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Annual performance reviews are a bit challenging; they're meant to motivate, but usually they just end up being time consuming and a lot of trouble. We can't avoid them altogether – it’s important to set goals and measure performance – so how can we make sure performance reviews are motivational and worthwhile?

Performance happens continuously (feedback should too)

Provide real-time feedback on accomplishments and challenges throughout the year, giving employees the chance to grow and improve. At review time, do a quick recap and focus on development instead of rehashing past events.

Performance reviews should be conversations

Make performance reviews conversations. Discuss specific achievements and areas for improvement, along with action steps and development plans. Above all, talk to employees like they’re people, not simply the means to fill a box on a 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 everyone sees the value of and understands the need for performance reviews, they’ll make the effort.

Simplicity and consistency

Keep reviews simple; aim for a clear, current understanding of what is happening with your team. After all, managing people is hard enough without having to deal with the effects of painfully complicated performance reviews.

Change the review experience

We’ve all had a bad review experience in our career. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of it, it can be better. It’s all in your approach:

  • Great organizations position reviews as part of everyday operations (not as an HR function).
  • 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.
  • Great performance management systems encourage everyone to collect information on performance incrementally, and return that information to the organization to assist in decision making.