How to Fix Broken Performance Review Cycles

Make feedback a winning habit on your team.
Traditional performance reviews are broken. Performance reviews are meant to align and motivate businesses and employees. However, most review processes today are failing both. They are perceived by the team as a time suck, resource drain and don’t move the needle on individual or business performance. Let’s dive into how to know if this is happening in your organization and how to improve in the future to serve your people and organization better.

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Signs something is wrong

There are several telltale signs that something is wrong in performance review land. These signs will let you know that the review process isn’t meeting business or individual needs. 

Early indicators 

  • Company-wide, collective groan when reviews are launched 
  • Misalignment about “the why” behind performance reviews 
  • Confusion about the process or tools involved 
  • Reviews are only a look back rather than a look forward 
  • Many reminders and late submissions of self and manager reviews 
  • More time is spent on admin than on quality conversations 

Post-review indicators 

  • Top performers leave shortly after review season 
  • Low performance remains unaddressed 
  • Low ROI (ie more investment in time, money, energy than output) 
  • Decreased employee engagement 
  • Inequitable outcomes and loss of trust 

What good looks like

A good performance review season is made up of several key components. 

  • Alignment on “the why”: Good review seasons start with a common understanding of why it is happening. Everyone in the company knows why reviews are being done. 
  • Clear goals: There are clear goals, expectations and processes. Clarity is key to achieving success. It doesn’t mean that everyone agrees, but it does mean that everyone is aligned and committed. Clear documentation is your friend here.
  • Leader-led: The process should be leader-led rather than solely driven by HR. This means that leaders should be part of the process from development through execution. Get their opinions and buy-in from the start. 
  • Flexible and iterative: The process should be both flexible and iterative. Change things that didn’t work last time and address feedback from the team in the next iteration. Be sure you call out what you change based on feedback so people know their voices have been heard. 

How to make it better

The thing about making a better performance review process is that it usually isn’t only about the process itself. Making a better performance review is generally about addressing the performance and feedback culture of the organization as a whole. The performance review is simply a single part of the holistic approach. In order to do this, follow these steps. 

  1. Define your desired outcome (ie compensation, career development, employee motivation, performance conversations etc). Ensure you are not asking too much from one process. 
  2. Connect the performance review process to your broader performance programs and philosophies (ie trainings, expectations etc). 
  3. Involve the team in both planning and execution. 
  4. Integrate the performance review process with ongoing conversations (ie career development meetings, standard 1:1s, introspective conversations etc). 

Click here to check out our full podcast with Gusto’s Senior HRBP, Zoe Zeligs

How we can help

Tandem promotes continuous feedback through making feedback a habit. We partner with HR and teams to build a year-round culture of feedback with our expert-led, AI-powered tool. With Tandem, your team can easily give, request and track feedback throughout the year from both managers and peer-to-peer. This means that come performance review season, the feedback has already been given and aligned on. This allows the performance review to do its job of being a high quality conversation that moves both the business and individual forward.