15 minute read – Last updated: November 12, 2020

A People Management Professional’s Guide to Continuous Performance Reviews

It may be counterintuitive, but the solution for the problem of how everyone seems to dislike performance reviews is to have more performance reviews.

Yes we know how that sounds and yes there is more to it than that. Keep reading and we will explain in more detail what we mean. 

If your organization has used performance reviews in the past and it was a less-than-stellar experience, you’re in the right place. The good news is you’re not alone. Dreading the performance review process, as well as being underwhelmed by the effectiveness of them, is a common problem. 

Still, if you were to ask us to tell you about the fastest-growing companies on our client list, virtually all of them use a continuous performance reviews process in their overall performance management strategy. Here’s what you can learn from the companies that are getting this right and enjoying high employee satisfaction scores — and not coincidentally, meteoric growth. 

An introduction to continuous performance reviews

We do this all the time so believe us when we say, we know about the kind of reputation that performance reviews have. Most people dread them. Not just reviewees but the HR teams that administer them. Performance reviews, especially when conducted once a year, have a bad reputation. 

To be fair, this perception exists for a reason. For too long, companies have viewed performance management as little more than the measurement and assessment of an employee’s output. The difference with continuous performance reviews is more than simply added frequency — it’s taking an employee-centric approach to performance management. 

If your company treats performance reviews as a way to simply hand down an assessment to your employees, you will be stuck with the same old perceptions of the process — that they only serve the company and are feared by its people.What you need is to embrace an employee-centric, continuous approach that includes a career growth plan and connects your people’s work with your company key objectives. That’s how you can harness the power of continuous performance reviews as a tool to enable growth and culture in your company. 

What are the continuous performance reviews? 

The simplest way to say it is that continuous reviews are conducted more often than once a year. By our definition, it also means including frequent 1-on-1s and goal setting with each individual in your company. Here are some examples of continuous performance reviews. A review meeting can take one or all of these forms, depending on the frequency set by the company’s leadership. 

OKR review: Here, the manager and the employee meet to review the individual’s performance against the specific objectives and key results they set for themselves. We recommend an OKR review at least twice a year. OKR reviews can be used to review historical performance as well as set goals for the coming term. 

Compensation review: A compensation review is exactly what it sounds like. An honest conversation about any compensation changes that are due to review. The frequency of a compensation review is up to the individual company. It’s important to note that not all reviews must have a compensation review component. These can stand alone, apart from the other meeting types, to give each topic the attention it deserves. 

Career growth review: Each individual in your company should have measurable results that they aim to achieve each cycle, whether that be monthly or quarterly. They should also be given an opportunity to set a longer-term goal within the company. It could be that they want to gain experience to enable a promotion or develop a specific new job skill to be more cross-functional. Scheduling specific career growth reviews between managers and individuals within your company is the kind of employee-centric investment that is causing the most successful companies to grow the fastest. Their people feel supported and have evidence of their work having an impact. They reward this support with loyalty, hard work, and contagious job satisfaction. 

Why are continuous performance reviews important?  

The problem with annual performance reviews is that they fall victim to an affliction we call review fatigue. Engaging in a review only once a year places too much emphasis on that one review. Without quantitative data from throughout the year, annual reviews can also suffer from recency bias. How a person performed on the most recent project may not be indicative of their potential or their highest value to the company.  

Continuous performance reviews allow for more frequent check-ins and course corrections. Team members have an opportunity to map their own efforts back to the company goals. They also feel the company’s support in helping them to achieve their own skill development and career growth. 

Meanwhile, as a company, you get better measurement of employee sentiment and concerns. You get more opportunities to identify the people who require attention, whether it’s to coach them, retain them, or promote them. Connecting everyone’s job activities to the company’s overall business objectives in a measurable way also has the added benefit of fostering better job satisfaction and performance. We see it time and again that companies that engage in employee-centric ,continuous performance reviews always seem to be the ones growing fastest, with the most enviable corporate cultures. 

Best practices for continuous performance reviews

To get started, first reflect on your existing review process. Do you incorporate any employee-centric initiatives already? 

