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Performance Reviews Performance Management

Employee Reviews: How to Approach Your Next Performance Review Season

November 8, 2022
7 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged


Annual performance reviews have a reputation for being ineffective. Even most CEOs say their review process does not help identify top performers, while employees say their managers are not giving effective reviews. As a result, many companies were already considering a new approach to employee reviews — a transition accelerated by the onset of the pandemic. 

The changing landscape of performance reviews reflects the larger changes in the workforce brought on by the pandemic. Employees want to work for a company that treats them like people first and prioritizes their employee experience. Gartner predicts that this trend will continue and employers will take a more personal, human approach to performance management. 

We’ve got some performance review tips to take you into the next review season with this people-first approach.

#PerformanceReviews have changed — find out how to take a modern approach to reviews this season:

Prepare Managers for Reviews

Even when companies conduct frequent employee performance reviews instead of just annual reviews, they can still be stressful meetings. That stress is often caused by uncertainty. Even if employees feel confident in how they’ve done, they may not know what their managers will say. Employees might also wonder if they’ll have the opportunity to discuss professional development goals or compensation increases. 

Managers may be unsure of how to give constructive feedback or have trouble remembering every successful project. However inaccurate or bad performance reviews can push workers toward the door, so it’s important for managers to take them seriously and learn how to give good feedback.

Fortunately, a little bit of preparation goes a long way toward setting up employee evaluations that are less stressful and more productive. Your company should conduct reviews on a regular basis so employees know when they’re coming. Managers can keep employees in the know by talking to new hires about the review schedule when they join the team and giving employees a heads-up when performance reviews are approaching.  

Managers should also create and share an agenda beforehand so employees know what they’ll be discussing. And if it makes sense, managers and employees can even create the agenda together. This gets employees involved in their reviews and ensures they get to cover what’s important to them.

Check out these 13 performance review questions for employees managers can use for the next review cycle.

Put Performance in Context

In the new world of work, employees’ performance should be put in context — with empathy for circumstances that may be affecting performance. This is why so many companies stopped or reimagined performance evaluations during the pandemic. With so many external stressors, companies realized that normal evaluation methods wouldn’t be an accurate representation of employees’ performance and could even be harmful. People needed compassion during a difficult time rather than a stressful performance appraisal.

This is an important part of bringing the human element into your everyday performance management strategy. 82% of respondents to a Gartner survey said they want their company to see them as people, not just employees. Managers can do this by building trust and checking in with their team members regularly. They can exercise understanding when employees are dealing with unexpected difficulties, whether in their personal lives or on a work project.

“The reality is that three shifts in the work environment have eroded the impact of the traditional EVP: Employees are people, not just workers; work is a subset of life, not separate from it; and value comes through feelings, not just features.” - Carolina Valencia, VP, Gartner

Be Aware of Bias

Evidence shows that bias creeps into performance reviews quite often:

  • One study showed that 76% of reviews that made references to the employee being “too aggressive” were made in women’s performance reviews and only 24% were included in men’s. 

  • The average at which white men tend to agree that their workplace is fair is around 20 percentage points higher than the average for women and people of color. 

  • Research done by NewsGuild found that at The New York Times, employees of color consistently earn lower performance review scores than white employees. Being Hispanic reduced the odds of getting a high score by 60% while being Black reduced employees’ chances by 50%. 

We are all prone to biases, but it’s impossible to get rid of bias if you are not aware of it. Here are a few types of bias to be aware of:

  • Tightrope bias is a type of gender bias that affects women, who often feel pressure to find a balance at work to avoid being seen as “too masculine” or “too feminine.”
  • Prove it again bias happens when minority groups have to constantly prove their skills. These groups tend to be judged on their mistakes, while their white male counterparts tend to be judged on their potential. 
  • Racial stereotypes can cause reviewers to make assumptions about or assign labels to employees based on harmful stereotypes, which can be subtle or overt. 
  • The Maternal Wall is a type of bias in which it’s assumed that mothers are less committed and less capable employees.

Anyone participating in performance reviews, but especially managers with direct reports, should be trained on common types of biases and how to keep bias out of their decision-making.

Send Out Self-Assessments

In a self-assessment, employees evaluate their own performance. Employee self-assessments add even more context to performance. For example, if an employee gives themselves low scores in an area their manager identified as an area of strength, there’s an opportunity to discuss the difference. 

Self-assessments help employees see their blind spots and show managers how employees see themselves. With that insight, managers can give better feedback and enable better performance. 

Get ClearCompany’s ultimate performance review guide and learn more about how to give great reviews.

Get More Feedback with 360-Degree Reviews

360-degree feedback comes from an employee’s peers, company leaders, and other colleagues. The point of these reviews is to gather multiple perspectives on the employee’s performance. These employees interact with each other in different ways than managers and their direct reports. They can shine a light on issues, hidden strengths, and other qualities that managers may not have noticed in the same way. 

Peer reviews can also reinforce managers’ performance conversations, affirming what they have noticed. For example, a self-assessment, manager evaluation, and peer reviews that all note an employee’s outstanding leadership skills are strong evidence that they would be a good candidate for a promotion.

Follow Up on Reviews — All Year Long

Performance conversations shouldn’t be confined to review season — discussing performance should be a regular occurrence outside of formal reviews. Yearly reviews are too infrequent. It does employees no good to talk just once a year, especially if managers set goals or give employees advice during their reviews. Managers need to follow up with their employees and revisit the goals and guidance that were given to see if they’ve had an effect. 

Frequent performance discussions are a great way to boost employee engagement, too. Research shows that 43% of highly engaged employees talk to their managers at least once a week about how they’re doing. Frequent conversations help keep goals on track or reprioritize if needed and allow managers to act as coaches, giving ongoing employee feedback, advice, and encouragement.

Test or Upgrade Software

The main purposes of employee review software are to help run a continuous performance management program and get a more complete picture of overall performance. It helps human resources teams work faster, keep reviews on track, and gather valuable performance data. Managers can facilitate more productive, frequent performance conversations. Employees get transparent, powerful performance feedback that actually helps them improve and grow their skills. 

If you’re already using performance management software to run reviews, it might be time to upgrade your system. If not, explore your options — the list of performance review software benefits is long. 

Your most effective employee review cycle can be your next one when you use ClearCompany’s Performance Management System to launch them.  Get access to everything you need for a productive, paperless performance review process:

  • A variety of review types, including 360-Degree Reviews and Semiannual Reviews, to kickstart your next review cycle
  • Customizable reviews to tailor evaluations to your business’s needs
  • 1:1 Workspaces where managers and employees can keep performance conversations open and organized
  • Tools to automate workflows for your HR team, including performance review reminders
  • Expert-built employee review templates
  • Employee engagement and recognition tools

Sign up for your personalized demo of ClearCompany’s award-winning Performance Management System to test these tools and more.

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