Performance Management Blog

The Right Frequency of Performance Reviews

Posted by Jamie Resker on Apr 20, 2012 8:41:00 AM

frequency of performance reviewsThere’s been a lot written about getting rid of the performance review.  I came across a Harvard Business Review Article titled “Ditch Performance Reviews?  How About Learn to do Them Well.  Only about one-percent of organizations have gotten rid of performance reviews.  So if 99% of organizations are sticking with the practice it makes sense to do a better job with reviews and make them mean something. 

One problem is the frequency:  once a year.  It’s like being in school and getting a one-time report card with no teacher support and guidance in between.  Plain and simple:  once a year is too infrequent.  As the HBR article pointed out, “if the performance review is done just once per year it’s likely that the reviewer will remember only the most recent information unless stellar records were maintained. 

According to HBR article, “for an effective performance review, there should be a full record of the employee's activities. If not, research shows you will base your evaluations on the most recent or salient events, which are more readily retrievable from memory. The odds of such an evaluation being comprehensive and unbiased are quite low”.  Common sense. 

So you can either do an amazing job at keeping documentation all year, in which case you’ll likely need a system, either on paper or an on-line system that allows for journaling, to keep notes.  This way you can save up all your comments for the once per year performance meeting.  Wait, did I just say that?  Save up all your notes for the once per year meeting?  This makes no sense at all.  Why do I want to hear about how I’m doing just once per year?

A better practice is having 3 or 4 mini conversations per year.  Yes, much better.  That way, as the employee, I receive more frequent information and I can better gauge where I’m at.  This allows me to keep tweaking my performance in terms of what I need to do to be more effective.  Equally important is hearing about what I’m doing well and should continue with.  And how about goals?  Setting goals once per year when change is a constant just doesn’t cut it. Instead, implement a practice to look at goals each quarter and adjust and update them as needed. 

Components of a Mini Review:

  1. One Strength  Name the overall strength, a few specific examples and mention the impact; people like to see how they fit into the big picture.

  2. One Area for Focus  Name the area, describe and dicuss specific actions that would help the individual meet the focus area, and describe what will happen (the positive impact).

  3. Goals A review of any previously set goals (status update, what’s no longer relevant, any new goals).  The employee can prepare his/her notes on goal status before you meet.

  4. Other Achievements Major achievements outside of stated goals.   Have the employee come prepared to discuss this.  

And you’re done. 

You may have managers who complain about having to talk with employees about performance four times per year.  You know what I say?  Too bad.  At a minimum that's doing their job.  I would however keep the mini review form to one-page.  If you do ratings then do this just one-time per year.  The other times should be more informal check-in conversations. 

Does your company do reviews more than once per year?

See the HBR article, Ditch Performance Reviews?  How About Learn to do Them Well?

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