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How Do I Get Managers to Have Regular Performance Management Conversations?

Two business people sitting in front of a blackboard of personal objectives

Not many man­agers rel­ish the thought of per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tion, and nei­ther do their employ­ees. Yet, there is a way to change that attitude.

Most per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tions begin and end the same way — stuffy for­mal­i­ties, form-fill­ing, and an awk­ward hand­shake. All the hall­marks of the far-too-com­mon if I have to…” atti­tude many man­agers and employ­ees have towards per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tions. How­ev­er, this isn’t how it should be, and it’s cer­tain­ly not how it needs to be.

Annu­al appraisals are not effec­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment conversations

The most com­mon per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tions that man­agers are asked to have with their employ­ees is the annu­al appraisal, despite the fact that they don’t work. The data shows that nei­ther man­agers nor employ­ees like them or think they have much val­ue. In a sur­vey of 3,000 work­ers in San Fran­cis­co, 98% said they believed annu­al appraisals were unnec­es­sary.

It’s not hard to see why peo­ple feel this way. The once-a-year atti­tude towards per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions puts too much pres­sure on a sin­gle meet­ing. What’s more, the exist­ing of the once a year appraisal dis­cour­ages man­agers from dis­cussing per­for­mance dur­ing the year as events occur. Con­se­quent­ly, employ­ees and man­agers end up dread­ing the annu­al appraisal con­ver­sa­tions as they have lit­tle or no idea of how they have been per­form­ing, and things that hap­pened months ago may be brought up as feed­back for the first time.

It’s one thing to have a process in your busi­ness which peo­ple dis­like. It’s anoth­er thing to have a process in your busi­ness which peo­ple dis­like and doesn’t work. That’s about as bad as a thing can get in business.

Rat­ing sys­tems rarely lead to effec­tive per­for­mance conversations

Anoth­er major turn-off for man­agers and employ­ees is the rat­ing sys­tem. When rat­ings are includ­ed as part of a per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tion, they kill the hon­esty and any poten­tial for per­for­mance improve­ment and learn­ing is lost. Would you dis­cuss your fears, mis­takes and areas for devel­op­ment if you know that a rat­ing is com­ing at the end of the con­ver­sa­tion? Unlike­ly. Instead, most of us will talk up our achieve­ments to try and get the best pos­si­ble rating.

Just as with annu­al appraisals, rat­ing sys­tems don’t work because they sup­press frank and con­struc­tive dis­cus­sion which is the cor­ner­stone of per­for­mance improve­ment. Rat­ings can have a place in per­for­mance man­age­ment if there is strong enough rea­son to jus­ti­fy their use, but they should always be decou­pled from per­for­mance and devel­op­ment conversations.

The 5 most important performance conversations

Take a look at our collection of free resources where you can learn everything you need to know about having good performance conversations.

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If you’re mak­ing the switch to reg­u­lar per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tions, don’t do it by halves. A mis­take made by many busi­ness­es when intro­duc­ing reg­u­lar per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tions is that they tri­al them along­side annu­al appraisals. In the­o­ry, this is a good idea. After all, A/B test­ing is com­mon in mar­ket­ing and many oth­er sec­tors of busi­ness. You test two things at the same time and — all oth­er things being equal — you see which works better.

The issue is that your man­agers’ time is pre­cious and lim­it­ed. If you are ask­ing them to have reg­u­lar per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions and car­ry out annu­al appraisals as well, it’s sim­ply too much of an ask and you are unlike­ly to get a decent lev­el of adop­tion. So be brave and lose the appraisal. As one HR Direc­tor said to me recent­ly, if your man­agers have already dis­cussed events dur­ing reg­u­lar per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions, what’s the point in dis­cussing them again at an end of year appraisal?

If you need to take an end of year per­for­mance assess­ment for pay or pro­mo­tion pur­pos­es, you don’t need to car­ry out full appraisal for that, there is an eas­i­er way. Read our eBook for advice on how to man­age per­for­mance relat­ed pay with­out annu­al appraisals.

Clear Review’s per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware makes the tran­si­tion simpler

There are ways to phase in reg­u­lar per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions in place of annu­al appraisals so that the tran­si­tion can be made smooth­ly and with­out the cre­ation of extra work. Clear Review’s per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware helps by eas­ing the work­load so that a man­ag­er can pre­pare and hold a per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tion in just 20 min­utes. The Clear Review appli­ca­tion auto­mat­i­cal­ly pro­vides rec­om­mend­ed prompts for dis­cus­sion and the employee’s goals, updates and feed­back are all read­i­ly avail­able to dis­cuss dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. No more hunt­ing around for notes made in note­books or spread­sheets con­tain­ing employ­ees’ objectives.

It’s all about sell­ing the trade-off. If you tell man­agers that you are remov­ing appraisals that they dis­like and replac­ing them with a more nat­ur­al process of hav­ing reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tions, sup­port­ed by an online sys­tem that makes sched­ul­ing the con­ver­sa­tions, cap­tur­ing notes and giv­ing feed­back easy, most man­agers will embrace such a change.

Once your man­agers are onboard, your employ­ees will be too. After all, you’ll have turned their dread­ed year­ly appraisals into con­struc­tive, reg­u­lar, feed­back ses­sions that focus on prac­ti­cal solu­tions rather than assessments.

If you’re look­ing to intro­duce reg­u­lar per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tions to your busi­ness, con­tact Clear Review today for a FREE demo of our pur­pose-built con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware.

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