In recent years, leading organizations have begun using a continuous approach to performance management. Companies like GE, Deloitte, and Accenture are just a few who have replaced legacy performance reviews with ongoing tactics such as two-way feedback loops. In doing so, they’ve eliminated manager biases, alleviated stress and frustration surrounding yearly appraisals, and most importantly, delivered ongoing feedback and coaching to actually help employees improve performance.
By this point, most of us know why we need to switch to continuous performance management. The question still remains: How can we make the change effectively?
It’s not as complicated as you might think. Here are some of the top strategies for transitioning from legacy performance reviews to ongoing performance management as seamlessly as possible:
Start by Setting (and Tracking) Clear Goals
The point of continuous performance management is (as its name suggests) to improve performance on an ongoing basis, but the only way your managers will be able to tell whether employees are performing up to expectations is if clear goals have been set. Teams need to know exactly what’s expected of them, and managers need to keep track of performance towards goals to determine whether progress is on track. To that end, companies like Google are using comprehensive goal setting systems such as OKR (Objectives and Key Results) to set, track, and measure clear goals that are aligned with company priorities on an ongoing basis.
Create an Ongoing Feedback Loop
To make performance management more of a consistent process (versus an annual event), have managers establish an ongoing, closed-loop feedback exchange with their direct reports. Tactics to support the feedback loop could include brief weekly one-on-one check-ins, during which managers discuss progress from the past week and expectations for the upcoming week. The employee will also have the opportunity to share their own feedback. To further support the feedback exchange in real-time, you might also consider using a pulse survey to allow teams to exchange praise, constructive advice, and additional insights.
Make Sure Feedback Is Specific
To hold effective feedback exchanges, managers must be specific, actionable, and timely. One of the reasons ongoing feedback is so effective is because it addresses issues when they happen – not months down the road. Encourage managers to give praise when an employee has accomplished a small win, and ask them to course-correct when they see a problem. Make sure the feedback they’re giving is clear and direct so employees understand exactly what they did well or what should be done to improve in the future.
Don’t Feel Compelled to Ditch Reviews
Many companies are feeling pressured to oust annual reviews altogether, even if it doesn’t align with their business strategy. In reality, there’s no reason to entirely abandon yearly reviews. In fact, holding annual reviews in conjunction with ongoing performance management can have a powerful impact. The review is simply an opportunity to recap and formally document the insights shared about performance over the year (which managers should be keeping notes on). Since there should be no surprises as feedback has been an ongoing discussion topic all along, both parties will feel less pressure about the process.
Create Development Plans
Remember the overall purpose of performance management: to improve your employees’ performance. In order for that to happen, both managers and their teams should collaborate to come up with strategic development plans. Then, during regular feedback exchanges, they must check in, holding one another accountable for appropriate follow-through. For instance, if an employee need some extra time in their schedule to devote to a training course outlined in their development plan, managers should do their part to help employee in whatever way they can.
Ongoing performance management requires more frequent exchanges between managers and their teams, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or challenging. When everyone begins to see the benefits of employing these simple yet effective tactics – better clarity, improved engagement, and ultimately, a boost in performance – they’ll soon find that their efforts are worthwhile.