How Often Should You Give Employee Reviews?

During these fast-paced times, frequent employee reviews have become the norm. Here's how you can make the most of regular reviews.
May 12, 2017

Once upon a time, employers held employee reviews yearly. More recently, the trend is for employers to give employees more frequent performance reviews. The reasons for what some have called "the never-ending performance review" are tied into the rapidly changing work environment.

“There's no way around more frequent reviews," says Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach, a sales acceleration platform. “The old model of doing employee reviews every quarter or six months is no longer sufficient to match the speed of business.

"Teams and business models change quickly today and this necessitates direct, immediate feedback," he continues. "Someone could perform well on one project and poorly on another, and if the next review cycle is three months away, it's already water under the bridge by the time that arrives."

Steve Elliott, CEO of AgileCraft, which helps companies take advantage of scaled management programs, agrees about the antiquated status of yearly or semi-yearly employer reviews.

“Providing feedback, good or bad, during a once-a-year review is too slow," says Elliott. “We strive to give rapid feedback continuously and collaboratively. This avoids surprises on performance that can affect employee morale and ultimately business growth."

The Benefits of Frequent Employee Reviews

In addition to allowing employers to quickly provide feedback, more frequent reviews can have a variety of other benefits.

Prevents problematic behavior. “If a particular negative behavior affects other people and you don't nip it in the bud, it's hard to say how much collateral damage will be caused," says Medina. “Bad behavior is a virus, and you need to get ahead of it quickly. The cascading effect can be terrible. In today's business environment, collaboration is king. If that breaks down for any reason, you need to address the breakdown immediately."

Employees appreciate (and are guided by) feedback. “Knowing how they're doing can help improve employee performance," says Joanna Farwell, human resources manager at Tallwave, which helps companies build their brands, products and digital sales.

If they do their jobs well, employee reviews help your employees perform to the best of their abilities and that builds better business.

—Andrea J. Simon, founder, Simon Associates Management Consultants

Creates an environment of focus. “More frequent reviews can help employees, particularly new employees, to stay on track by giving them smaller time spans to focus on," says Phil Shawe, co-CEO of transportation technology company TransPerfect. “For instance, discussing an area of improvement with an employee and then meeting again in a few months, rather than a year down the line, holds the person more accountable for making those positive changes."

Keeps employees apprised of their performances. “Regardless whether you're performing reviews annually or more frequently, it's of the utmost importance that employees know where they stand at all times," says Bill Green, founder and CEO of private real estate investment lender LendingOne. “In the case of an employee with subpar performance that eventually leads to termination, it should never be a surprise."

Encourages employee engagement and development. “More frequent discussions allow managers and team leaders to address both the positive and negative aspects of performance as they are happening, so qualitative feedback can be given and enhancements and corrections can be made in a timely manner," says Cornelia Gamlem, president of GEMS Group Ltd. and author of The Big Book of HR. “This is critical, especially in service-oriented organizations."

Tips for Providing Effective Employee Reviews

Consider trying any of these tactics to help you and your employees get the most from employee reviews.

Train management to have the “hard" conversations. “Our nature is conflict avoidance, so we require training to make the feedback about the issues, not the person," says Medina. "In addition, create a culture where management and peers give feedback on the spot."

Ask employees about how well you've been performing too. “Get employees talking about how well they think they've been performing and then how well you as a manager [are] performing," says Farwell. “Employees appreciate feedback from their managers. In return, employees owe it to their managers to provide feedback. Ask the employees if they need anything from you, and if they have the tools they need to perform their jobs."

Avoid automatically abandoning former review practices. “Consider your industry and the nature of the work your employees perform," says Gamlem. “There are some types of jobs that may still align with the traditional annual or semi-annual employee reviews approach, such as jobs in manufacturing or in call centers when the work is of a repetitive nature and the tasks being performed are highly quantifiable."

Remember the purpose of the performance review. “If they do their jobs well, employee reviews help your employees perform to the best of their abilities and that builds better business," says Andrea J. Simon, founder and president of Simon Associates Management Consultants. “Hopefully, the end result is a more productive company, satisfied bosses and goals realized and surpassed."

Read more articles on hiring & HR.

Photo: Getty Images