Performance management is evolving. Organizations are increasingly ditching the cumbersome annual review in favor of a bite-sized approach that provides the meaningful, frequent feedback that’s shown to drive performance.
But providing timely feedback means customizing the traditional performance review cycle to better meet the needs of employees who are hungry for information about their performance. 2022 research from Gallup reveals that when delivered regularly (we’re talking once a week, minimum), meaningful feedback boosts employee engagement up to four times. And that kind of increase can have a major impact on performance.
Modernizing your performance reviews requires modern tools, so each cycle can be customized to the specific needs of your company and culture, and fits seamlessly into the flow of employees’ day-to-day work.
What Are the Different Types of Performance Review Cycles?
There’s no one-size-fits-all for performance reviews, but most cycles fall into one of four camps:
- Annual: Delivered during a formal meeting once a year, annual reviews have long been the go-to format, particularly for companies needing to complete reviews for a large number of employees.
- Semiannual: Delivered twice a year, usually over January and July. Semiannual reviews may include one review tied to compensation or performance, and another focusing on employee development and satisfaction.
- Quarterly: Delivered four times a year, ideally once per financial quarter. Quarterly reviews may focus more on short-term goals and can suit companies looking to scale rapidly while making regular adjustments to their goals.
- Continuous: Rather than setting aside specific meetings to review performance, continuous feedback embeds discussions about performance into ongoing conversations around employee engagement and growth.
While annual reviews have been the norm for decades, many companies are moving toward cultures where performance reviews aren’t a standalone discussion. Instead, they’re viewed as a complement to the kind of continuous feedback that we know helps drive growth, engagement, and performance.
And the good news is that it’s possible to choose what works best for your company, and create a customized performance review process that drives results.
Why Customization Makes a Difference
“Customizing traditional performance review frameworks can have significant benefits for preparing companies for what lies ahead in this ever-changing employment landscape,” said Travis Lindemoen, founder of Enjoy Mondays.
Creating a tailored review process makes it easier to see how performance impacts compensation, something that’s a priority for 65% of employees, according to a Lattice survey. By customizing your review cycle to include more regular conversations about performance, Lindemoen said it’s easier for managers to gain a deeper insight into the strengths and weaknesses of employees. This process also helps them understand how their performance contributes to the team or business goals more effectively overall.
Traditional performance review cycles, especially those that rely solely on manager feedback, can be both ineffective and subject to bias. Customization makes it easier to use a 360-degree feedback approach, where manager comments are complemented by self-assessments, one-on-ones, check-ins, and upward feedback. Incorporating a wider range of feedback helps to identify trouble spots, reduce bias, and align goals more effectively.
Over time, this can have a transformative effect on business outcomes. “Customizing the traditional performance review framework has not only helped us adapt to the changing times but also made us future-ready, by ensuring our team members remain agile, upskilled, and motivated,” explained Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal.
Creating a customized performance review cycle like this might seem like a lot of effort, but choosing the right HR tech can make this process much quicker. A key step is choosing a platform that allows for everything to be achieved in one place.
Harnessing The Power of a Single Platform
A disconnected tech stack can be difficult to manage, putting additional pressure on HR professionals who are already feeling burned out. Transitioning to a single platform means all data from each type of review is easy to find because it’s always in the same place. No more trawling through multiple Excel sheets, or finding one manager keeps paper copies of reviews while another prefers emails.
When everything is in one place, it’s also much easier to add analytics to your people strategy. Instead of relying on manager gut feel, which is often subject to bias, taking a data-driven approach helps uncover valuable insights that can be used to drive performance.
Our software flagged a pattern of significant performance improvement after a certain project collaboration.
A single platform also makes things much easier for employees. They don’t want to be navigating through different systems for each review task. And with employee engagement remaining the highest priority for people teams, the right HR tech can help integrate performance reviews and engagement surveys, making it easier to track how these impact each other at your company.
While investing in the HR tech needed to make this happen is an investment, it’s a decision that proves cost-effective over time. Here’s what that can look like in practice.
Streamline your performance review processes in one platform.
Lindemoen explained that HR tech has helped Enjoy Mondays streamline its entire review process: “All reviews, including upward reviews and one-on-ones, are easily accessible on one platform for quick reference at any time.” Automating various aspects of the review process also makes it easier for Lindemoen and his team to follow a consistent strategic plan while minimizing documentation errors.
Lisa Haskell, chief administrative officer at Tide, also recognized that transitioning to a single platform was going to play a key part in updating their performance review processes. Haskell specifically wanted a solution that could bring together goal and OKR setting, performance reviews, and engagement surveys.
“If you look around, most of the systems on the market have one of those things or maybe two,” she said. But Lattice solved this problem, helping to unify people management operations. Now, everything is consolidated in one place, it’s easier for Tide’s people team and the C-Suite to have a much better overview of both engagement and performance.
