It’s no secret that employees and employers alike have reservations about annual performance reviews. Some employees view them as a waste of time and many employers find it difficult to argue against that. According to management research firm CEB, 42 percent of employees consider annual reviews ineffective, mainly due to the feedback coming at the end of the year when it has almost no relevance. What’s more, 95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with their company’s performance review process, too, according to the same study.
How Reviews Have Evolved
The shift from praising annual reviews to loathing them has ebbed into the HR realm gradually over the last couple of decades. Modern performance reviews are largely based on the merit system used by the military in World War I—a system that has not grown adequately to suit the needs of today’s corporate structures. The original idea was that workers were so plentiful that poor performers needed to be identified from efficient workers so the former could be replaced and the latter promoted.
This mentality is slowly dying as the labor market tightens up. Employers are now more concerned with coaching poor performers instead of replacing them immediately. Annual reviews are less effective in this regard, since their primary purpose is to hold employees up to a (typically) quantitative standard, not to assess granular performance and insert coaching opportunities. That’s where frequent one on one meetings with employees come in.
What is a One on One?
Think of a one on one meeting as microscopic evaluations. In this process, managers evaluate employee performance periodically throughout the year, not just at its end. Managers are checking in on employee performance as it happens, not giving a rating several months later.
Employees can, and should, still set attainable goals for themselves each year related to their performance, but examining that growth annually may do them a disservice. Frequent one on one meetings with employees (think monthly or biweekly) allow employers the chance to nip any emerging issues in the bud and lets employees receive that coaching when it’s actually relevant. Moreover, checking in with an employee more frequently can build a lasting rapport with the company and strengthen company culture.
How Can I Implement This?
Since one on ones are essentially periodic meetings tailored to employee performance, implementation is minimal. To get started, employers should explain the reason behind the new process to employees. Supervisors should schedule time on their calendars, with future meeting times set in stone. Resist the urge to move these meetings. You want employees to know that this time is valuable to you. In the first one on one, set expectations for the employee. Ask them to develop annual and shorter term goals that they will report progress on in each meeting. Provide feedback and coaching to employees to help them reach their goals. Supervisor should also be asking for feedback from employees. How do they feel about their job? What do they need from the supervisor or the company to be successful? Our Supervisor Check In Questions and our Stay Interview Questionnaire have some ideas to help you get started.
Adjusting from an annual review process to more frequent one on one meetings may feel like a big change, but the rewards are worth it. Companies that implement this strategy frequently report greater employee growth, lower employee turnover and a more positive company culture. These one on one meetings show employees that you care enough about their development to give them time to discuss it throughout the year. On average, you spend around 260 days at work each year. As an employee, wouldn’t you want your supervisor to take an interest in your development more than just once a year?