How are college professors like middle managers? While this question sounds like the set-up to a bad joke, the answer is actually not a punchline (sorry to disappoint). Instead, the answer is simple: They both need to provide timely feedback.
In fact, you may confuse advice from one of the top college teacher’s handbooks with that from a 101 guide for managers. It reads: “Regular feedback helps learners efficiently direct their attention and energies, helps them avoid major errors and dead ends, and keeps them from learning things they later will have to unlearn at great cost.”
Makes sense, right? But unfortunately, many companies only host year-end reviews, leaving employees to fend for themselves when it comes to identifying performance objectives and problem-solving roadblocks. It’s no wonder performance evaluations get such a bad rap.
But modern People leaders are now realizing that quarterly performance reviews are a better way to support their people. Regular performance evaluations allow executives to understand the health of teams and the overall organization. They help managers gain a pulse on department metrics and better guide their people. And they provide employees with feedback to help them succeed even more (which may equate to growth opportunities or bonuses).
But the last of the stakeholders – your people – may be the hardest to sell on quarterly performance reviews, especially if they’ve had poor experiences in the past. Read below for three ways regular performance evaluations help your people so you can start supporting them and their professional development today.
Imagine you’re struggling with a personal problem and go to a friend for guidance. Instead of listening and providing feedback, he instead tells you to wait until your dinner date that’s scheduled next month. Sounds unhelpful and unempathetic, right? But that’s exactly the sentiment you signal to employees when you don’t provide continuous performance management.
And one important piece of a continuous performance management strategy is quarterly performance reviews. These scheduled evaluations provide the time and space for your people to celebrate successes, reflect on past projects, and set goals for the future. Even better, managers can provide timely feedback to provide in-the-moment learning to employees so they can put what they’ve learned to use and continue hitting goals (hello, promotions and bonuses!).
Lastly, consistent and timely feedback helps managers develop a stronger bond with their direct reports, which leads to higher retention rates and employee happiness.
|How to Make It Happen: Document Your Quarterly Performance Reviews in a Centralized Location
Housing your performance evaluations in one spot keeps all of your data safe, secure, and accessible to the right people. For managers, a centralized location helps them document their team’s growth and help course-correct at any time. For employees, a one-stop-shop for performance ratings – along with their compensation, equity, and goals – helps stay informed and engaged. Lastly, when every team’s performance review data is available for executives to analyze, you can spot trends and respond appropriately.
Providing standardized templates for check-ins, performance evaluations, and year-end reviews helps ensure consistency across teams and managers.
What do 72% of employees prioritize when it comes to their ideal workplace and team culture? A continuous culture of learning, including professional development opportunities to help close skills gaps and earn promotions.
And as we know, most employees look to their managers – not their executives – as the real driver of culture. The HBR visual below notes managers’ influence on employees, especially when it comes to creating a positive work environment and retaining team members.
Luckily, professional development is easier when managers regularly meet with their people throughout the year. That’s because quarterly performance reviews not only help employees improve in the present, but also provide context in identifying a clear professional growth roadmap for the future.
|How to Make It Happen: Establish Company-Wide Expectations
Gallup sums up why many organizations struggle with consistent engagement across departments: “Same company; vastly different team experiences.” Variability across teams is an issue, especially if you hang your hat on transparency and equity in the workplace. To ensure all employees are engaged in discussions surrounding their professional growth, look to create a company-wide cadence for performance management. Make sure you communicate expectations to managers (such as how to run weekly check-ins and quarterly performance reviews), as they are the ones ultimately guiding your people through their careers.
Quarterly performance reviews are your Goldilocks solution to ensuring fair employee evaluations. They’re timely, but not too timely, which means they’re just right when it comes to allowing your people time to hit their goals and receive feedback they can use immediately.
As a reminder, people fall prey to recency bias when they give recent experiences more weight than historic ones. This cognitive bias results in managers unintentionally favoring employees who recently met their KPIs or nailed a presentation right before their review. While these wins are something to celebrate, they don’t cancel out the employee’s performance throughout the entire time frame being reviewed, and therefore should be viewed in context. What’s more, year-end reviews actually put managers at more risk for recency bias. Because recent work is still fresh in managers’ minds, it’s easier for them to focus on newly-completed projects instead of one that happened seven months ago.
It’s therefore no surprise why quarterly performance reviews are so helpful to your team leaders. Because they require managers to dive into three month’s worth of work instead of twelve, managers can focus on the complete scope of work. This method helps them discuss the good, bad, and potentially ugly, all of which help create a well-rounded, holistic view of your people’s performance.
Ultimately, when managers’ performance evaluations span across a single quarter, employees are more likely to benefit from timely feedback and less biased performance ratings.
|How to Make It Happen: Incorporate Peer Reviews in Your Performance Management Process
Beyond equipping your managers with proper guidelines for quarterly performance reviews, you should also collect peer feedback on employee performance. Peer feedback is one component of a 360 review strategy, which collects evaluations from various colleagues across the company. When managers collect feedback from multiple sources, they have a holistic picture of employee performance over the past quarter. Make sure your feedback questions are overarching, such as What should they continue doing to be successful?, instead of questions that may induce recency bias.
Sure, year-end reviews are helpful, but if that’s the only time you conduct performance evaluations, you’re doing your people a disservice.
When you establish quarterly performance review cycles, you help your employees throughout the year and beyond. That’s because regular reviews help your teams pivot quickly and determine professional development opportunities. They also help mitigate recency bias that can create an inequitable work environment.
Ready to invest in your people-first culture? It’s time to signal to your employees that you value their efforts and equip them with support to achieve their goals.
Sign up for a free demo today.