Performance management used to be a once a year event or twice at a push. Managers set objectives at the start of the year, gave feedback six months later and at the year-end provided an overall rating. If employees were really lucky, they were asked about their career aspirations and development needs.
Following years of feedback, it emerged that this style of performance management wasn’t as effective as employees or employers would have liked. In fact, only two in ten employees believed that annual performance appraisals motivated them to do outstanding work.
Now organisations around the world are trading in their annual process for continual performance management. An approach that’s better suited to modern businesses seeking improved employee performance and enhanced results. We explore what continual performance management is, why it’s favoured over annual appraisals and how to implement it in your organisation.
What Is Continual Performance Management?
Continual performance management is a human resource (HR) process that takes place throughout the year. It’s an ongoing, holistic approach to appraisal that replaces infrequent with regular feedback leading to a more natural employee-manager conversation and healthier, more authentic workplace relationships.
What Issues Does It Seek to Address?
Can you remember exactly how you delivered a piece of work two weeks ago? How about three months ago? What about half a year?
The whole premise of continual performance management is that it’s difficult to remember exactly what we’ve delivered and how we’ve delivered it a long time after the event. This makes it tough on employees to give an accurate account and difficult for managers to make an accurate assessment of performance.
In addition, modern agile businesses move much faster which often results in objectives set at the start of the year no longer being relevant six or twelve months later.
Why Is Continual Performance Management Proving so Popular?
Continual performance management enables organisations to be far more flexible in how they set and evaluate performance. By creating objectives for the next quarter, they’re far more likely to be relevant and aligned to changing strategic objectives. And, by regularly reviewing performance, it’s easy for managers and employees to recall what’s been done and how it’s been achieved. Which should lead to more accurate performance assessments.
Regular reviews also mean that managers are encouraged to provide on-the-spot feedback. This is much more powerful than waiting several months to deliver insight and it enables staff to quickly correct their performance ensuring problematic actions or behaviours are nipped in the bud and minimising the potential for poor performance to spread to other team members.
Feedback about good performance also means that staff are more likely to keep doing more of the right activities in the right way. Which can only be good for business.
How Can You Implement Ongoing Appraisals?
Continual appraisals often include check-ins between the line manager and each employee every month or at least quarterly. These sessions cover:
- Progress against objectives
- Personal development
- Issues or concerns
- Any new or amended objectives
- Agreed actions
Between each check-in, employees work on their objectives and get feedback from their line manager to keep them on course. One of the major benefits is that managers and staff aren’t bogged down completing lengthy forms in one sitting, an approach that many people dread.
If continual performance management sounds like a lot of additional work, it isn’t. Implemented correctly, ongoing performance appraisals offer a more frequent but lighter touch that provides more benefit to the organisation.
What Will Your Managers Need to Implement It?
One of the major concerns among leaders around introducing this style of appraisal is the ability of line managers to have meaningful conversations. That’s why it’s important to train and educate supervisors and managers at all levels before implementing this new approach.
Remember: performance management needs to be followed by every manager at every level of the organisation. If you’re the most senior leader in your organisation, how you performance manage your direct reports will cascade down the organisation. To ensure you get a great return from introducing this change, the new process needs to start with you.
If you need a little more persuading that continual performance management is for you, research shows that high performing companies are more likely to provide more frequent performance feedback and align their objectives closely with strategy. Making continuous performance appraisal a step closer to even greater business success.