If you know me, you know I really dislike annual performance reviews. I think everyone dislikes them actually. No surprise there. And yet, formalized time to discuss employee performance, goals, and growth is important. I think a quarterly cadence is the right frequency that fits with the rhythms of modern work. Here are some tips to help.
What is the purpose of a quarterly review?
A quarterly review gives you, and your employees, the opportunity to reflect on the past quarter—to acknowledge achievements and positive progress, as well as discuss performance gaps and areas for improvement.
It’s also a time to discuss goals and adjustments for the coming quarter. The review meetings are an opportunity to reflect, realign, refocus, and reset for the coming quarter.
When should you conduct quarterly reviews?
I think there is a four-week window during which a quarterly review should be conducted—from 2 weeks prior to 2 weeks after the quarter has started. As an example, June 15th to July 15th is the window during which Q2 reviews should be conducted. It needs to be timely to the quarter you are reviewing and the new quarter you are kicking off, and 4-weeks gives all managers ample time to prepare and conduct the review.
What should every quarterly review include?
- An open discussion of topics on your employee’s mind, and yours.
- A review of the past quarter—OKR performance, reflections on what went well, bottlenecks, decisions made, priorities, and what can be improved moving forward.
- A discussion of the upcoming quarter—if OKS are already set, review, and discuss them; if OKRs are not yet set, a conversation about what the focus for the coming quarter is expected to be.
- An assessment of the employee’s specific skills and behaviors from the performance quarter—acknowledging strengths and discussing areas/plans for improvement.
- If you are within a 4 to 6-week window of your employee’s work anniversary, compensation adjustments (if any) should be discussed (if you do merit increases at anniversary).
Can you skip a quarterly review?
Oh, I don’t like this question! Why would you want or need to skip one? Every employee should have meaningful, frequent time with their manager (and team leader, if applicable) to discuss progress, setbacks, professional goals, OKR performance, areas for improvement, and what they are doing well. Quarterly reviews should not be skipped. It’s not fair to the employee and it’s a slippery slope to sloppy performance management habits.
How long does a quarterly review take?
Generally 30-45 minutes of pre-meeting preparation and 45-60 minutes for the actual meeting. For a high-performing employee who you meet with frequently, less time may be needed. For an employee who has performance or behavior concerns, you may need a full hour or longer.
Does a new employee need a quarterly review?
It’s a good idea to start off on the right foot and do quarterly reviews from the start. But, if your new employee started within 6 weeks of the quarterly review timeframe, there isn’t much to review and so it can (and should) be skipped.
Long live the quarterly review!
The concept of an annual review is quickly becoming outdated, particularly in high-growth companies where change is constant and performance is emphasized. Quarterly reviews also align OKRs and allow you to reflect on performance and make adjustments in a more timely way.
Here’s a bit of third-party reading on quarterly performance reviews:
- “But the biggest limitation of annual reviews—and, we have observed, the main reason more and more companies are dropping them—is this: With their heavy emphasis on financial rewards and punishments and their end-of-year structure, they hold people accountable for past behavior at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future, both of which are critical for organizations’ long-term survival. In contrast, regular conversations about performance and development change the focus to building the workforce your organization needs to be competitive both today and years from now. Business researcher Josh Bersin estimates that about 70% of multinational companies are moving toward this model, even if they haven’t arrived quite yet.” Harvard Business Review
- “A perfect example of this shift is that companies are moving away from traditional performance reviews, getting rid of them altogether, or only using them as part of an overall performance management strategy. This year, according to the Washington Post, 10% of Fortune 500 Companies have replaced their annual performance reviews and ranking systems with feedback and coaching conversations throughout the year. In doing so, they are cultivating a different kind of culture.” Forbes
- “In a public survey Deloitte conducted recently, more than half the executives questioned (58%) believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance. They, and we, are in need of something nimbler, real-time, and more individualized—something squarely focused on fueling performance in the future rather than assessing it in the past.” Harvard Business Review
- “Can you remember what you did the second week of February of last year? Probably not. It does employees little good to provide them with feedback months after they exhibit behavior or wrap a project, and most managers struggle to come up with actionable feedback based on a year’s worth of performance. Most managers rely on sheer guesstimates when scoring reviews, which makes the entire process inaccurate and invaluable. Upping your performance review frequency benefits your employees, your managers, and the organization. Quarterly reviews allow managers to address performance issues quickly, work out a plan to help the employee improve, and check in on a more regular basis to ensure that performance is, in fact, improving. Quarterly reviews also give managers more opportunities to address and reinforce good behaviors and practices.” Torchlight Hire