Performance Review Remix: Time To Shake Things Up

September 27th, 2023 – SkillCycle

illustration of part two

Join us on Wednesday, October 18th at noon ET for a workshop focused on ways to transform performance reviews into something useful instead of painful.

It’s time for a fresh approach

It’s possible to have your whole team delivering results based on how you handle performance reviews and how your review process guides action after feedback is provided throughout the year. 

Connecting performance review to immediate action is the secret. “This differentiates a good performance review process from a not-so-good one,” says Taylor. 

Performance review season shouldn’t simply be a one-time report on what’s transpired over a year, simply to update employee files. A better approach will have you working with your employees on their performance throughout the year, with consistent communication, feedback, and clear pathways to improvement. 


Talent development at scale

When you invest in your workforce, you increase its value in measurable ways over time. Managing performance throughout the year and changing your approach to performance reviews will positively impact the scale and pace of your talent development and the ROI it drives for your company. 

“Constant feedback makes the biggest impact, because then when it comes time to document formal feedback in a performance review process, no one is racking their brain trying to figure out what to say,” says Taylor. “When implemented correctly, all employees know where they are, and everyone understands the expectations. It becomes much more fluid and part of their job to handle feedback and implement it, and not something that needs to be done in addition to executing in their roles.”


Building a powerful cycle of feedback and improvement

With consistent communication and feedback cycles, employees are given perspective into their performance and how it impacts their goals and those of the company on a regular basis. Performance management then falls into a predictable rhythm that employees and managers can feel confident in: 

  • Feedback
  • Plan
  • Improve
  • Implement


These conversations are baked into regular check-ins that allow stronger connections between employees and managers, and development opportunities to gain the skills needed to improve. Employees acquire new skills relevant to their jobs and can apply them immediately. Managers can support these efforts and help connect improvements to better business outcomes. 

You can leverage this momentum and turn the tide of inefficient performance review systems by following three steps: 

1- Stop treating performance reviews like report cards
If your only communication with employees about performance feels like the annual report cards they got in school (such as a single snapshot of performance, a passing or failing grade, no path to improve, and probably high anxiety), you’re blocking their path to success. This hurts employees and companies alike.

2- Establish a better feedback connection between your managers and employees
Regular check-ins and consistent feedback create multiple opportunities throughout the year to highlight growth opportunities and provide the development needed to advance. When managers and employees have these conversations regularly, feedback becomes less intimidating and unlocks potential growth and learning.

3- Implement action to put review feedback into effect
Regular feedback incorporating learning pathways helps create a clear connection between skill development and performance. When this culture is established in your organization, employees can receive feedback, understand how improvement would contribute to personal and organizational goals, and be able to access the learning required. Each new skill or knowledge acquisition is applied immediately in their jobs, allowing for practice and new feedback rounds.  

When these three areas are well-supported, employees receive consistent feedback that allows them to gain skills and reach better performance levels in increments throughout the year. Multiply these gains by your entire workforce, and you’ll begin to realize the ROI your learning and development programs should have been driving all along. 

Effectively taking action with the right tools drives better business outcomes. The best systems connect everything you need to create ongoing and effective cycles of feedback, learning, and improvement.

“The right system will make it easy for an HR leader to get up and running to get their people enrolled, to get onboarded without this having to be a project where they have to scope resources and implementation inside the company,” says Reid.

A performance management system can organize and fuel your growth cycle to advance where you need to get to. If you don’t have a lot of infrastructure in place yet, you’ll need a system that allows your employees to go in, set individual goals, and bring them into the work they’re doing with the help of their coaches and mentors. Without this support, your employees will hit a plateau, and your talent development will be ineffective in your company’s growth and success.


The best match: Continuous feedback and ongoing learning

“What can you do to make everyone love performance management? Connect it to next steps, outcomes, personal development goals, and competencies, but most importantly, tie it all to learning,” says McCann Flynn.

This approach includes monthly conversations with ongoing learning, monthly feedback reviews, and engagement data. Conducting more frequent performance reviews (for instance, quarterly instead of annually)  and developing a culture of continuous learning can help companies move more quickly toward success, according to McKinsey

“Center learning to drive true engagement, performance, and internal mobility to fill skills gaps,” says McCann Flynn.

Performance reviews should occur with transparency, feedback, and opportunities for employees to develop throughout the year based on the feedback. They should reflect the outcomes of the work people have done, and how the company helped them do it along the way. As you repeat these cycles through the year, you’ll upskill strong employees so they grow continuously in multiple areas that support your business goals to drive a better ROI. 

This approach allows you to connect goals to competencies, outline what went well and what didn’t, and create action plans to improve performance. Those action plans will come with tangible steps employees can take to make progress on their goals and measurably improve their performance. 

“Having that support in the context of your work makes you feel like you have an ally and a partner to help you elevate your game,” says Reid.

Many organizations are already creating or planning to create a culture of continuous learning in order to connect employee learning to keeping up with the pace of change experienced by companies today. “Those that get it right will achieve the competitive advantage necessary for success,” says McKinsey.

With this approach, you can support employees in taking significant steps to improve based on feedback, maximize potential, hit goals, and leverage talent in alignment with employee and company goals. 


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