When you conduct reviews with a CPM cadence, you can incorporate different review types, to help mix things up and collect different data points. For many of our customers, this usually means some combination of OKR (objectives and key results) reviews, career growth reviews, and regular 1-on1s. You can also add compensation or promotion considerations at specific intervals, if you prefer. 

CPM works best when the managers meet with their team members often and incorporate different areas of focus in those meetings. In fact, frequent reviews are best when they are part of a more holistic people management program that incorporates goal setting, employee recognition, performance management, and career growth. Consider adding some mix of OKR reviews, career growth reviews, and compensation reviews into your cadence, and watch how differently your people begin to respond to the review process. When you make it about them and not strictly about the company’s expectations, your people will feel more ambitious to succeed and grow. 

Want to start implementing a continuous performance review process at your company? Start by reading our ebook “Implementing performance reviews” to learn more about how reviews fit within your people management ecosystem. 

How often is enough with continuous performance reviews? 

The question we get from our current and future customers is how often to conduct continuous performance reviews. The answer of how often to conduct reviews depends a lot upon how reviews fit into your overall ecosystem. 

For example, if your managers have regular 1-on1s with their team members, as often as once a month, then a less-frequent formal review process is necessary. Meeting twice a year to discuss personal OKRs and career growth with each employee would give your company, its managers and its employees a chance to remain on course for growth, because of the frequency of check-ins throughout the year. 

To help you understand what this can look like in practice, here are some examples of 7Geese customers and the cadence with which they engage in continuous performance reviews. 

Examples of continuous performance reviews in action 

Our client Talkpush recently made the switch to quarterly OKRs, with reviews every three months for each employee. Their more in-depth performance reviews and salary evaluations happen every six months. They are also introducing a 360-degree review process that will happen two months into each OKR cycle. The three-month cycle allows plenty of opportunity to course-correct to ensure they continue to track towards their company, team, and individual goals. “It helps us to understand the common goal of the company and how every single thing that people are doing is connected,” says Manon Rimbaud, Head of People Experience at Talkpush. Read the entire Talkpush case study to learn more

A-lign is another 7Geese customer that is growing fast and has embraced a continuous performance reviews approach. “We are writing annual objectives and key results that are reviewed quarterly and updated,” says Alice Pauquette, Vice President, Organizational and People Development at A-lign. The way their team and its individuals have adopted the OKRs methodology is a master class in how a continuous performance reviews approach can foster company culture and growth. “First we rolled out the corporate objectives and then we met with all the department leaders and they created their department OKRs. Then they used the department objectives to begin developing their team objectives. That way our people, our individual contributors, can look at all objectives and ask ‘how can I support this?’” Connecting individual performance to the company’s objectives had a surprising impact immediately as people began to create their own OKRs. “They became very personal objectives,” says Alice. “Whether that was developing their professional skills or taking a certification. They really adopted the mechanism of taking a key result and making it their objective. They felt empowered to create something that ultimately contributed to our corporate objectives. In 30 days, we had 100% of our team login, create their profile and 77% have created their own objectives.” Read more about how A-lign uses 7Geese for performance management in the full case study. 

Getting started with CPM

The first step in making the switch to continuous performance reviews is to think about how it fits into your overall people management ecosystem. Gather your human resources stakeholders and leaders to talk about using OKRs or another performance management methodology. A performance reviews process without accompanying goal-setting will fall victim to the same bad reputation that reviews currently enjoy. It’s the organizations that step back to take a look at the bigger picture that are able to turn reviews into a key component of their company culture. 

Once you have buy-in from leadership about your goal-setting methodology, get in touch with our team. We will walk you through the process of incorporating continuous performance reviews into your goal setting and carefully explain how it all works together. 

Take a tour of 7Geese and see how continuous performance reviews can work for you

We help companies add new employee-centric workflows and processes every day. We know the challenges that people management departments experience. We can help you get buy-in from your leadership, your people, and your departmental peers. 

We can show you many examples of companies who have successfully implemented continuous performance reviews with terrific success. Here’s an example of a company, Softcom, that recently rolled out an OKRs and reviews process to their fully-remote, international team from their headquarters in Nigeria that saw 91% of their team checking into individual goals within two weeks of starting the program. 

To see 7Geese in action, reach out and ask for a tour