Communication is the most important part of building a strong workforce. Teams must share a vision, communicate it amongst groups, and give accurate reviews on how their members perform in pursuit of continuing goals.

Just when and how such communication should take place, however, is the subject of much debate, whether performance reviews are something best conducted in annual or quarterly meetings or in a way that is less formal but more frequent.

Employers Putting Less Emphasis on Annual Reviews, More on Consistent Feedback

The utility of the periodic performance review has been under attack recently. Many in the world of human resources disagree over its continuing usefulness, and a noticeable shift in the way some companies assess their employees is beginning to occur.

Some are even choosing to forego annual performance reviews altogether, preferring instead to hold more meetings on an unfixed schedule or use systems that encourage continuous, real-time feedback between managers and employees:

If what managers are saying is true, then outdated review processes could be a major hidden cost affecting many companies.

RELATED: Calculate your company’s hidden costs with the Labor Burden Cost Calculator from UniqueHR.

Employee Reviews in Real Time

While the annual reviews process focuses on identifying broad performance trends over a long period, a more segmented feedback regimen can address many issues much faster. It can also eliminate the “surprise” factor of annual reviews that often causes employees to wonder why certain issues weren’t brought to their attention sooner.

Many younger employees, in particular, appreciate quick constructive criticism, and all employees crave approval and appreciate genuine opportunities to grow. By providing them with the tools and resources they need to thrive, business encourage workers to drive their own success.

The Debate Over Performance Rating & Ranking

Many companies rate and rank employees to determine raises, bonuses and promotions — another performance review practice whose efficacy is in doubt.

In a fully transparent system with easily measured results, employees may have little reason to question the accuracy of the system. Too often, however, the method of rating employees is opaque, the relevance of its measured criteria debatable, its rewards unrelated to actual team performance.

While the length of time allowed to prepare for annual reviews allows for the gathering of sophisticated metrics, the root of workplace inefficiencies often comes down to a gap in communication. Continual feedback may do a better job of addressing day-to-day activities and correcting inefficiencies before they become major problems.

Implementing an Ongoing Feedback Program

It’s helpful to know that an employee didn’t hit his quarterly goal; it’s far more important to understand why. Frequent conversations about performance expectations puts more of an emphasis on improving organizational processes rather than simply identifying problem areas.

Here are a few ways to ramp up to more frequent reviews without immediately overhauling your process:

  • Slowly up the frequency of performance-related discussions. Try quarterly or monthly check-ins. Have managers begin holding short strategy meetings with employees to discuss their job hurdles.
  • Reduce the number of questions on your assessment. Ask only yes or no questions and eliminate all checkboxes or numeric scales. Highlight only significant incidents, be specific and provide clear examples.
  • Encourage managers and employees to be forthcoming and vulnerable. If managers or employees are afraid of either giving or receiving honest feedback during informal sessions, then more formal reviews aren’t likely to be as painless or useful as hoped.

Consistent Performance, Consistent Reviews

Performance monitoring accomplishes a dual purpose: acknowledging an employee’s accomplishments while also creating a plan to address any shortcomings. Employees should be comfortable in knowing that both praise and criticism will be forthcoming and that the process is just as vital and useful to them as it is to their companies.

Businesses need not to choose between giving feedback all the time or only once per year. The best results are accomplished when a combination of methods is used: informal daily communication along with planned and documented performance meetings.

When businesses take the time to help employees develop their work products, the time spent reviewing it strengthens the relationship and builds trust. A performance review that accomplishes this goal will always be a welcome occurrence, whether done every day, every week or only once a year.

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