Ask professionals at any level how they feel about annual performance reviews and you’ll probably hear words like: pointless, ineffective, demoralizing, biased, antiquated, restrictive, and a few more words we won’t print.

Throughout the last century, the performance management pendulum has swung between employee accountability and employee development to assess engagement, accomplishment and overall contribution. Both have proven to have merit but are also riddled with faults. What’s leadership to do?

The Powers That Be are listening. In fact, one-third of U.S. companies are abandoning the traditional appraisal process completely.  According to Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli, “[I]t’s a fundamental change in the way to manage your employees and the relationship with them.”  How will companies assess performance?  The jury is still out.   Meanwhile companies’ need a system that will engage, empower and nurture their employees so that they can not only be successful now but also reach their full potential.

5 Things That Should Be Included in An Effective Performance Review

1. Increased Frequency of Reviews: One of the largest drawbacks of the traditional performance review is that it no longer follows the natural cycle of work. Most employees’ workload consists of a larger number of smaller projects, rather than year-long assignments. Conducting a cumulative year-end review is challenging for managers. Quarterly or project reviews allow for a more accurate assessment of performance and growth and provides the environment for course-correcting coaching throughout the year. This leads us to the next important component of an effective performance review…

2. Focus on the future, not the past. Current end-of-the-year annual reviews focus primarily on past behavior and sacrifice the opportunity to improve current performance and advise employees for the future. More consistent meetings give managers the opportunity to offer resources and encouragement for future growth – both of which employees can implement immediately.

3. Self- Review: Often viewed as a chore, rather than an opportunity, self-assessment must be part of the equation. Employees should take advantage of this chance to be proud (but honest). By asking themselves two simple questions, employees can share details of completed projects, highlight their leadership roles, identify areas of growth, and give examples of collaboration. “What am I doing that I should keep doing?” and “What am I doing that I should change?” provide the perfect platform for self-review. It also gives managers insight into performance that was not overtly obvious. Employees should also think about career- development, using their self-evaluations as a time to think about what they want out of this relationship.

4. Clearly defined and communicated objectives. Goals and objectives must be assessed and realigned frequently. While some roles may not change between reviews, others will change from project to project. It is imperative that management and their team are in communication to ensure goals and objectives are still pertinent. It’s impossible to meet or exceed a goal that is clearly no longer relevant.  Employees need to proactively engage with management to clarify points of concerns.

5. Real-time feedback. Subjectivity and bias are two of the largest complaints we hear regarding the review process. But eliminating bias and increasing authenticity is not an easy task when reviewers and reviewees have innate biases that they may not be aware of. Using real-time feedback through apps and logs allows managers to create a record more reliable than memories after the fact, give workers quick access on how to navigate certain situations, and fast effective communication and coaching.

A solid review process strikes a balance between accountability and development. It is comprehensive enough to give management the power to objectively and accurately assess their employees’ performance, highlight development, and set future goals on a consistent basis. On the employee side, the review process should include an authentic self-assessment of contribution, success, and growth, while empowering them to create future goals and a plan to achieve them.


What would YOU like to see included in YOUR next Performance Review?


*Click here for an interesting and comprehensive look at the tug-of-war between accountability and development over the decades.