Leading organisations such as General Electric, Accenture and Adobe have moved away from annual appraisals in favour of having regular one-to-one discussions (or ‘check-ins’), reviewing and updating objectives throughout the year and giving frequent feedback. This methodology is increasingly being referred to as continuous performance management. Whilst a lot has been written about the organisations who are adopting a year-round approach to performance management, little has been said about how to make it happen. So we’ve prepared this 7‑step guide on how to successfully implement continuous performance management in your organisation.
1. Start now, don’t wait for the culture to change
It may be tempting to wait until you have undertaken a culture change programme before changing your performance management processes. However, with research showing that 95% of managers are dissatisfied with their organisation’s existing performance management system, why continue doing something that just isn’t working? As Adobe commented on their transition to check-ins, “this is a journey and not a destination”, so the sooner you start taking action, the further you will progress on that journey.
2. Find out who is already having regular performance discussions
You might feel that implementing continuous performance management will require a significant cultural shift. After all, if it’s hard working getting managers to have once-a-year performance reviews, how will you get them to have regular performance conversations? Organisations who have introduced continuous performance management actually found that many of their managers were already having regular performance chats on an informal basis and making them work successfully. So find out who these people are within your organisation, involve them in designing your new processes and get them to champion your cause.
3. Engage your senior leadership
To make continuous performance management a success, you will need to get buy-in from top management and have them to lead by example. Whilst most senior leaders dislike doing annual appraisals, they may be nervous about the implications of stopping them, particularly if you are planning to get rid of ratings as well. They are likely to have questions about how you will identify high and low performers and how pay and promotion decisions will be handled. So make sure you support your case for continuous performance management with research-based evidence and have answers to these questions readily available. To help with this, we have created a short animated video outlining the business benefits of continuous performance management.
Additionally, here are some good quality research reports and articles that you can access for free:
- CEB — Performance Management can be Fixed
- Deloitte — Global Human Capital Trends
- Mind Gym — Reinventing Performance Management
- Clear Review — Should you use Performance Ratings?
4. Sell the benefits
If managers and their team members are going to actively engage in having regular one-to-ones and giving frequent feedback, you’ll need to ensure that they understand “what’s in it for me?”. For managers, the benefits include having a better performing, more productive and motivated team, reduced staff turnover, ability to delegate more and spending less time fixing mistakes. Make it clear that it will ultimately save them time.
Organisations who have made continuous performance management a success have put the onus on team members to ensure that their one-to-ones happen, rather than on managers. Therefore you’ll need to sell the benefits to team members too. Emphasise that they will have more ownership over their work, they will get more timely feedback and more one-to-one time and support from their manager. But they will need to be proactive to get these benefits.
There is plenty of evidence in the above research papers that you can draw on when selling the benefits to staff. However, it’s even more powerful to draw on successes from within your own organisation. So where you have found teams that have already been having regular one-to-ones and giving feedback on an informal basis (see point 2 above), make sure you share these success stories and communicate the benefits that they have achieved.
5. Provide training and guidance
Good quality performance conversations and feedback rely on the participants having the necessary skills. So re-invest the time you currently spend administering annual appraisals on training and coaching staff on how to have effective one-to-ones, how to give and receive feedback, how to set shorter term goals, and the fundamentals of coaching. Support your training with quick fact sheets, eLearning and short videos — the more interesting and interactive the better. Our own Clear Review performance management software comes with integrated animated ‘whiteboard’ videos on the key skills required for continuous performance management.
6. Communicate, communicate…and listen
It’s well recognised within change management that you need to communicate a message between 3 and 6 times before it is understood. So support your journey to continuous performance management using a variety of communication methods such as face-to-face briefings, videos, webinars, intranet pages, fact sheets, newsletters and roadshows. Don’t make the mistake of relying just on email. Communication should not all be one-way however. Make sure you regularly seek feedback from team members about how they are finding the new processes, using surveys, interviews and focus groups.
7. Use continuous performance management software
Whilst the basis of continuous performance management is regular performance discussions and feedback, using dedicated continuous performance management software will make the whole process considerably more effective. It will:
- Enable employees to update their progress against their objectives in real-time, making one-to-one discussions more focused
- Provide online agendas for check-in meetings and enable action points to be captured and followed up on
- Give HR visibility of how frequently one-to-ones are taking place across the organisation
- Enable ‘in-the-moment’ feedback to be given and shared with individuals immediately
- Automatically chase up people who are not having regular one-to-ones or giving feedback
- Allow you to capture performance data or ratings from managers to feed into your reward and talent management decisions