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Why You Need Continuous, Contextual Performance Management

Apr 4, 2022| Reading time: 16min

BY Kate Super

Content Writer

A woman breaks into a local corner store and exits with a full cart. What are your initial thoughts or feelings about this woman?

Now, consider this take:

Over 15,000 people are moved to The New Orleans Morial Convention Center following Hurricane Katrina. After days of no provisions, a woman leaves the premises, breaks into an abandoned local corner store, and leaves with a full cart of resources to provide some relief for the inhabitants.

It’s the same story, but the latter contains a key element: context.

Context helps provide a clearer picture, but it isn’t just necessary for this particular story. It’s also necessary for the story of your company and its people.

When you employ a continuous performance management strategy, you provide your people with multiple touchpoints to help guide and empower them to do their jobs. But that’s just one (important) piece of the puzzle.

You also need to review your metrics in context to ensure your decisions are fair and data-driven. What’s more, combining your data and analyzing insights helps you discover potential risks and disparities among your employees. For these reasons, your performance management shouldn’t just be continuous. It should also be contextual.

Continuous Performance Management: What Does It Entail?

Continuous performance management is the strategy of frequently evaluating how your individual employees are performing according to the expectations of their role. Instead of having one meeting as an end-all-be-all, regularly scheduled reviews allow for continuous check-ins to help employees receive feedback that’s applicable now as well as for future growth.

Aspects of a continuous performance management strategy include:

  • Performance reviews. Performance reviews are scheduled between supervisors and their individual employees to set objectives, identify goals, and provide feedback. For true continuous performance management, reviews should be held more than the traditional once-a-year model calls for. Furthermore, many companies choose to utilize 360 reviews to provide balanced, holistic views of employee performance.
  • Regular 1:1s between managers and reports. These regular sessions are imperative to building trust between people. Furthermore, documenting discussions from 1:1 meetings gives visibility into current tasks, professional growth initiatives, and collaboration.
  • Goal setting and check-ins. Developing annual and quarterly OKRs and KPIs – and recording them – allows managers and individuals to track their progress and align objectives with those of the company.
  • Career mapping. Personalized career maps (whether it’s per person or per role) demonstrate that the company has invested time to create and plan opportunities for employees’ futures. Discussing these potential career moves builds trust, creates transparency among your people, and provides a clear path of what they need to achieve to reach the next level.
  • Self-Evaluation. Allowing employees to conduct a self-evaluation to highlight their achievements, growth areas, and goals brings further context, collaboration, and transparency to leaders.

Why You Need Continuous Performance Management

If you have a performance management strategy that doesn’t involve multiple touchpoints, you may be failing your employees and putting your company at risk. Below are three reasons why your performance management needs to be a continuous process.

It Encourages Employee Engagement

Continuous performance management offers many touchpoints to ensure employees are supported and reaching their potential. And with each interaction, employees have the opportunity to engage with managers and peers to receive feedback and acknowledge their achievements.

Furthermore, a standardized template helps your people feel prepared for regularly scheduled 1:1s and check-ins since they can document talking points and metrics beforehand.

These templates can also:

  • Boost employees’ self-esteem, since a template allows them to reflect on their recent wins (as well as areas in which they need help).
  • Work as an agenda for the meeting so everyone is on the same page.
  • Provide transparency into the growth and development of employees, as well as conversations between managers and direct reports.
  • Serve as documentation for all of the above.

So how would continuous conversations play out in real life? Let’s say, for example, that you are the Director of Professional Services and oversee your tech company’s onboarding specialist, Dennis. Dennis discloses in a 1:1 that he is having trouble securing an onboarding meeting with a new client. You run through suggestions and strategies to help him find time on the client’s calendar. During your next 1:1 meeting you discuss the situation again: What method worked? What did Dennis learn? What would he do differently next time? Two weeks later, Dennis is once again partnered with a busy new client, but this time, he knows exactly what steps to take to earn a spot on that company’s calendar. By his quarterly performance review, Dennis can confidently discuss his growth as an onboarding specialist and include data to support his stance.

Ultimately, regularly scheduled meetings – and a place to document them consistently – allow these personally and professionally impactful conversations to take place. Continuous conversations support your people, provide learning opportunities, and help them leave feeling confident and empowered to execute their tasks.

template for continuous performance management reviews

ChartHop’s 1:1 template boosts employee engagement, since reports complete the form and set the agenda.

It Helps Identify Employees Who Need Additional Support – Now

With many companies offering remote and hybrid options, it’s not easy for employees to stop by the HR office or their manager’s desk. Sometimes it’s even harder to look at a team lead’s digital calendar and find any availability to chat. Continuous check-ins are therefore important to schedule throughout the year so that employees feel seen, heard, and valued on a regular basis.

Besides frequent meetings, synthesizing collected reviews and data will also help identify employees that need additional support – even if they didn’t ask for it or realize it themselves.

What could you discover through these conversations after looking at lagging KPIs? It could be that one of your account executives continues to see deals fall through and needs help exploring why. It could be that your talent acquisition lead is having a hard time connecting with your marketing department. Or it could be that your customer support engineer is having marital issues, resulting in a scattered mindset and missed emails. All three of these people need help, and it’s a responsive leader’s job to step in.

