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Phasing Out Annual Performance Reviews

Is the jury really still out on the merits of the traditional annual review? Is your organization still doing this? We know it doesn’t add value, right?

Managers and subordinates alike find annual performance reviews stressful, time-consuming and apparently, counterproductive. The notion that performance should be managed continuously and not just reviewed once a year has been around for some time, yet it is still met with resistance. Are we still stuck doing the annual appraisal because we don’t want to change, we don’t know “how” to do it differently, or our managers don’t want to be faced with uncomfortable conversations?

INSIDE ANGLE ▼

OneDigital officially moved away from the annual review to the concept of real-time feedback in early 2018. As an organization, we ultimately made the “leap” because we weren’t confident that our approach to performance management was driving engagement. Like many others, we felt as though the traditional (and sometimes dreaded) approach was more of an administrative process than driving what truly matters–talent development, performance and engagement.

We believe that feedback should be an ongoing journey between leaders and talent. Our priority today is fostering a culture that focuses on coaching forward and not looking backward. Since moving to this new philosophy, we have found that this type of in-the-moment feedback has taken formality and fear out of the equation and left us with an opportunity to focus on goals, growth and transparency.

While we have found that this change was the right path for our culture and organization, it is also important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Even within our organization, we encourage both leaders and talent to find a cadence of open, honest, collaborative feedback that works best for them. It is an “a la carte” approach, and we are confident that this change will ultimately positively impact OneDigital’s talent development and engagement.

Chelsey Willis, Director of Talent Management, OneDigital

INSIDE ANGLE ▼

OneDigital officially moved away from the annual review to the concept of real-time feedback in early 2018. As an organization, we ultimately made the “leap” because we weren’t confident that our approach to performance management was driving engagement. Like many others, we felt as though the traditional (and sometimes dreaded) approach was more of an administrative process than driving what truly matters–talent development, performance and engagement.

We believe that feedback should be an ongoing journey between leaders and talent. Our priority today is fostering a culture that focuses on coaching forward and not looking backward. Since moving to this new philosophy, we have found that this type of in-the-moment feedback has taken formality and fear out of the equation and left us with an opportunity to focus on goals, growth and transparency.

While we have found that this change was the right path for our culture and organization, it is also important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Even within our organization, we encourage both leaders and talent to find a cadence of open, honest, collaborative feedback that works best for them. It is an “a la carte” approach, and we are confident that this change will ultimately positively impact OneDigital’s talent development and engagement.

Chelsey Willis, Director of Talent Management, OneDigital

INSIDE ANGLE ▼

OneDigital officially moved away from the annual review to the concept of real-time feedback in early 2018. As an organization, we ultimately made the “leap” because we weren’t confident that our approach to performance management was driving engagement. Like many others, we felt as though the traditional (and sometimes dreaded) approach was more of an administrative process than driving what truly matters–talent development, performance and engagement.

We believe that feedback should be an ongoing journey between leaders and talent. Our priority today is fostering a culture that focuses on coaching forward and not looking backward. Since moving to this new philosophy, we have found that this type of in-the-moment feedback has taken formality and fear out of the equation and left us with an opportunity to focus on goals, growth and transparency.

While we have found that this change was the right path for our culture and organization, it is also important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Even within our organization, we encourage both leaders and talent to find a cadence of open, honest, collaborative feedback that works best for them. It is an “a la carte” approach, and we are confident that this change will ultimately positively impact OneDigital’s talent development and engagement.

Chelsey Willis, Director of Talent Management, OneDigital

As a manager, you need to communicate continuously with your employees, so why not structure these interactions to drive performance.

Lance Secretan distinguishes between two forms of ongoing communication, or as he puts it, “checking in.” One is regular, planned discussions, usually about sixty to ninety minutes long, and the other, focused feedback. Focused feedback can be any time, is ongoing and happens as needed. Both of these check-ins center around organizational goals, so the natural first step is to clarify goals and establish expectations. It is essential to agree upon the deliverables, behavior and contributions expected at the beginning of the year. These provide the structure for the regular, planned discussions. Revisit objectives throughout the year and keep employees informed if goals are adjusted.

Regular, Planned Discussions

Focused Feedback

  • Inform employees about their performance.
  • Allows them to plan actionable goals in terms of modification, learning, experience and driving their career forward.
  • Continuous focused two-way feedback ensures that team members know how they are progressing toward meeting expectations.
  • These conversations help identify tools that could improve performance results and/or highlight interferences that may need to be addressed on an ongoing basis throughout the year.

All of this sounds great, but to successfully conduct these conversations, we need the following:

  • Honesty

    Honest, yet compassionate feedback builds strong teams.

  • Trust and Safety

    Employees need to feel safe to communicate problems as soon as they arise. Research among 51,896 managers showed a strong correlation between a tendency to seek feedback and leadership effectiveness. Asking for feedback, listening and being fully engaged when an employee provides feedback or discusses problems, builds trust and encourages transparency. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Ed Batista quotes neurologist Judy Willis on the correlation between positive emotion and performance, “safety, trust, understanding colleagues as individuals, and sharing emotions, provide a safe culture that can handle both positive and corrective feedback, and is conducive to higher levels of performance.”

  • Solution-Oriented Collaboration

    Be aware that to point out a problem is hardly ever constructive; struggling employees usually know that there is a problem. Acknowledge the problem and investigate causes and possible solutions in collaboration with the employee or team.

  • Morale

    Sarah Green Carmichael suggests that star performers need tender loving care after messing up. Extra affirmation of their value to the company and a short break from work can rebuild self-esteem after they have bungled. Do not allow them to redefine themselves in terms of their mistake(s).

  • Your Self-Esteem

    Do not withhold corrective feedback. According to a research study led by Carla Jefferies, we usually withhold corrective feedback to protect ourselves. We often don’t realize that we are afraid and lack the self-esteem and/or communication skills to give corrective feedback. According to a research study among 900 global employees, 57% agreed that they appreciate corrective feedback.

  • Praise Effort, Not Ability

    Recognizing effort and contributions build determination and resilience.

Conclusion

Higher levels of consistent communication and transparent feedback among all report levels will support a culture of trust, learning and striving for excellence, making the anxiety-provoking annual performance review obsolete. Try this; it may not be so time-consuming after all; you may even find that, at last, you are managing performance effectively.

Want to know more about this topic? Check out the recent Fast Company article featuring OneDigital HR Expert Anne Gilson on the 5 Common Worst Practices Bosses Need to Abandon Now.

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