Traditional performance reviews are undergoing a shift, mirroring the broader cultural changes brought about by the transition to a remote workforce and hybrid arrangements. As we enter into a new year and fresh performance management, companies are grappling with the challenge of facilitating fair assessments that go beyond the traditional annual or semi-annual model and looking for performance review tips to help them navigate these changes.
The People Collective (TPC), a Slack community of HR leaders across Southeast Asia and beyond, recently hosted a conversation in Singapore where HR experts and industry leaders discussed performance review tips and strategies for reshaping how we approach reviews to suit the contemporary work environment. Here are some of the actionable insights and top performance review tips for conducting effective, fair, and growth-oriented performance reviews:
Performance Review Tips From HR Leaders
Straight from the horse’s mouth, these seven performance review tips recommended by seasoned HR professionals can be applied to any size team to help maximize impact.
Separate performance reviews from compensation discussions
More often than not, employees view performance reviews as an opportunity to reevaluate their compensation, assuming the two are intrinsically linked. Yet HR leaders agree on performance review tips that state conflating the two can have detrimental effects on performance, as it often overshadows or distracts from the true purpose of assessments: to identify opportunities for growth and develop clear goals and KPIs for continuous improvement.
Performance reviews should be solely focused on assessing growth, skills, and contributions from employees. While compensation is linked to their ability to perform, unless your team operates on performance based pay, the conversation of salary or bonuses should be distinct from performance review discussions—instead raises and bonuses should be based on inflation and exceptional performance, and addressed at a separate time.
“Performance reviews need a rebranding. Increments and bonuses are different from helping someone assess where they are [in their performance] and how they can reach their full potential in the next time period. That might take them a quarter or six to 12 months and should have nothing to do with compensation. Rewards are linked to contributing unique value to an organization, not for tenure or performing the basic functions of a role.”
Sara Fisher, Group Head of People & Culture at MoneySmart
Rebrand performance management
Performance reviews can stir up a lot of anxieties for employees. Whether that’s due to a lack of clarity around assessment criteria, imposter syndrome, or not knowing how to write a performance review, one of the performance review tips that can be helpful is to reposition the function of reviews as tools to help employees rather than measure their worth.
Consider rebranding the experience of a performance review to focus more on growth, potential, and continuous improvement. This helps in changing the mindset around performance reviews and emphasizes the positive aspects of development.
Focus on continuous feedback throughout the year
Performance reviews should not be the first time an employee is hearing feedback from their managers, just as nothing an employee hears in their review should come as a surprise. Promote regular 1-on-1 check-ins between managers and employees to discuss goals, progress, and any challenges.
Encourage managers to provide continuous feedback throughout the year rather than saving it for an annual review. This helps in capturing a more comprehensive picture of an employee’s performance and creates opportunities for improvement at the first signs of performance challenges.
“Managers aren’t meant to be solely assessing performance at the end of the year. They should be compiling the [employee’s] status throughout the year. So if they’re managing people effectively, which requires that we train our managers properly, then they will understand what our expectation is, and employees will receive more impactful and well-rounded feedback.”
Train your managers
It’s a common misconception that HR is solely responsible for the performance review process. However, managers are the ones held accountable for conducting performance assessments for their teams. But work reviews aren’t necessarily intuitive, so performance review tips suggest HR must train managers to effectively conduct performance reviews. Ensure they understand the purpose, process, and how to provide constructive feedback. This includes teaching them how to identify areas of improvement and acknowledge achievements, as well as encouraging a culture of continuous feedback and regular check-ins with their direct reports.
Diversify your feedback
Performance is multi-faceted, and the feedback received should reflect that. Among the performance review tips discussed, HR leaders recommend instead of solely relying on employee or manager feedback, source input from multiple lenses to ensure a well rounded assessment and reduced performance appraisal biases.
Incorporate peer feedback into the performance review process. Allow managers to request feedback from colleagues who have worked closely with the employee. This provides a 360-degree view of the individual’s performance.
“Managers should request feedback from anybody that their direct report has worked with, and then collate that as a holistic output to understand the person fully.”
Projjal Ghatak, CEO of Onloop
Coach managers to focus on providing (and seeking) feedback based on observable behaviors rather than personal opinions. This helps in making the assessment more objective and tied to specific actions and results.
Here are some performance review tips and best practices for ensuring feedback is based on observable behaviors versus personal opinions:
Be specific and concrete:
Instead of saying: “You’re not a team player,” say: “During the last project, you worked independently without collaborating with team members, leading to delays in project completion.”
Focus on actions and results:
Instead of saying: “You’re not proactive,” say: “In the last month, you didn’t initiate any new projects or suggest improvements. As a result, our team missed out on potential opportunities for growth.”
Use quantifiable metrics:
Instead of saying: “You’re not meeting deadlines,” say: “On three separate occasions, you submitted project deliverables a day after the agreed-upon deadline.”
“We must rely on behaviors to get to a fair understanding. Always think about feedback in the form of behaviors and what skills exist, not what this person said about that person because that is also very based on personality.”
Consider collecting feedback at a project level to gain insights into specific collaborations and achievements. Performance review tips suggest managers identify the cross-functional teams employees are working on to understand the impact of the employee’s contributions to different aspects of the organization. When feedback is offered at the project level, it helps ladder up to the full view of their performance.
Educate on expectations
Managing expectations is a crucial part of HR’s functions. Provide education to both managers and employees about the expectations surrounding the performance review process. Clarify the criteria for evaluation and how it contributes to individual growth within the organization, and be clear about the desired outcomes of the exercise. This includes meeting deadlines, garnering employee buy-in, and decoupling performance reviews from compensation discussions.
“Having a robust goal setting exercise for every review cycle is quite important because it’s very powerful in terms of employee buy-in. If an employee knows how they’re contributing to their entire organization or their organization’s goal, that vision or connection alone is a superpower.”
Yao Lim, CEO & Founder of Easy Consulting
When it comes time for an annual review, it can be challenging to reflect on 12 months of performance. Doing so without clear systems can result in recency bias or ill-informed assessments.
Encourage managers to maintain documentation of employee achievements, areas for improvement, and notable contributions throughout the year instead. These performance review tips can be implemented through keeping a simple note document, written list, or folder that’s updated weekly throughout the year. Having this documentation will allow reviewers a database of information that serves as a reference during the performance review process.
“I think our responsibility is to bring out the best in every person. And you’re not going to bring out the best in every person unless you have a periodic understanding of what that person entails and what they do.”
These performance review tips help HR leaders and managers aim to create a more constructive, transparent, and ongoing performance management process within any organization. They highlight the importance of fostering a culture of continuous improvement and professional development to help your team thrive.
These performance review tips are just some of the insights shared during the community event hosted by The People Collective. If you haven’t already, join the dynamic community of HR leaders for more actionable insights and HR resources.