How to Create a Continuous Performance Management Plan
While more and more small to midsize businesses are trying to move away from the annual performance review, most are still struggling to find a better way. So, what’s wrong with the annual review, and what should replace it?
Here’s what you need to know about continuous performance management, including how to implement weekly 1:1 meetings.
The Failure of the Annual Performance Review
The annual performance review has been a staple of the workplace for over a half century. After all, employers and employees each need to give and receive feedback to make meaningful improvements, and doing so annually was better than never.
But this outdated approach to performance management has failed the modern office in four distinct but related areas: time, accuracy, rapport, and fairness.
Many advocates of the annual performance review argue that it saves the organization time by consolidating meetings into one time of year. But the logistics of scheduling and conducting all of those meetings within a narrow window becomes complicated.
It’s also time-consuming for managers to prepare for and reflect on multiple performance reviews meant to represent an entire year’s worth of employee contributions.
Similarly, summarizing a year’s performance in a single 30-60 minute meeting leaves out a lot. All of those small efforts that may not be worth highlighting in an annual review actually add up over time.
To make matters worse, many organizations use a rating system in order to more easily track and compare performance. But ratings cannot accurately reflect the entirety of an employee’s performance. Good managers understand this frustration all too well.
Good managers also want to have a good rapport with their direct reports, but the annual performance review distorts that relationship. The meeting becomes a high-stakes evaluation, creating tension between the manager and the employee.
This is exacerbated by managers who don’t take time throughout the year to check in, reasoning that the annual review would be the best time to talk things through.
Due to all of the reasons above, many employees feel like the annual performance review is unfair and susceptible to bias. At best, it can fail to account for the employee’s experience, and at worst, it can reflect more of the supervisor’s partiality than the direct report’s performance.
It can feel inconsiderate and one-sided—especially when a contribution or accomplishment is overlooked. Employees may even feel like the process is rigged—which is, of course, demotivating.
Continuous performance management can resolve these issues with the annual review.
The Promise of Continuous Performance Management
More frequent feedback can address the problems of time, accuracy, rapport, and fairness that come from yearly evaluations. Again, these four areas are distinct but related.
Continuous performance management creates more quality time between managers and their direct reports, which may lead many managers to mistakenly think it’s more time-consuming. However, checking in on a regular basis actually makes communication more efficient. When employees know they’ll have their manager’s undivided attention for 30-60 minutes each week, they often batch less urgent questions and wait till then to discuss them. In the meantime, they often figure out how to solve many problems on their own.
Managers can also save time by giving feedback in bite-sized chunks, making it easier to implement. This also allows managers to correct an employee’s course on long-term projects or problems before they waste valuable time going too far down the wrong track.
Similarly—since continuous feedback is more timely—it’s also more accurate and much easier to address. Fewer issues fall between the cracks.
Also, managers can more easily track goals and support employees when they give and receive feedback more frequently.
These more frequent interactions encourage a more organic relationship between managers and direct reports. Checking in feels less forced.
It also makes it easier for managers to coach employees and give meaningful feedback. That kind of rapport-building inspires loyalty and leads to career growth.
As I mentioned earlier, all the reasons above influence employees’ perceptions of fairness. With continuous performance management, employees can feel confident that their performance is being evaluated in something closer to real time.
When continuous performance management is paired with transparent compensation practices, it can contribute to an ongoing conversation about performance, recognition, and compensation that employees feel is more fair and reflective of their efforts.
So, what does continuous performance management look like in the real world?
How to Implement Weekly 1:1 Meetings
Continuous performance management most often takes the form of regular 1:1 meetings between managers and their direct reports—usually weekly or biweekly.
Here are 5 steps you can take to implement weekly 1:1 meetings in your organization:
1. Get Buy-In from Leadership and Managers
To implement weekly 1:1 meetings company-wide, you’ll need not only approval from leadership but buy-in and support as well. It’s likely some of them will have objections, but we’ve already addressed those you’re most likely to hear—especially time spent vs. time saved.
Of course, you’ll also need buy-in from managers who will be on the frontlines of implementation. Explain to them the benefits of improving performance through regular feedback, which will mean less micromanaging and more coaching their team for success.
2. Update Your Culture Guide
A Culture Guide covers the compliance and procedural issues of the typical employee handbook, but it goes much deeper than that—into the history of an organization, its vision, norms, and even how to leave the organization with grace. Your Culture Guide is also foundational to norm-setting, which includes your organization’s performance management policy. For that reason, it should be required reading during onboarding.
Here’s a 1:1 policy template from BerniePortal’s own Culture Guide:
How We Conduct 1:1s: Effective 1:1s are critical to the growth of our company and its teammates. Here is how it works:
What they Are: Weekly meetings with your manager or the person to whom you report.
Who Makes the Agenda: You do. Included items should be areas where you could use extra help/support/advice or feedback. Additionally, you should include items that may have come up during the week that are better discussed in person and updates on projects for which you’re responsible.
When to Send the Agenda: Use the performance management function in the HRIS to post your agenda for your manager’s review and reference. This should arrive no later than 24 hours before the 1:1. You should treat this priority with as much urgency as getting back to an important client.
Additions to the Agenda: Your manager may have additional items to add to the agenda; in the performance management thread, they’ll post these discussion points as a reply to your initial agenda.
Summary: Use the performance management function in the HRIS to reply to that week’s thread with a summary of key takeaways from the meeting. This should be posted no later than the next day (and ideally the same day).
If you’re interested in learning more about how to create a Culture Guide for your organization, download our free e-book: HR’s Guide to Culture Guides.
3. Use an HRIS with a Performance Management Feature
A human resources information system—or HRIS like BerniePortal—can help team members hold each other accountable. BerniePortal’s Performance Management feature is a dynamic messaging platform that contains a record of all 1:1 agendas and summaries.
Managers can use it as a reference. Direct reports can use it to help them prioritize responsibilities. And HR can use it whenever managers or employees reach out about any issues they need to resolve between them. Remember the old adage: “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.”
4. Give Employees Ownership over Meetings
HR and managers should give employees ownership over weekly 1:1 meetings.
The employee sets the agenda and sends it to their manager through the HRIS at least 24 hours in advance. This gives the manager time to prepare for the meeting and add any other items to the agenda.
The employee documents the meeting and sends a summary to their manager through the HRIS within 24 hours afterward.
5. Require Employees and Managers to Schedule Recurring Meetings
This may seem obvious, but it’s the first step to actually putting your new policy into practice. Getting the meetings on everyone’s calendars gives the weekly 1:1 the priority it deserves.
Employees and managers should schedule their 1:1 as a recurring meeting—on a particular day and at a predictable time each week. This allows them to better plan around it and for it.
Performance management should not be an annual “set it and forget it” formality. Instead, it should be a dynamic and meaningful part of your office’s regular routine.
You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:
- BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
- HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
- HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
- BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
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