Keeping Performance Reviews Simple

The time-consuming 360 performance review and the numerical ranking system might be on their way out, but that doesn’t mean performance reviews are going away any time soon. Companies are rethinking how they conduct effective employee performance reviews, which is something we covered in a previous blog post.

So this time we are going to talk about another important piece of the performance review, specifically, tips for writing performance reviews that are short and sweet, yet impactful and informational.

Besides these tips, you might invest in conduct and culture training for your employees that will underscore ethical decision making around employee reviews and many other aspects of work.

Creating a Performance Snapshot

Simplicity in employee performance appraisals is a growing trend among both large and small organizations. For example, Deloitte recently wrote about how it radically changed its performance review process.

Instead of lengthy annual reviews, the company now asks its team leaders to answer four questions about their team members after projects are completed:

  • Given what I know of this person’s performance, and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus
  • Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team
  • This person is at risk for low performance
  • This person is ready for promotion today

This evaluation tool is designed to elicit what managers would do with their employees rather than what they think of them, and then the company can decide what to do with those facts.

Also, the frequency of asking these questions plays a large part in helping Deloitte evaluate its employees. It gives them a holistic view of employee growth and changes over time, and it shows which team member stand out and which ones need more help.

The Power of Three: Start, Stop, Continue Feedback

Another trend in employee performance reviews is the self-evaluation, which is what we use here at EVERFI. Employees answer questions about how they are doing. But instead of asking a long list of things, you ask employees three very straightforward questions:

  • What should I start doing?
  • What are some things I should stop doing?
  • What should I continue doing?

And then you ask managers to review the answers and add their own comments. While on the surface these may seem like simple questions, the start-stop continues feedback model actually get to the heart of the information you need from a performance review:

The first question gets employees to think about areas where they can improve. Is there something they should be doing that will give them better results? Managers can also use this section to suggest how employees can take on new challenges and job duties to advance their careers.

The second question helps employees think critically about their behavior and the things they do that don’t work. And it’s where managers can offer constructive criticism to help employees recognize behaviors that need to change.

The third question gives employees a chance to talk about their successes. What are they doing and/or what have they done that’s been successful? Here, managers can praise employees for the good work they’ve done and encourage them to keep it up.

A Quick, Informal Employee Performance Check-In

Another trend in simplicity is getting rid of formal performance reviews altogether and replacing them with quick, informal check-ins, something Adobe pioneered in 2012.

Human resources were unhappy with the results of performance reviews, so in an effort to create a fairer, more effective system that encouraged employees to do their best work, Adobe abolished annual performance reviews and instituted check-ins.

This flexibility allows Adobe managers to spend less time creating paperwork and more time managing and coaching employees. According to its website:

Adobe’s new employee performance check-in culture revolves around clear expectations, frequent feedback – both positive and constructive – and no ratings or rankings. No more late-nights for managers scrambling to write detailed reviews for the record, and no more competitive motives underlying teammate interactions. Different parts of the business can even determine when they should hold check-in conversations.

Adobe is able to make this strategy work because the company invests in its managers. They are provided with training and resources to help them:

  • understand compensation and market rates
  • understand and prevent unconscious biases that might influence decisions
  • learn how to distinguish performance between team members

Key Takeaways

The days of numbered evaluations and long forms are slowing fading away in favor of a simpler, more informal employee review process. Three of the methods we covered include:

  • Actionable review questions asked more frequently to create a performance snapshot
  • The start, stop, continue method of self-evaluation to keep it short
  • Informal employee performance check-ins that save time and increase efficiency

So how can you incorporate and use these strategies in your company’s employee performance reviews?

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