As hybrid and remote work solutions continue to become the new norm throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, many business leaders are rethinking how to adjust what used to be an in-person employee annual review process now that there are more people working from home on a regular basis.
1. Develop A Feedback Culture
Leaders at all levels have the opportunity to rethink the annual review. Instead of a stand-alone event where thoughts on employee performance are revealed, incorporate this motion into the concept of a feedback culture. Provide feedback in a variety of formats—formal and informal—throughout the year. It avoids surprises, improves performance, and makes the review process less intimidating for everyone.
2. Check In Regularly
Annual reviews can bring a sense of dread and resentment for employees. As such, to optimize effectiveness and benefits, employers should consider revolutionizing annual reviews and undertaking frequent, rolling assessments of performance. This can be done by providing weekly or monthly feedback and by checking in with managers when they do something well or when training is needed for improvement.
3. Assess And Reward Contributions
An effective performance appraisal model needs to be layered to the nature and business expectations of the role. Depending on the position scope, it should assess and reward individual or team operational contributions, along with financial results or corporate strategic performance.
4. Update The Performance Indicators
HR teams can transform the review process by ensuring that the organization’s values are reflected in the categories of performance that are measured. Measuring alignment with values can be as simple as rephrasing the performance indicators to include values-based language. In addition, building in quarterly progress checks ensures that the team members are growing and aligning year-round.
5. Coach Your Managers On The Process
Coach your department managers to understand that an annual review should never be the first time an employee hears of concerns, nor should it be a negative experience. Managers should be meeting in real-time with someone on their team to discuss performance challenges and corrective action. Consequently, the annual review will focus on the overall performance and future goals.
6. Stay Transparent And Positive
Mid-year and end-of-year reviews, along with one-on-one meetings keep people accountable. Mid-year reviews are a time to focus on growth, whereas year-end reviews are focused on the achievements of the year and what the next year will look like for individuals. Transparency keeps employees motivated and also lessens the stress that may come with receiving feedback. Managers must stay positive when giving constructive feedback.
7. Develop A Success Plan
The tone of annual reviews should not be what an employee did wrong. Instead, reviews should focus on what they can do better. Come up with annual goals for an employee, and together, develop a plan to accomplish them. When employees know what they can do to improve their work quality, their performance should see an uptick.
8. Aim For Realistic Goals
Shorten evaluations and use smart goals—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound—to ensure that you work with your employees to set goals for the upcoming year so their success can be measured. We encourage managers to talk about performance during weekly one-on-one meetings as well so their reviews won’t be a surprise.
9. Build Trust
Employees must first feel a true sense of connection and trust with their leader before talent potential can be harnessed. Host regular, informal chat sessions targeting key engagement drivers both one-on-one and in groups. Sacrifice the common leader illusion that you know your team and dedicate time to asking open-ended questions. Genuine curiosity and a commitment to shared progress are foundational.
10. Focus On The Future
Use the process to clarify what the next 12 months will look like in terms of likely outcomes, developmental growth and rewards. Let it be an opportunity for the manager and employee to have a dialogue to find ways to enable each other. The dialogue could be most energizing if it is 20% feedback and 80% feed-forward. Train your managers and employees accordingly.
11. Shorten The Review Process
An annual review is the start of the problem. Reviews should be shorter, more frequent and part of a broader performance management program. Any tool that is used only once per year will never be as effective as one used more frequently. If not already included, adding peer feedback that allows for both positive and constructive feedback can be sincerely impactful.
12. Establish A Consistent Policy On Ratings
Not all managers have the same standards for performance evaluation, which can cause scoring inconsistencies on annual reviews. One may give a high score to reward hard work and effort, while another may give a lower score to provide motivation for improvement. HR should provide training on performance review administration to ensure ratings are consistent for all employees throughout the company.
13. Highlight Strengths And Improvements
Get rid of them. Netflix, Deloitte, GE, Adobe, Uber and Google have all created more meaningful and real-time feedback with simpler, more frequent and more organic conversations. I particularly like Uber’s top three bottom three process that asks employees to list three strengths and areas of improvement. Individual goals are formed from these and inputted into a system everyone can access.
14. Implement Bottom-Up Refinement
Annual reviews need to change and mostly because leaders don’t train their team on how to use them. Transform your reviews by tying them to a concept called bottom-up refinement. Cascading goals, objectives and key results is not new, but sitting down, telling your team SMART goals and then asking for “bottom-up” refinement ensures buy-in and clear expectation management in six months when you do review.