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There’s always a lot of discussion around the problem with annual performance reviews. They’re meant to motivate, but too often end up being time consuming and difficult for managers and employees. But since it’s important to set goals and measure performance, how can we make sure performance reviews are motivational and worthwhile?

Here are our 5 keys to driving productivity by improving performance reviews.

Performance happens daily (reviews should too)

You want to get the best from employees, and real-time feedback on accomplishments and challenges gives them the opportunity to grow throughout the year. Then come review time, you can focus on achievements and growth instead of rehashing past challenges. Really useful annual reviews summarize the year, so nothing in them is a surprise or a reason to worry.

Reviews should be conversations

Everyone should be comfortable discussing performance, so don’t lecture employees in language that only makes sense to HR. Instead, give them clear action steps and information they can use; discuss specific achievements they can be proud of and areas where they can improve. And while we’re at it, use systems that capture your conversation - don’t fall into the trap of only discussing what fits in a box on your form.

Reviews should have a purpose

Why bother with reviews if all you do is fill out a form and file it away? Reviews should collect useful employee performance information that can be put to work for the entire organization. If managers see the value of performance reviews, they’ll get done. And if employees can see positive benefits come from reviews as well, they’ll make a greater effort.

Embrace simplicity and consistency

Simple, frequent reviews will give you a clear, current understanding of what’s happening with your team, and contribute positively to individual engagement. Reviews should be straightforward, allowing you to focus on the person sitting in front of you, not on deciphering the form or translating HR-eze. After all, managing people is hard enough without having to deal with the effects of painfully complicated reviews.

Change the review experience

We’ve all had a bad review experience or two - whether on the giving or receiving end. It does get better though; it’s all in your approach...

Great managers talk about performance every day, giving timely (and useful) feedback to their teams.

Great employees welcome feedback as a source of inspiration, motivation and reassurance.

See how we're helping growing businesses transform the performance review process to drive employee engagement and productivity: csod.com/growth-edition