Over the last few years there has been an increasing number of articles on how companies are ditching performance reviews and going another route. The whole performance review process is being perceived as a largely outdated and ineffective process that’s not only hard to manage, but that often leaves us with data that’s never put to good use. We have all been there—end of the year, in a hurry, and asked to complete a performance review. Is that review fair? Are you able to remember back to February to get a good assessment of how someone’s performance was for the whole year or are you only focusing on the last 2 months?
It’s no surprise that more and more organizations are asking if there is a better way.
A year ago, TMG decided to take a closer look at our own process. Our goal was to find an approach that was less about a long annual review and more about a system that encouraged regular communication, coaching, and continual improvement. We wanted our teams to be heard and to have an active role in their professional development, and we wanted to facilitate communication between managers and their teams, so that both parties felt like they were getting something out of the process.
The end result? Replacing the annual review with more frequent “Coaching and Feedback” sessions between managers and their teams. For managers, we developed a short online form comprised of just a few questions that take some twenty seconds to answer. The form can be completed anytime and as many times as they want. Typically, we ask that managers fill out the form at the close of a big project or conference, when there is a change of roles, or in performance level. After the form is submitted, the manager must have one-on-ones with each member of their team to share what they saw, offer guidance for improvement, and get feedback from their team.
By allowing our team to focus more on real-time feedback and improvement, it gives everyone a chance to improve performance in “real-time”, when it is fresh in their minds—not a year down the road when the annual review takes place.
It’s been a year since we implemented our new process, and we have learned a few things. First, provide your managers with the tools to have these discussions with their staff. In our case, conversing with team members as frequently as we were asking was quite a change for our managers. There was no longer the option of hiding behind a 10-page review form. Second, incorporate goal setting. While we were moving away from the annual review, we realized we still needed to tie in a more formal goal-setting process. This helps incorporate overarching development goals with day-to-day coaching and mentoring efforts. It helps provide a roadmap for your team to develop beyond the standard coaching and performance feedback.
Rethinking an annual performance review process is an experiment that takes time to refine. For us at TMG, it continues to be a learning process, and we make it a point of being open about it with our team. Our approach at developing and enhancing this program is much like the process itself: a focus on ongoing improvement.