The performance review system, as it stands today, is broken. Employee engagement rates are abysmal, hovering around 30% according to Gallup research, and part of the reason for that is employees simply aren't getting the substance they need from managers during performance reviews.
So what do employees need from performance reviews?
First things first: businesses need to take a more consistent and constant approach to employee interaction. It's time to wipe the word "annual" from the minds of HR leaders and managers when thinking of performance reviews. Reviews should be an ongoing process ̶ you wouldn't expect a vegetable garden to grow after only watering it once a year, so why would you expect employees' skills to improve after meeting only once a year to discuss their strengths and areas for improvement? Employees need real-time feedback and recognition in order to hone their skills and close any gaps in expertise.
The employee-employer relationship should be one of honest communication. Too often, though, it is rife with dishonesty and mistrust. The performance review process should be the time managers are most honest with employees as it is mutually beneficial ̶ employees are alerted to where they have skills gaps and are able to adjust, and managers are able to reap the rewards (such as increased productivity) of an aware and improving team member. It can be hard for managers to share their true thoughts as they fear they will hurt employees' feelings, but managers have to put these thoughts aside because employees require an honest approach in order to realize their full potential.
Performance reviews with managers are essential. No doubt about that. But what about performance reviews, either formally or informally, with other managers or leaders? Exposing employees to other voices and thought processes will only help their careers grow and can spark new ideas that their own managers may never have thought of. An outsider's perspective can often be the most valuable because they are removed from the day-to-day grind and can take a step back to give a fair, honest, and often big-picture view of how an employee is performing and where they can improve. It's an aspect that many businesses are missing, but one that is significant in pushing employees to greater heights.
Like employees' needs, the performance review process isn't static; it is (or at least should be) in a constant state of refinement. It may be time to rethink your performance reviews to get the most out of your employees and ultimately drive business value to its peak.