Every year, managers and employees come together to perform what many consider one of the most awkward obligations: the annual performance review. But there are ways HR leaders and managers can improve the process, transforming these often dreaded reviews into a positive aspect of the employee experience.
Last week on Talent Experience Live, Phenoms Jonathan Dale (JD) and Jennifer Thomas welcomed colleagues Meghan Valenti, Learning and Development Specialist, and Jesus Latorre-Socas, Lead Product Developer, to discuss improving and streamlining the performance review process with the help of AI technology.
Get the highlights below, or catch the full episode here.
Identifying the Most Common Drawbacks
With 34% of millennials claiming to have left an annual performance review in tears — JD and Thomas drew on their personal experiences to get to the bottom of why this annual process is often perceived negatively. Some main takeaways?
- One conversation can't possibly address a year's worth of achievements, areas of opportunity, career goals, and salary/promotion considerations
- Salary changes or promotions may not align with the employee’s self-review
- Many perceive them as an unnecessary and overly time-consuming formality
Despite the drawbacks, annual reviews should serve as a valuable tool that helps employees grow and develop. As JD pointed out: “They’re a great checkpoint. You can stop doing what wasn’t working, and start doing what is working.” He believes they offer a dedicated moment in time to review accomplishments and ssess what needs improvement.
Improving The Process
How can organizations transform the annual performance review from disappointing to dynamic? Valenti, who manages all performance review trainings at Phenom, believes that managers should take time to coach their team members on performance throughout the year instead of saving it for one annual meeting.
As someone with a passion for helping employees succeed in their roles, she believes that a disappointing performance review doesn’t represent a failure on the part of the employee. Instead, responsibility lies with managers, who should provide constructive feedback in regular one-on-one meetings. This would enable employees to address any shortcomings as they happen, allowing the annual performance review to focus on big-picture topics like career pathing.
Prepping for such big conversations can be overwhelming, especially when dealing with the already-overwhelming daily workload. When asked for tips on how to make the process a bit less stressful, Valenti had a few to impart:
- Keep track of successes and shortcomings throughout the year, and take notes of topics you’ll want to discuss.
- Refer back to previous reviews and see where growth has or hasn't occurred.
- For managers with multiple assessments to complete, schedule time each day to chip away at them rather than tackling them all at the same time.
The Salary Conversation
Although a salary conversation is traditionally part of an annual performance review, Valenti believes there’s value in separating the two. “Taking the compensation out of it really allows you to focus on those career growth opportunities,” she noted. This ultimately leads to a more productive conversation.
It's important, however, to set this expectation ahead of time — let team members know whether compensation will be addressed during the annual review or in a separate meeting.
In an ideal world, salary would be discussed throughout the year instead of just once, but, as JD pointed out, employees often aren’t comfortable bringing up the topic. If this is the case, he suggests being completely honest with your manager. “That’s an awesome conversation to have with a leader,” he said. “[Employees can say] ‘I’d like to talk to you about compensation, but it’s not a comfortable topic for me. Is that something you can help me with?’”
Leveraging AI Technology
Once the review is over (whew!), how can organizations ensure that employees have the right tools to act on feedback? AI and intelligent automation help employees connect the dots between their evaluation and available resources, making reviews far more effective, said Latorre-Socas.
With AI-driven skills gap analysis and fit scores, an Employee Experience platform can provide employees with the tools to improve their performance and reach their career goals. As Latorre-Socas explained: “[AI involves] taking the context of your performance review [and] your aspirations and goals, and making it actionable. It helps us be more expert at our current role.”
In addition to helping employees find the right trainings to further their careers, AI and machine learning can be leveraged to match them with internal best-fit mentors, helping improve their performance, growth, and development. “It starts with understanding the employee. Every unique employee might have a different aspiration, a different set of goals. [AI] really starts evolving that to people matching, understanding the mentor as well — what can they coach you on?,” said Latorre-Socas.
This kind of personalization makes all the difference. Instead of simply reviewing an employee's performance, you're able to give them actionable steps to level up or make appropriate changes in line with their goals. Now that sounds like the kind of review we'd all appreciate...and not just once a year.