It Reduces Recency Bias

Using continuous performance management empowers leaders to better manage their direct reports. When you analyze data and reviews from different sources, you can provide timely feedback as well as put performance, engagement, and goals into context.

However, irregular and lagging leadership isn’t the only result of only running check-ins once a year. Ian White, founder and CEO/CTO of ChartHop, believes “the biggest problem with traditional performance reviews is how infrequently they happen, which can introduce recency bias.”

Recency bias, or the act of giving more importance to recent events compared to what happened a while back, leads to magnifying successes or issues. In both cases, biased performance reviews negatively impact the individual employee, their team, and, if it’s a consistent practice, the company as a whole.

So just how powerful is recency bias?” Simply look at the correlation between the Super Bowl and the stock market: Numerous studies link “liked” Super Bowl commercials with an increase of stock purchases the Monday after the game.

Take RadioShack’s 2014 commercial “The ‘80s Called: They Want Their Store Back,” for example. Despite their “outdated retail model and withering stock,” their ad resulted in a 7% stock surge the next morning. Microsoft also benefited from recency bias after their 2019 commercial “We All Win.” This heartwarming ad made viewers pull out their wallets (and tissue boxes), resulting in a 2.9% stock increase the next day.

If merely watching a 30-second commercial changes your mindset about a company, just imagine the effects on your organization if your performance reviews are consistently conducted with recency bias. Your people may grow to hate performance reviews and foster resentment towards management. They may become burned out as they continue to grind away out of fear of judgment. Or your retention rate may plummet as employees leave to find a more supportive environment.

In short, reviewing individual employee data continuously will help reduce recency bias, provide a more holistic view of their performance, and help create a supportive employee culture and experience.

Why You Need Contextual Performance Management

It’s quite difficult, if not nearly impossible, to combine data and visualize insights if they don’t live together. With the right tools, your leadership team can look at company-wide and individual performance management data in context to help drive decisions.

It Allows For More Thorough Data Collection

An important piece of performance management is collecting data. Collecting better, more thorough data is what continuous, contextual performance management is all about.

Undoubtedly, reviewing continuously-collected data in context benefits both the employer and employee. Insights into the right metrics mean data-driven decisions, which can positively impact everything from a business’ growth strategy to how promotion decisions are made. Executives can also review numbers alongside other data points such as eNPS to gauge employee satisfaction and the organizational health and culture of the company.

Use ChartHop to contextualize your data

By storing your metrics in one place, you’ll be able to effectively and efficiently analyze your People data. Here, the data is categorized by gender and eNPS score.

That employee satisfaction and employee experience was exactly what Devin Blase, VP of People at Truework, prioritized for her company in 2021. Truework and Blase’s team therefore made critical changes to their performance management process: they created pay bands, developed individual career paths, and of course, determined what their performance review cycle would look like. One of the most important components of this overhaul was measuring the impact of the changes.

Blase believes Truework’s investment in People Analytics software to help do so was a game-changer for her team. She says: “To be nimble with data, answer questions quickly, and implement changes easily, you need technology. Having platforms that can help uncover data that’s not naturally illuminated in spreadsheets allows for more data-driven decisions and faster insights.”

It Helps You Make Better Company-Wide Decisions

When companies use cont performance management, they collect a wide range of data from many sources. It’s critical to compare your data to not only see a more complete picture of employee performance, but also to discover any intersectionalities you can use to inform next steps.

For example, Blase’s team needed to compare data that wasn’t housed in their traditional HRIS. She praises Truework’s People Analytics platform, ChartHop, for solving her team’s problem. “We needed a way to bring data from both of those groups together to understand breakdowns like gender by team, attrition by ethnicity, and so on, and ChartHop allows us to do that easily from a single platform,” she says.

What’s more, her team was then able to make decisions and create an action plan targeting quarter-over-quarter voluntary attrition. She explains: “We really dug into the data of our high performers and implemented an action plan specifically for their retention. We indexed on the NPS of this employee subset (high performers) because we believe that (outside of the founders) our high performers are most responsible for influencing the company culture.”

It’s that breakdown by group Blase references that makes contextual performance management so powerful. When you cross-reference data, you can identify potential risks, struggling teams, and biased reviews and promotions.

With this in mind, leaders should take a close look at their data and feel empowered moving forward making company-wide decisions. In the theoretical example below, the manager aggregated 1:1 data and found that the Design department’s evaluation scores plummeted in December. Because leadership is able to review performance review data in context, they are able to quickly take action, including providing necessary support and potential policy changes.

ChartHop contextual performance management graphs

After comparing data, executives found a commonality between low 1:1 scores: the Design team. The next step is to dive deeper into data, see who needs additional support, and determine what caused a department-wide dip in evaluation scores.

An Investment in Continuous, Contextual Performance Management = An Investment in Your Company’s Future

Companies that implement a continuous, contextual performance management process aren’t just implementing it to increase productivity; they’re doing it to invest in their people. If you haven’t already, now is the time to implement one. By doing so, you’ll see an increase in employee engagement, helpful data, and leaders’ responsiveness, driving your company to be stronger and ready to scale.

Want to learn what strategies transform you from a leader to a People Pioneer?

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