Human Resources News & Insights

Blowing up the annual performance review? Start with the yearly engagement survey

Pretty much everybody agrees: The annual performance review process is deeply flawed. But there’s another common review procedure that needs to be torn down and rebuilt as well, according to guest poster Glint CEO Jim Barnett.  

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The Washington Post said it best: “Big business is falling out of love with the annual performance review.” Some of the world’s most admired organizations, like Accenture, Deloitte, and most recently, GE, are eliminating traditional annual processes for evaluating employee performance in favor of “more frequent conversations.”

This transition is indicative of a major shift in the way we work. Once viewed as a traditional “rite of corporate life,” the annual performance review has now been abandoned by more than 10% of Fortune-500 companies. We believe this is just the beginning of a dramatic change in performance management systems and practices.

The goal of eliminating the annual performance review is to replace an ineffective, often painful process for managers and employees alike with regular check-ins about development. No more high-stakes, once-a-year grades that go on your “permanent record:” Instead, a regular dialogue where feedback and course correction happen much more frequently.

But first …

If that’s our goal, then we also need to blow up the annual employee engagement survey. In fact, we should start with the employee engagement survey.

Engagement and performance are inseparable. If you improve employee engagement, you will improve performance, and your approach to performance management and talent development can have a meaningful impact on employee engagement.

Yet, most approaches to employee engagement have not kept up with the pace of change and are now way outdated.

We live in an always-on, constantly-pulsing world. We share feedback on a continuous basis, “liking” our friends’ photos and relying on crowdsourced product reviews to make decisions. We also rely on active monitoring of our systems and activities to optimize performance. We have state of art solutions in finance, sales, marketing, and customer success to monitor results in real time and empower our managers with actionable data.

So why haven’t human resource systems evolved with the times? Why aren’t more companies keeping a finger on the pulse of employee engagement? Despite overwhelming evidence that frequent measurement of employee engagement levels makes a difference, 80% of organizations still rely on the annual (or worse, the bi-annual) engagement survey to solicit employee feedback.

At the same time, organizations across the globe report a troubling inability to understand employee motivations and needs. Attrition has become highly expensive, as more employees look outside their organizations for growth opportunities. How can we expect to get the most out of our employees when we can barely grasp what drives them to come to work each day?

Stakes are high

We’ve found, based on data from thousands of employees, that those with unfavorable engagement scores are five times more likely to leave in the next six months than those with high scores. After one year, they’re twelve times more likely to leave.

By gathering employee feedback on a quarterly or even monthly basis, organizations can better understand emerging engagement challenges and act to reduce employee turnover before it’s too late.

Regular engagement check-ins allow managers, leaders and the HR team to take quick action to address problems and to track the impact of actions as time goes on. These check-ins provide organizations with meaningful feedback and enable them to take action to help people be more successful in their jobs.

As more organizations begin to adjust to the significant shift in the way we work together, my hope is they will start with employee engagement. More frequent feedback from employees, actionable insights from systems, and data in the hands of managers — followed by quick action to solve problems that are uncovered — will help organizations increase engagement, build stronger teams, and improve results.

To quote a senior HR executive at GE, “If you’re waiting a year to give meaningful feedback, it’s already old news.” Let’s make our people processes continuous conversations and start building strong teams that thrive.

Jim Barnett is CEO & co-founder of Glint, a company specializing in employee performance analytics and talent management.

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