The Performance Evaluation Paradigm Shift

When was the last time you looked at your organization’s performance evaluation, if, you still use one?  If you have one, are you happy with it?  Research shows that more than one-third of our nation’s organizations have abandoned the traditional annual performance evaluation in favor of more frequent, informal ‘check-ins’ between managers and employees.

My HR team and I are in the process of implementing the Performance Management module of a new Human Resources Information System (HRIS).  The evaluation we are replacing has been around awhile, and, let’s just say it does not have too many raving fans.

Before diving in and making changes, we decided to research the latest thinking and best practices on performance evaluations.  Here’s some of what we’ve found.

The Need for Providing Ongoing Coaching, Feedback, and Data

Though not in favor of doing away with ratings, today’s thinking revolves around goal setting, coaching, evaluation, and feedback.  We also need to develop and advance our employees by checking-in continually throughout the year.  This can be accomplished in weekly feedback surveys, 1-on-1 meetings, and quarterly reviews.   This thinking has replaced the dreaded ‘annual performance evaluation.’

As David Mizne writes in ‘Seven Unexpected Employee Performance Management Trends to Watch for in 2018, “As companies can collect data on turnover, performance ratings, team interaction, wellbeing, and employee feedback, managers can make more informed decisions and improve the employee experience.” Our new HRIS will enable us to provide business intelligence reports containing this information. 

The Advent of  ‘Micro-Learning’

We learned that companies are responding to this need by providing more training and development, but not the traditional kind.  They’re moving toward ‘micro-learning’, which are short, informal, self-directed and mobile-optimized content on single topics.  The formats are brief videos, webinars, podcasts, and even games.  This sure sounds good, doesn’t it? 

As our HR team learns and prepares to implement the various HRIS modules: payroll, timekeeping, performance management, etc., we’re using these same ‘micro-learning’ tools listed (above).  

According to “The Performance Management Revolution” by Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis, Harvard Business Review, October 2016 issue, “Moving to an informal system requires a culture that will keep the continuous feedback going.”  Aha!  This will be a huge shift in most organizations’ paradigms, as many an HR professional can attest, it’s like pulling teeth just to get some managers to complete the annual performance evaluation.  How will they fare with weekly feedback surveys, 1-on-1 meetings, and quarterly reviews?

The Rise of Quarterly Performance Goals and Check-ins

The thinking behind quarterly goals and reviews is that by the end of the year, what was established at the beginning of the year may no longer be as relevant due to the changing business climate and priorities. A quarterly cadence allows us to pivot and adjust goals and expectations accordingly.

Lisa Bodell states in “It’s Time to Put Performance Reviews on Notice” Forbes, April 27, 2018, “Research also shows that by providing employees with more frequent feedback and coaching, it demonstrates to employees that you’re invested in their personal development, which keeps them more engaged and productive. Attempt to align individual employee feedback with the organization’s strategy, so they can see how their performance impacts the business from a strategic point of view.”

Reframing Performance Review to Progress Review

According to “Give Performance Reviews That Actually Inspire Employees”, by Ben Wigert and Annamarie Mann, Gallup Workplace, September 25, 2017, Gallup advocates reframing the term, performance reviews to progress reviews.  Progress reviews include conversations about employees’ successes as well as feedback.  Their theory is that more frequent progress reviews more accurately describe performance, rather than attempting to wrack our brains to remember something our employee did two or three quarters ago. 

They advocate that if we want to retain our talent, we need to look to the future and align employees' overall life, work and aspirations.  In order to be meaningful, progress reviews should occur as one part of an ongoing dialogue between managers and employees.  

All of this suggests that we will be utilizing a lot of change management in order to facilitate the seismic shift in our organizations’ cultures to one where we‘re providing more just-in-time coaching and feedback to our employees. 


HR Technology in 2018 by Josh Bersin  

Seven Unexpected Employee Performance Management Trends to Watch for in 2018, David Mizne

The Performance Management Revolution by Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis, Harvard Business Review, October 2016 issue

It’s Time to Put Performance Reviews on Notice by Lisa Bodell, Forbes, April 27, 2018

Give Performance Reviews That Actually Inspire Employees, by Ben Wigert and Annamarie Mann, Gallup Workplace, September 25, 2017