Performance review design in 2022

Going beyond best practice in formal review design for 2022

June 27, 2023

Ray D'Cruz
Performance Leader

Every year, about this time, as firms move into formal review design mode, we get questions about what’s happening in the market? Our answer usually sits between what is happening, and what we think should happen. After all, we want our clients not just to be best practice, but best imaginable practice. Sometimes that means leading.

By employee reviews we refer to formal annual or mid-year or quarterly reviews – periodic reviews, as opposed to real-time feedback. We see formal reviews and informal feedback working in concert. Formal reviews provide a deep dive on issues that aren’t always front of mind.

Regular catch ups deal with real-time issues, often work and client related. 

In 2022, there are a couple of overarching issues to bear in mind in the design phase:

1. The last two years have been patchy for formal reviews. The staccato nature of work has dented compliance. HR teams have not wanted to press the issue too, concerned that people are under enough pressure.

2. The competition for talent is on. For all the criticism of the structure, well-executed formal reviews still contribute to a range of key engagement and retention factors impacting at least seven of Gallup’s q12. 

Here are our four issues to consider for review design in 2022.

Achieving balance and focus 

Over the past two years, some firms have pared back the review process to a few essential topics of conversation. Some firms have made the process optional.

In 2022 there is a real sense that everyone needs the opportunity for a formal review, but it needs to hit the right notes, and not try to hit all notes. No more long and turgid reviews: just ones focussed on specific subjects.

This year, the essentials are:

Recognition: it’s been inconsistent through the pandemic, particularly between practice groups, exacerbated by remote working and existing leadership styles. Use multi-source feedback to broaden the scope of recognition.

Career: amid this extreme competition for talent, firms need to make a persuasive case that employees are best placed to stay and develop. What outweighs short-term financial gain is the medium and long-term prospect of bigger and better things.

Hybrid and healthy working: reflecting on what works and doesn’t work for both partner/manager and employee is critical for building trust, avoiding proximity bias and reducing anxiety about the future of work. Much work has gone into addressing wellbeing through Covid and we should remain focussed on it, including how it now intersects with a return to the office.


Playing to strengths 

Lots of firms talk about playing to strengths, but few build it into the process, instead relying on partners and employees to take the initiative.

Taking a strengths-based approach means finding opportunities to use those strengths.It also means being able to let go of some responsibilities that don’t align to those strengths (this is the trickier part and where partners and managers need more support). In short, it means developing a more flexible approach to contribution than the one-size-fits-all approach that is predominant.

For review design:

-       Have questions that draw out strengths

-       Focus development on building strengths

-       Align goals and objectives to strengths


Finding new metrics

A narrow set of financial metrics feature heavily in reviews. Some of these are essential, after all, production is a key component of being a professional.But there is a movement to balance these narrow metrics with broader ones that reflect broader contribution expectations.

For review design, consider the following options:

-       Tokens or points that an employee can give to recognising teamwork or collaboration

-       Recording and reporting time invested in learning, KM, marketing

-       Client feedback


Enhancing diversity 

Formal reviews are critical for levelling the playing field. Making sure they happen provides everyone with a baseline experience of formal feedback and planning(not at the whim of individual partners/managers).

Ensuring the reviews are designed with DEI in mind requires some thoroughness, as we explain in Designing and inclusive performance and feedback culture. This includes:

-       Clear expectations and goals

-       Thoughtfulness about questions and prompts

-       An ample opportunity for employees to tell their story

-       Recognising and addressing potential bias in reviews


If you want to discuss any these ideas, please get in touch via the website.

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