At our July Best Practice Group meeting, one of our HR leaders wanted to understand how other firms were conducting formal performance reviews. Specifically, they wanted to know:
"What are the best approaches to encourage managers / partners to complete their performance reviews? What do other firms do in this space?"
Performance reviews have a substantial impact on the employee experience. We see a correlation between managers who invest time in employee reviews and more positive employee engagement and outcomes. A good review experience should gives an employee greater clarity on where they stand in the organisation and what their career trajectory looks like - so important in the current hyper-competitive talent market.
Additionally, members said compliance was critical because:
Quite a few said they were interested in diving deeper into the problem, but didn’t have the time or resources for a big project. What are some quick tips? Below is what we came up with:
A number of clients found the Performance Leader nudge tools worked very well to get the right message to the right person, at the right time. People are good at tuning out messages that are automated, repetitive or perceived to be irrelevant. Messages that are personalised - right person, right time, right request - are more likely to cut through the noise.
Whatever system you use, consider exporting the data and crafting messages that would resonate more strongly with certain departments or groups, and sending them at a time that might work best for them (not just at the start or end of the review period).
A simple (or not) idea is to include performance review targets within a manager’s own KPIs - performance management becomes part of their performance management. Performance and feedback is critical to firm growth and retention, and thus should be measured as a key skill (and output) of effective managers. You can't develop what you don't measure.
Besides ensuring managers comply with their obligations, a KPI here could also rewards good managers for, well, managing well. (If you're interested in this, take a look at this article about designing a strength based competency framework).
A number firms have taken this approach and have had great feedback. It sends a powerful signal on the importance of being a good leader, what you prioritise at your organisation, and what you're willing to ignore.
Sometimes quick hacks won't cut it. If you're constantly struggling to achieve your compliance targets, it's time to take a step back and evaluate the entire process.
Do reviews need to happen the way they are happening now? What do managers and employees think? What do we want to achieve and what are willing to forgo?
Before working with us, one of our clients only had 40% of employees setting goals (never mind updating them). Together we designed a simple goal-setting cycle and in a few weeks that number went up to over 91% of employees with goals. The streamlined process also gave managers more oversight and reduced the time it took to schedule conversations and do follow ups.
Take a design thinking approach and workshop how the experience can produce more value (for participants and the firm). It might feel like more effort initially, but will save you and everyone else time.
A little friendly peer pressure is a great way to inspire action. No one likes being left behind!
A client shared that they used data from the Performance Leader platform to create a table that listed how teams and departments were progressing with completion of their reviews and feedback requests. It was a simple internal leaderboard (for managers and above only) that gave leadership oversight over the entire process, but also encouraged some groups to pick up the pace.
What's great about this idea is it also recognises those who are doing a great job! Often the focus is only on those not meeting the deadlines, you have to celebrate the role-models too.
As always, be careful about naming and shaming - consider placing people in bands (top 5, bottom 5 etc) and focus on teams, not individuals.
It doesn't hurt to throw in a friendly wager. Drinks on the last 2. At a place chosen by no 1.
Often the best way is the simplest: twisting arms. Having identified your 'bottlenecks' send them an email or Teams DM, pick up the phone or catch them in the elevator and asking how they're progressing.
This approach works especially well with those who are incredibly busy. A conversation breaks through the stream of emails, calls and messages. Once you have their attention, commit them to a time and put something in their calendar.
The best thing about this approach though is it's an opportunity to understand challenges some managers might be facing. Perhaps they are avoiding a difficult conversation, or they are struggling to make a decision. It's a chance for you to add value to the relationship, and maybe provide some coaching.
Arm twisting has to be done sensitively (else arms break!). Avoid shaming, don't call someone out publicly, choose a time when they might be most responsive and think about who might be best to reach out to them. It doesn't always have to the HR pushing, often it's better to get a senior leader to say a few delicate but firm words.
At the end of the day, the commitment of managers to completing performance reviews is a factor of how complex processes are, the support (and resources) available and the culture of the organisation. If organisations prioritise feedback and growth, the review has to have a central role.
The Performance Leader Best Practice Group is a monthly gathering of HR leaders and Performance Leader Super Admins. We convene to share and discover innovative approaches to building cultures of feedback and high-performance, and talk about our pets. If you're a client and you'd like to join, please get in touch.