It’s Time to Rethink the Performance Review

Apr 11, 2024

Performance reviews are back. According to Korn Ferry, the number of employee performance reviews conducted in January 2024 jumped nearly 30% over the same month last year[1]. And data from software provider BambooHR shows the number of reviews is increasing 15% annually[2].

Why the sudden resurgence? With so many employees working from home, there’s often no opportunity to directly observe performance. Managers have fewer opportunities to give feedback. And digital communications, if relied on too heavily, can lead to misperceptions. Managers and employees alike are grasping for ways to chart progress.

The problems with performance reviews

It wasn’t long ago that performance reviews were thought to be disappearing. HR departments viewed them as unreliable indicators. Why? Because employees who were good self-promoters would receive glowing reviews, while their peers who performed equally well or better were rated lower.

Employees, too, have approached reviews with skepticism and fear. These are just a few of the reasons:

  • They were unclear about how the review would be used. Would it be strictly developmental, or the basis for compensation and promotion?
  • They worried about receiving negative feedback and what it would mean for their compensation or their future at the company.
  • They felt they had no control over the review process and worried it would be overly subjective.
  • They felt the process lacked transparency; they didn’t understand what criteria were being used to assess their performance.
  • They felt the feedback was vague, arbitrary, or didn’t reflect their accomplishments.

Rethinking the review

Performance reviews are back for good reason. And it’s time to rethink how to make them effective in a work-from-home context. Whether you’ve never had a formal process or you’re a veteran, here are some recommendations for a process that works for both managers and employees:

  • Set clear expectations: Establish a clear understanding of the purpose of the performance review and how it will be used.
  • Establish goals: Set SMART goals at the beginning of the year. (If you’re not familiar with that acronym, there are many guides to SMART goals online, accessible through a simple search). These can be business-related, developmental, or both, and should be agreed upon by the manager and employee.
  • Set regular check-ins: If you’re an employee, do you dread surprise feedback at a performance review? Instead, schedule check-ins or interim reviews throughout the year. Frequency will depend on the job but these should be a regular recurring item on the calendar. Managers can use these meetings to assess progress against goals, and employees can seek advice on how to overcome roadblocks.
  • Keep a log: Whether you’re a manager or employee, do you dread trying to recount accomplishments and challenges from an entire year? Instead, make notes at every check-in meeting or interim review, tracking accomplishments or challenges as they happen. By the end of the year, the performance review simply becomes a rollup of your year’s notes.
  • Consider 360-degree feedback: To guard against potential bias, solicit input from others who work with an employee throughout the year. These individuals can be suggested by both the employee and the manager.
  • Make it a two-way street – and prepare: Whether it’s setting goals at the beginning of the year or approaching a review at the end of the year, managers and employees should both come to the meeting prepared to discuss their perspectives, actively listen to each other with an open mind.

With so many companies having moved to a virtual workforce or hybrid work model, tracking performance and productivity has become both an imperative and a challenge. The performance review can be a powerful solution, and it doesn’t need to carry with it fear, uncertainty, and dread for both managers and employees. Establish a process that’s thoughtful and constructive, and performance reviews can be valuable opportunities for growth and development.

Has your organization embraced a renewed emphasis on performance reviews? If so, how do you ensure your reviews are meaningful and effective? What challenges have you encountered along the way?




Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay in the loop

Subscribe to our newsletter and get insights into what's going on in the insurance industry right in your inbox.