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January 7, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Is it time to retire annual reviews? Effective alternatives to consider

shutterstock_210394492If it’s time for your annual review, it probably goes something like this: you meet with your supervisor in a private room, he or she rates your performance using a variety of scales, you talk about where you need to improve in the future, and at the end you learn if you get a pay increase.

It’s no wonder most workers dread this process!

Beyond being ineffective, annual reviews can actually have many negative consequences. These one-sided conversations can diminish the employee-manager relationship and reinforce hierarchy within an organization. Traditional reviews often don’t give employees any helpful information about about how to do their jobs better, nor do they motivate them to strive for more. They can hurt a team’s dynamic and its ability to work cohesively, cause unneeded stress and often leave employees feeling unappreciated.

Annual reviews are like an ancient tradition. We keep doing them, but we really aren’t sure why except that it’s what we’ve always done in business. But more and more people are arguing it’s time for a change, and there are many alternatives for innovative companies willing to think outside the box.

Alternative methods for reviewing employee performance

Start a conversation between HR, management and any other important parties about the effectiveness of the current system. Then brainstorm how it can be improved. This might entail an overhaul that completely abandons annual reviews. It also could mean a fresh approach to the current process to make it more effective and more likely to produce a positive outcome. Here are three ideas to get “the talk” started:

1. Why annually?
Employees work all year long – why are they reviewed just once a year? Build a better relationship between employees and managers by having one-on-one meetings more regularly. For some companies this means once a month and others once a quarter. Additionally, always maintain an open-door policy so things can be discussed even when a meeting isn’t scheduled. Additionally, kill annual performance raises and instead adopt merit raises that can be earned at any time, not just once a year.

2. Key in on collaboration
Skip whatever rating system your company has and make reviews more conversational than judgmental. Be honest with employees, and let them voice both their joys and concerns at work. You both should talk about the job and where improvements can be made; two people working together in a trusted manner can uncover some truly remarkable things. Be a coach and work on how you can strengthen your team and build up morale and engagement!

3. Make reviews a team effort
Traditional reviews can seem pointless to employees because they come from supervisors who are not really in touch with what they do on a day-to-day basis. While meetings should still be led by managers, why not ask for feedback from the team beforehand? Peer review can be powerful, plus it’s a meaningful way for others to show their positive feelings about the employee in addition to any areas for improvement. Best practices are to keep peer feedback anonymous so it’s most useful.

Do you work at a company that has a modern take on the annual review? How do you feel these approaches benefit employees and the company as a whole?