There has been lots of buzz about performance reviews among HR bloggers and professionals during this early part of 2017. Cutting edge businesses are ditching the annual performance review in search of a better way to deliver meaningful feedback. However, there is evidence that parts of the annual process — the ranking and formalised processes — were important for quantifying performance and determining who deserves a raise and/or promotion.
With all of the focus on performance reviews, we might be missing the big picture. Performance reviews are an important but single and rather retroactive piece of a larger challenge for private and public organisations. Proactive performance management — wherein staff receive formal and informal feedback, training and other opportunities for development — is perhaps an underrated contributing factor in high performance cultures.
In high performance cultures, formal reviews and evaluations are a tool that helps to fuel the growth of both top performers and those at risk of weaker performance. This seems to fly in the face of the traditional review process which to some was often considered backward looking, punitive, and sometimes demoralising. Instead, performance management can be more about supporting people within a culture of learning.
What this also means is that managers and other organisational leaders must see developing others as part of their job description. It means knowing your team very well: their personal and professional aspirations, as well as their challenges, strengths and weaknesses. It means identifying teachable moments, making time for informal feedback, and recognising or rewarding staff members when appropriate. It also means providing crucial opportunities for training and development to help employees achieve their goals.
In this kind of environment, staff might begin to look forward to feedback and when the time comes for a formal evaluation, nothing will be a surprise. When you manage performance proactively and positively, rather than just reviewing it periodically, you create momentum for the growth of your team and consequently the entire organisation.