Alternatives to Performance Reviews that actually work

The traditional, annual performance review is deeply entrenched into management across the country and around the world, despite its ineffectiveness at encouraging or improving employee performance. You know the typical performance review; where the opening statement is often something like “let’s get this over and done with as quickly as possible”, the majority of time is spent dwelling on the past, the whole discussion is nerve-racking for everyone, and the outcome is some kind of primary school like rating system.

It’s highly likely that the business owners and managers implementing these unpleasant performance reviews were subjected to the same format earlier in their own careers, to no avail, which makes it even more baffling how the traditional review has survived this long. Maybe it’s because business owners and managers are unsure of what they could replace it with?

There are alternatives to performance reviews that are more enjoyable and a lot more effective.

Why do we have performance discussions, especially when there’s not a performance problem to address*? There are two key reasons:

    1. They encourage a collaborative working relationship between the employee and manager
    2. They support the modern motivation factors of mastery, autonomy and purpose

Focusing on these reasons allows you to explore a wide range of alternatives to the traditional performance review, and to design an approach that suits your business and supports your culture.

Here are some ideas:

  • Big 5 – this approach asks employees and managers to focus on two questions: What are your five most significant accomplishments since our last meeting? And what are your five biggest goals until next time? Find out more here
  • Weekly 1:1, a Quarterly Snapshot and a separate pay review –  this approach involves weekly 1:1’s that focus on five questions: 1. What’s going well in your role? 2. What challenges are you facing? 3. On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you? 4. What is one idea to improve our product or service? and 5. What are your top priorities for next week? Then, every quarter the employee and manager review the financials and either reaffirm or reassess the goals. Find out more here
  • Weekly 1:1, Monthly coaching and a 6-monthly performance check-in – This approach sees every fourth weekly 1:1 become a coaching session (where coaching is a process of discovering new ways to approach the same (or similar) problems for better results). Find out more here
  • Agile Performance Management – This approach relies on goal setting and continuous feedback loops to align employee’s work and show how they’re contributing to the company’s goals and purpose. Find out more here.

One of the best ways to get buy-in from employees to a new performance management approach is to actively involve them in the design stage. Ask them how often they’d like to meet and what they’d like to cover, and use their ideas as the starting point. We’re sure that a change from the traditional performance review would be welcomed by all!

We help clients design performance management approaches that work for their culture and business. Get in touch if you’d like to explore the alternatives.

*If there are performance problems, these should be addressed using an informal or formal performance improvement process.