For Caballero, working in a single platform provided big benefits when it comes to tracking performance data over time, too.
“It not only streamlines our process, but also maintains historical data that offers valuable insights,” he said. “Our software flagged a pattern of significant performance improvement after a certain project collaboration. Recognizing this, we now encourage more cross-departmental projects.”
The manual review process that Future used to rely on was slow and time-consuming, something that was starting to hold the HR team back as the company grew. “It became apparent that what worked for 30 employees was no longer going to work for 200 employees,” said Kevin Teng, head of performance operations. By switching to the scalable solution offered by Lattice, their performance review process has become more transparent. Crucially, it’s also easier for employees to complete, with a 99% completion rate on their latest round of reviews.
Having a single platform for performance evaluations and all your other people needs makes it as easy as possible for employees to access the information they need. “The number one benefit of Lattice is that it’s allowed us to centralize most of our key people programs in one platform,” said Kyle Teague, director of learning and development at Olo. “It puts these tools at the forefront of people’s attention and makes them accessible.”
Making Continuous Changes to Suit Your Company
Using a single platform also means it’s much easier to tweak the review process as a company evolves. Companies can undergo many different periods — from hypergrowth to acquisitions and downsizing. Knowing how to adapt to these changes while maintaining performance is key.
“It's no secret that modern workplaces are changing faster than ever before, and it's essential for companies to stay ahead of the curve,” said Lindemoen. One strategy that he’s relied on, and recommended to others for dealing with change, is customizing the traditional performance review framework to prepare for the future of work.
Knowing your HR tech can cope with continuous changes also means it’s easier for HR to roll out adjustments as smoothly as possible, without adversely impacting the employee experience. “When we had to quickly shift our focus to digital customer interactions due to the pandemic, the quarterly review process allowed us to swiftly realign our team and recognize the individuals who were quick to adapt and excel in this new environment,” said Caballero.
Choosing performance management software with the functionality that can deliver a consistent performance review experience in the face of this change helps keep the employee experience consistent, while also ensuring it meets the needs of employees and their managers. While the process may change over time, using templates to keep the employee review experience as consistent as possible makes it easier for HR to adapt to evolving company goals.
Create performance review cycles that evolve with organizational changes.
“We recognized early that traditional once-a-year performance reviews did not align well with the fast-paced, growth-oriented environment that we nurture,” said Caballero. “To better prepare for the future of work, we transitioned to a quarterly review cycle.” He said this shift allowed leaders to provide more immediate feedback and helped better align employees with the evolving goals and strategies of the company.
Engagement and employee experience were areas of particular focus for the HR team at Agero. Steve Pratt, director of learning and development, knew they needed a system that was highly configurable and offered powerful people analytics. Crucially, it also needed to be integrated into the everyday flow of work. Agero now relies on Lattice Grow to set career tracks, while also enabling strategic conversations that show employees how to move their careers forward. “We chose Lattice because it was highly configurable and gave us the ability to easily customize it to fit our needs,” said Pratt.
At Strive Health, performance reviews used to be completed in Excel and emailed to HR. Many employees didn't have any formal goals or a clear idea of where their career was headed. By switching to Lattice, they now have a single solution to help all employees, wherever they’re located, to connect with managers, set goals, and track progress.
The unique organizational structure of Klick Health — which revolves around areas of specialization — meant they needed a flexible approach. “We were looking for a platform provider that would not only meet us where we are today, but that could also evolve with us,” said VP of People Insights Shveta Malhan. Lattice OKRs & Goals offered a framework that provides clarity around performance expectations.
Acquisitions undeniably impact company culture, something that GreenState Credit Union wanted to avoid. Despite being a progressive company, the performance review system relied on siloed documents. “It was very archaic considering how progressive a company we are,” said GreenState’s HR manager Sarah Farnsworth. By transitioning to Lattice, GreenState has implemented a 360-degree review structure which helps them support everyone across their rapidly growing team.
At Enjoy Mondays, one change that’s had a positive impact on performance has been shifting from an end-of-year employee evaluation process to ongoing feedback reviews throughout the year.
“Conducting frequent assessments allows us to gauge employees’ effectiveness as they go through their roles and make any adjustments if necessary, providing valuable guidance and clarity while keeping morale high,” Lindemoen said. He added that this approach makes it easier to identify areas where employees need additional training or support, enabling them to better develop and retain talent over time.
Reimagining Reviews Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
The thought of redesigning the entire performance review process can seem like a mammoth undertaking. And without the right systems in place, that’s likely to be the case. The HR tech needed to achieve this level of customization is also a significant investment. But when this functionality empowers your team to perform, the return on investment becomes clear.
Download our free ebook, The ROI of HR Tech, to find out more about how the right HR tools can help transform your overall performance review process to better suit your company needs. Or request a demo and see Lattice in action for yourself.