach, you can’t check in with your team once a year… That is why one of the big changes we recommend for companies who want to get serious about having a company of top performers is to dump the annual review and focus on quarterly conversations instead.  

What is a Quarterly Conversation? 

There’s no secret here, it’s pretty straight forward: quarterly conversations are discussions between managers and employees that happen on a quarterly basis.  

The key is that this is not a review where one party has the floor the entire time. It’s a conversation, meaning feedback goes both ways and managers and employees work together to develop a plan to move forward regarding any areas of concern or desires for growth that are addressed. Once a game plan is in place, both parties are held accountable to their end of the deal. If in time it becomes clear that the proposed solution didn’t solve the problem, that’s okay too. Holding frequent check-ins allows for pivots and adjustments as needed. 

Which brings us to the next key: in an ideal world, quarterly conversations are held quarterly (big surprise, right?). Getting together once a year to discuss performance is not a solid way to support growth or to reward achievements. By gathering more frequently, it’s far easier to gauge progress and track a decline before it becomes a major concern. This keeps management more closely aligned with their employees and vice versa.  

Now, if it seems like quarterly may be biting off more than you can chew (perhaps your organization currently doesn’t have any sort of review structure in place), it’s okay to start smaller. The most important thing is that you just start somewhere. If a mini session on a quarterly basis is a win for your organization, that’s great! Just like any other goal, plan action steps to get to where you want to be. 

What is There to Talk About? 

When you’re a People-first, performance-driven organization there are pillars upon which you can build your quarterly conversation making it easy to know exactly what to address every time. Even if it seems like you’ll run out of topics to cover by meeting more frequently, we can guarantee you’ll have plenty to connect with your employees about.

We center quarterly conversations around 4 areas: performance objectives, skills, behaviors, and values. In each conversation, both the manager and the employee are evaluating where they’re at in each area.  

  • Performance Objectives. Does your employee know what is expected of them in their role? Do they have 3-5 measurable goals by which you can evaluate their overall performance? If not, it’s time to craft some performance objectives. Then, when you come together for a quarterly conversation (or even a weekly 1:1) you can easily see how they are doing and identify any potential areas of growth or stretch. Is the role too challenging? Too easy? Do they need additional coaching to hit their goals? Perhaps the goals you’ve laid before them aren’t even realistic. Chatting about them regularly allows for adjustments as needed.  
  • Skills. Every position requires a unique set of skills to be successful. Chances are when you hired this employee, you believed they had the skills to accomplish the task set out before them (if you didn’t feel that way, you may want to re-evaluate how you hire!). But we all know that things can change very easily. Does this employee still have the skills needed to be successful in accomplishing their goals? Are there additional skills they would like to develop to be able to advance their career? How can you as their manager help to support them in that? These are all areas that can be easily overlooked when only connecting annually with your employees.  
  • Behaviors. Sometimes there are clear behavioral concerns that need to be addressed. Perhaps your employee is perpetually coming in late and leaving early, blaring their alternative punk music in the office, or leaving their leftover Chinese food in the fridge for months. Other times there are more subtle concerns, such as lack of engagement in meetings or a taking too long to reply to emails. Checking in on behavioral concerns can help nip a problem in the bud before it gets out of hand. 
  • Values. Connecting with your employees quarterly regarding value alignment to their role and your organization as a whole may be one of the most critical pieces of the quarterly conversation. Why? Because it’s most easily overlooked and put off. However, more often than not, employees leave due to a misalignment of values than anything else. Perhaps their own personal values have changed and they’re looking for more flexibility, or maybe they don’t see your organization “practicing what you preach.” No matter the cause, it’s crucial to check in with your employees regarding what they value. Then, as much as it’s in your power to do so, create an environment where they feel their values are, well, valued. But as all things in management, this is a 2-way street. It’s equally as important to ensure that their values align with yours as an organization. For example, if you value excellence but it seems they have been cutting corners lately, this needs to be addressed. Clarity on cultural expectations matters just as much as performance expectations.  

One Size Does NOT Fit All 

If your management team approaches each employee in the same manner, then your managers are failing. Unless your team is made of cyborgs, they have their own unique personalities, motivations, and goals.   

Great managers learn about their employees and what makes them tick by having regular conversations and talking directly about these very important parts of their makeup. This guides future discussions, it helps shape their performance goals, and it gives managers strong insight on how to lead their team. 

We believe it’s critical to customize your coaching to each individual employee, which is why we created Manage 4 Performance™. Our software makes it easy to meet every employee exactly where they are and then coach them to be their best. 

Once you move past the once-a-year, one-size-fits-all approach to managing, your team will develop a deeper relationship that’s based on understanding and honesty. This is where we see companies thrive. Let us show you around our Manage 4 Performance™ software and chat about how you can breathe life into your management process!

Does your company rely on an annual review to keep employees and managers on the same page? How does that work for you? Be honest.  

Most employees hate annual reviews and feel they’re a huge waste of time. Worse yet, managers can often feel the pressure to pick a flaw or an area of improvement to discuss, with little to no evidence to back their claim. The only thing that comes out of these meetings is a disconnect between the manager and their employees… maybe even some feelings of resentment.  

