How Strategic Performance Management Avoids the “Summer Slump”

August 21st, 2023 – SkillCycle

Adult Woman working with laptop and yawn outside in park. Tired senior working and drinking coffee. Using computer. Distance learning online education and online shops.

Managing employee performance should be a daily aspect of helping people build their skills and improve on the job. However, it often falls by the wayside after review season ends, especially when the warm weather hits. Sunshine and patios can suck the productivity right out of your team. If this sounds familiar, you need a plan to avoid the summer slump that commonly impacts company performance and investment. With ongoing and strategic performance management, you can drive results all year—even in the dog days of summer. 

“Performance management is rarely connected to personalized learning paths,” says Kristy McCann Flynn, CEO & Co-Founder of SkillCycle. “It’s more often a point-in-time conversation, which can lead organizations into a summer slump.”

If you’re not incorporating regular feedback into your team performance management, you may be losing ground in the months between reviews. Best practices now include having ongoing development discussions with employees, either monthly or more frequently, according to McKinsey

Offering learning opportunities to improve performance is key, as is connecting employee goals to company objectives. Summer is a perfect opportunity to encourage your employees to learn, and to commit time to protecting their progress even if things are quiet on other fronts. As team members build skills and level up their performance, their contributions to your organization’s success help drive consistent growth. 

In this article on strategic performance management, we’ll explore:

  • How the “summer slump” could be affecting your team’s performance
  • Key components of the strategic performance management model
  • Four tips to help protect your company from the slump
  • The benefits of managing performance throughout the year


Why the “summer slump” could be affecting your team’s performance

Summer is challenging for some businesses. Over the summer months, staff absences and a dip in productivity can cause overall company performance to lag (we blame the beach and those Friday BBQs that always seem to start in mid-afternoon). Two-thirds of B2B companies surveyed reported significant sales decreases over the summer, with some organizations seeing their sales drop 20 to 40%.

Performance management trends show that many organizations still focus on performance reviews as their primary way to manage employee performance. Many companies run on a cycle of annual performance reviews that offer feedback without tangible steps to improve. 

Unfortunately, limiting feedback to an annual performance review rarely does anything to motivate or inspire people. These reviews often occur in the spring, but employees can easily forget about the feedback once busy summer schedules and warm weather offer distraction. 

By fall, most employees are back to simply executing on the job, without any plan to implement feedback or learn new skills that would improve their performance each day they come to work. 


What a  strategic performance management model looks like

Companies need a more strategic approach to maintain performance levels at both the employee and organization-wide levels. This approach must include embedding all of the data and feedback gathered during the performance management process and turning it into personalized learning paths – taking action rather than watching the ship sail. 

“That may seem daunting, but it isn’t,” says McCann Flynn. “It connects all the performance, components, and engagement and drives it into personalized learning paths you connect to people’s roles, goals, and feedback.”

This model creates a foundation for continuous learning and an evergreen performance management process. These feedback cycles and incremental improvements are key components of driving consistent results throughout the year. 

Eighty-one percent of employees surveyed agreed that effective feedback is transformative, leading to better performance and progress toward goals, according to Gartner.

“Once implemented, continuous performance management will help employees constantly improve what they need to do,” says McCann Flynn. “This allows you to look ahead and course correct as needed. It allows you to fill the gaps you see today or that may arise over the year, ensuring a toolkit is in place for the new year.” 


4 tips that help protect your company from the “summer slump”

With a shift in perspective, the summer slump can become an opportunity to reinvigorate and inject learning and more actionable feedback into the work your employees are doing each day. 

You can sidestep performance management trends that neglect feedback discussions through the warmer months and adopt a more proactive approach with these four tips.

1. Implement constant feedback cycles

Make the shift from annual reviews to ongoing feedback conversations that help employees progress toward their goals. Team members need the structure and support of ongoing feedback with the opportunity to improve, with repeated cycles throughout the year, so they can make consistent progress.

2. Use performance data to drive results

Going through an annual review season and letting feedback and performance plans die off over the summer can create months of low or stagnant performance. This cycle creates a pattern where team performance management is only top of mind for a few months of the year.

3. Deliver value to your employees

Look at what your employees truly value and do what you can to deliver on these expectations consistently. It may not be the kinds of perks and benefits you once thought they wanted. Your staff may see more value in learning opportunities that help them perform well, get more satisfaction from their work, and build bridges to their success. Employees care about their growth and desire feedback year-round to improve their skills.

4. Evaluate your performance management system

Take time to assess the performance management system you use for your employees and how much value it adds to your process. Ensure you’re getting full functionality and engagement from team members with your system so it becomes a revenue driver that helps you scale and drives a positive return on investment. 


The benefits of managing performance throughout the year

“Implementing more strategic performance management strategies results in benefits across the board,” says McCann Flynn. “This process is how you build the bridge from your current state with your existing skills gaps to your future state where you’re resolving those skills gaps.”

Employees who receive weekly (rather than annual) feedback are 3.2x more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work, and 2.7x more likely to be engaged at work, according to Gallup.

“It’s about creating balance within a workplace,” says McCann Flynn. “We need to define the connection between performance and learning to continue to refresh and reinvigorate our workplaces.”

A strategic, continuous performance management model creates a vital pathway between performance evaluation and personalized learning paths for employees. This connection builds action toward output and deliverables, critical for business performance that doesn’t fall off after review season ends. 

Your employees will thank you for staying committed to their long-term performance throughout the summer, and so will your company’s health and growth status. Stay on track and explore our performance management tools or chat with our customer success team to learn how you can stay on track even when the sun is calling your name. 


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