Whether you hold performance reviews quarterly, every six months, or just once per year, the process is likely on the minds of everyone as the calendar turns over.
But this year, as leaders evaluate the changes in work models over the last two years, some new trends in performance management are starting to emerge. Some of these trends acknowledge the newly realized shift in workplace dynamics toward the employee, while others accommodate new technologies and the dispersed workforce.
As you start to define your performance management processes for the coming year, here are six ways to “level up” the process and make it more productive for both management and employees:
1. Emphasize Real-Time Feedback:
“People get stressed out about that one conversation per year,” says Taura Prosek, Director of Business Development and Executive Coach. “We need to find ways to give and receive feedback in real-time.” Engaging in ongoing conversations that allow both leaders and team members to give real-time feedback can take some pressure off formal reviews. They provide opportunities for course correction, nudging toward improvements, and encouragement.
2. Involve Feedback From Multiple Stakeholders:
With more people shifting to project-based work, establishing who should give feedback becomes more complicated. “We’re working with multiple stakeholders,” says Erin Ellis, Executive Consultant and Coach. “We’re not working where only our manager has a point of view on performance. Not only does the performance review need to involve multiple stakeholders and have balanced feedback, but also employees need to know that’s an expectation.”
3. Care About Career Development
Long-term professional development is part of the employee experience, and some studies suggest that workers will stay with a company longer if they think the company cares about their career development. “From a personal fulfillment perspective, you spend ten hours a day at your job,” says Prosek. “You need to like what you do and find some connection to your work.” Companies that take the time to develop employees for the long-term can help drive that fulfillment and connection.
4. Listen to the Orchestra
In a future where more work is project-based and employees have input from multiple stakeholders, managers may find themselves operating more like conductors in an orchestra, says Daniel Stewart, President. “In a sense, managers have to become comfortable with multiple voices in the process. In a way, they have to give up some level of control. Yet as they do that, they are actually going to unleash so much potential in allowing people to bring their full selves into their work.” A good manager can orchestrate how individuals, functions, and the entire group plays together to produce a symphony when they adopt the perspective of a conductor.
5. Step Back and Clarify Goals:
Traditionally, the performance management process focused on compensation. But as companies expand performance management to address the whole employee—personal needs and goals, career development, compensation, employee engagement, etc.—it’s essential to clarify what the performance management process is going to accomplish. “I think when we aren’t clear about what we’re intending, performance management won’t be helpful,” says Nolan Godfrey, Regional Director and Executive Consultant.
6. Focus on Relationships
It may seem simple and basic, but it bears repeating: Performance management and career development conversations are most effective when they’re grounded in a solid relationship of trust. “Sustaining performance over time requires a relationship,” says John Stewart, Founder and CEO. “If that relationship is there, then there shouldn't be a need for an annual or quarterly or monthly sit down to give feedback. Praise and constructive thoughts can be passed on casually and informally, depending on the relationship, the context, and the individuals involved.”
Performance reviews and development conversations may not always be easy, but it is possible to improve their effectiveness. As you look ahead, these six tips will help you adapt your performance management process to the new realities of both the current and future workplace.