How To Manage for Success 

We’ve had the opportunity to work with thousands of companies and pull out the best techniques used to create engaged working relationships. That’s why we created our Manage 4 Performance™ software – to help you revolutionize your employee’s engagement and performance by bringing out the best in your people. It starts with developing tangible management and performance goals for every position in your company and then custom-coaching employees to be as successful as they can be in hitting those goals. 

But to be an effective coach, you can’t check in with your team once a year… That is why one of the big changes we recommend for companies who want to get serious about having a company of top performers is to dump the annual review and focus on quarterly conversations instead.  

What is a Quarterly Conversation? 

There’s no secret here, it’s pretty straight forward: quarterly conversations are discussions between managers and employees that happen on a quarterly basis.  

The key is that this is not a review where one party has the floor the entire time. It’s a conversation, meaning feedback goes both ways and managers and employees work together to develop a plan to move forward regarding any areas of concern or desires for growth that are addressed. Once a game plan is in place, both parties are held accountable to their end of the deal. If in time it becomes clear that the proposed solution didn’t solve the problem, that’s okay too. Holding frequent check-ins allows for pivots and adjustments as needed. 

Which brings us to the next key: in an ideal world, quarterly conversations are held quarterly (big surprise, right?). Getting together once a year to discuss performance is not a solid way to support growth or to reward achievements. By gathering more frequently, it’s far easier to gauge progress and track a decline before it becomes a major concern. This keeps management more closely aligned with their employees and vice versa.  

Now, if it seems like quarterly may be biting off more than you can chew (perhaps your organization currently doesn’t have any sort of review structure in place), it’s okay to start smaller. The most important thing is that you just start somewhere. If a mini session on a quarterly basis is a win for your organization, that’s great! Just like any other goal, plan action steps to get to where you want to be. 

What is There to Talk About? 

When you’re a People-first, performance-driven organization there are pillars upon which you can build your quarterly conversation making it easy to know exactly what to address every time. Even if it seems like you’ll run out of topics to cover by meeting more frequently, we can guarantee you’ll have plenty to connect with your employees about.

We center quarterly conversations around 4 areas: performance objectives, skills, behaviors, and values. In each conversation, both the manager and the employee are evaluating where they’re at in each area.  

  • Performance Objectives. Does your employee know what is expected of them in their role? Do they have 3-5 measurable goals by which you can evaluate their overall performance? If not, it’s time to craft some performance objectives. Then, when you come together for a quarterly conversation (or even a weekly 1:1) you can easily see how they are doing and identify any potential areas of growth or stretch. Is the role too challenging? Too easy? Do they need additional coaching to hit their goals? Perhaps the goals you’ve laid before them aren’t even realistic. Chatting about them regularly allows for adjustments as needed.  
  • Skills. Every position requires a unique set of skills to be successful. Chances are when you hired this employee, you believed they had the skills to accomplish the task set out before them (if you didn’t feel that way, you may want to re-evaluate how you hire!). But we all know that things can change very easily. Does this employee still have the skills needed to be successful in accomplishing their goals? Are there additional skills they would like to develop to be able to advance their career? How can you as their manager help to support them in that? These are all areas that can be easily overlooked when only connecting annually with your employees.  
  • Behaviors. Sometimes there are clear behavioral concerns that need to be addressed. Perhaps your employee is perpetually coming in late and leaving early, blaring their alternative punk music in the office, or leaving their leftover Chinese food in the fridge for months. Other times there are more subtle concerns, such as lack of engagement in meetings or a taking too long to reply to emails. Checking in on behavioral concerns can help nip a problem in the bud before it gets out of hand. 
  • Values. Connecting with your employees quarterly regarding value alignment to their role and your organization as a whole may be one of the most critical pieces of the quarterly conversation. Why? Because it’s most easily overlooked and put off. However, more often than not, employees leave due to a misalignment of values than anything else. Perhaps their own personal values have changed and they’re looking for more flexibility, or maybe they don’t see your organization “practicing what you preach.” No matter the cause, it’s crucial to check in with your employees regarding what they value. Then, as much as it’s in your power to do so, create an environment where they feel their values are, well, valued. But as all things in management, this is a 2-way street. It’s equally as important to ensure that their values align with yours as an organization. For example, if you value excellence but it seems they have been cutting corners lately, this needs to be addressed. Clarity on cultural expectations matters just as much as performance expectations.  

One Size Does NOT Fit All 

If your management team approaches each employee in the same manner, then your managers are failing. Unless your team is made of cyborgs, they have their own unique personalities, motivations, and goals.   

Great managers learn about their employees and what makes them tick by having regular conversations and talking directly about these very important parts of their makeup. This guides future discussions, it helps shape their performance goals, and it gives managers strong insight on how to lead their team. 

We believe it’s critical to customize your coaching to each individual employee, which is why we created Manage 4 Performance™. Our software makes it easy to meet every employee exactly where they are and then coach them to be their best. 

Once you move past the once-a-year, one-size-fits-all approach to managing, your team will develop a deeper relationship that’s based on understanding and honesty. This is where we see companies thrive. Let us show you around our Manage 4 Performance™ software and chat about how you can breathe life into your management process!

 

Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Aug 24, 2021
Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Aug 24, 2021