Career Management

Let’s be honest: nobody likes traditional performance reviews. Managers hate trying to find time in their schedules to give employees a year’s worth of feedback. Employees dread having to hear a laundry list of mistakes they’ve made. In the end, both parties leave the meeting feeling it was less than productive.

It’s time to stop thinking of performance management as a necessary evil. The first step to doing that is getting everyone on the same page about the purpose of performance reviews.

Unfortunately, as a recent survey from my company, Quantum Workplace, found, there is little agreement about performance management. In fact, just 45.4 percent of managers think that performance reviews are effective at motivating employees. And as our infographic below shows, that’s just the beginning of the problems with traditional performance management.

In order to get a better understanding of how managers can better provide feedback to employees, let’s break down the basics of performance management:

1. The basics

The  survey revealed something shocking: only 14.4 percent of individual contributors know how their performance is measured. When it comes to the very basics of performance management, there’s already confusion. And that does not bode well for the process as a whole.

Without a clear understanding about how performance is judged, all feedback lacks context. A manager can tell an employee that their communication skills need work, but unless everyone is on the same page about the performance criteria, the employee won’t know how to apply that feedback.

Encourage managers to start each review with a reminder of how performance is evaluated and what they are looking for from each employee. Leave time for employees to ask questions so they can clarify any expectations that seem vague to them.

2. Frequency

For decades, performance management has been considered a once a year event. The annual review ruled the roost. But that leaves employees wanting more frequent feedback.

The survey found that only 8.9 percent of employees find annual reviews to be the most effective way for managers to touch base with them. Almost half (49 percent) of employees would prefer to discuss their performance on a monthly or quarterly basis.

By giving employees feedback more frequently, managers can make the process more digestible. When you try to cram 12 month’s worth of suggestions into a half hour, things fall through the cracks. Managers need to pick and choose what type of feedback they provide, giving employees a less than complete picture of their performance. Some of their successes will go unrecognized and some of their chances to improve, overlooked.

Instead, schedule regular performance discussions. Have an agenda that allows enough time for an in-depth conversation about how the employee is doing and what they still need to work on. And know that more frequent reviews will improve overall performance management. Our survey found that 60.7 percent of employees and 81.6 percent of managers believe performance would be better if it was discussed more than once a year.

3. Sources of feedback

In theory, managers should have a good perspective on how each of their employees are doing. But in reality, they can’t spend every moment of their day observing or interacting with each individual. If they’re the only source of feedback for employees, than they are only seeing part of the picture.

Co-workers, however, spend more time working side-by-side on a daily basis. They’re in the trenches together. They see who’s contributing and in what ways, so including their feedback provides valuable information for individuals.

Managers understand the importance of peer feedback — 73.4 percent said it was beneficial for performance management. By making it a formal part of the process, they’ll know the best way to incorporate it in their regular employee reviews. Develop a survey for co-workers that focuses on teamwork and what part each individual plays in overall success. This will highlight factors managers are missing or viewing differently about an employee’s performance. With that extra information, they can give better, more complete feedback.

How a company handles performance management can make or break their chance at success. But for the process to work, everyone needs to understand the purpose of providing feedback. That means getting managers and employees on the same page about expectations so everyone has a complete picture of what’s going on.

About the author: Natalie Hackbarth is the Inbound Marketing Manager of Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools that guide their next step in making work better every day. You can connect with Natalie and the Quantum Workplace team on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.


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