Performance reviews aren’t just once a year anymore — now they’re all the time

The dreaded, looming, once-a-year performance review is becoming a thing of the past. Now performance reviews are an everyday thing.

An article in The Wall Street Journal calls it: “The Never-Ending Performance Review.” Businesses, it seems, are shaking up the evaluation process by checking in more — at different times and by using technology.

As people’s responsibilities shift at work, the way managers provide feedback is also changing.

Evaluating employees non-traditionally

At some companies, people feel that the way workers are assessed isn’t quite on-target. NPR reported in 2016 that according to corporate research and advisory firm CEB, 83% of HR managers reportedly think the employee evaluation systems need an overhaul, compared to 4% who think the method is effective at measuring performance.

So it’s no surprise that the practice is evolving.

The Wall Street Journal article profiles a host of businesses approaching this differently, including software company Revinate Inc. Rani Croshal, a manager at the company, used to formally review her employees’ performance once a year, but now the number of yearly “smaller-scale assessments” in the dozens.

“That includes quarterly discussions about goals, semiannual evaluations in which managers, peers and direct reports give feedback, and multiple check-ins to ensure her nine employees are hitting long-term goals. And then there’s the annual compensation review process,” the article says.

Although some companies are doing this more frequently, it seems like they don’t all necessarily have to do as many check-ins to shake things up.

Nancy Harris, Founder and CEO at Restart Consulting, told Fast Company about other methods businesses are adopting. “Some companies now use multi-rater feedback, which considers the input of managers, peers and clients…Other systems, like the one now used at United Airlines, decoupled performance ratings from compensation — the necessity to rate people in order to give a raise or bonus no longer exists,” Harris told Fast Company.

Incorporating technology

Weight management company Retrofit is an example of how the employee evaluation process continues to evolve.

Catalina Andrade, employee happiness director at the company, told the Chicago Tribune in 2016 that traditional performance reviews “are old-fashioned and unrealistic.” Instead, she was reportedly switching Retrofit from reviews twice per year to the TINYpulse Perform app.

The Chicago Tribune article outlined how it works: “Employees define their goals on the app with their managers, and when it is time to rate how they did, they swipe right if they met expectations, up if they exceeded and down if they fell short. There is a section to enter brief comments and the option to drop in emails they’ve received praising their work. A dashboard helps employees and their managers track trends,” the article said.

But technology hasn’t completely taken over just yet — bosses should still have to come face-to-face with the people they manage.

Retrofit managers reportedly have “weekly one-on-one meetings” with their employees, and the company is coaxing them to bring up performance twice every month during those discussions.

Why companies are nixing the standard approach

There are reasons why some companies are doing away with more traditional, formal, and infrequent employee evaluation processes.

A 2016 Harvard Business Review article states that in 2011, “Kelly Services was the first big professional services firm to drop appraisals,” and outlines three “business reasons” why some companies are leaving them in the dust.

The first is the “the return of people development,” the idea that some firms are putting more of an emphasis on employee development, at times leaving workers in charge of their own growth, even though managers should give informal responses often.

The second is “the need for agility,” the idea that since businesses don’t necessarily want employees to repeat the same tasks, there’s no need to use an evaluation format “that’s built mainly to assess and hold people accountable for past or current practices.”

The Harvard Business review’s third reason is “the centrality of teamwork,” which should be easier to maintain after “moving away from forced ranking and from appraisals’ focus on individual accountability.”

Employees’ responsibilities at work are changing — the ways they are evaluated are, too.