If you’ve spent any time researching ways to lead your team, you know how much emphasis is put on meeting with your employees individually. Developing relationships/trust, setting goals, and giving feedback are all done most effectively through personal discussions.

There is some disagreement, however, over exactly what form these individual meetings should come in. The “annual performance review” has been a staple of many workplaces for decades, but it’s beginning to become a thing of the past. The approach taking its place? Weekly one-on-ones.

Don’t just take my word for it – this WorldatWork survey revealed that infrequent, formal performance reviews are trending downwards while frequent, informal reviews are trending upwards. People leaders have found that meeting once a week does wonders for keeping staff aligned with company goals and motivated to reach them.

As we officially begin a “post-pandemic” working landscape, managers in every industry are deciding whether they should ditch the performance review in favor of weekly check-ins. Here at HelloTeam, we’re proposing a groundbreaking idea: why not both?

A Balanced Diet

The differences between these two meetings aren’t just found in their regularity, but in their format. An official performance review is serious business – they’re usually over 30 minutes and focus on how satisfactory an employee’s production has been. A manager will give honest feedback on the person’s recent work and can leave them with a document summarizing their thoughts and planning short-term + long-term goals.

A one-on-one meeting is more casual, usually discussing what’s been completed over the last week and what’s waiting on the agenda. A manager will certainly give advice and feedback, but there’s seldom an opportunity for them to address an employee’s overall aptitude. 

As you can see, both approaches have their strengths. Committing to one instead of the other, however, can leave you with gaps in your management style. Only holding occasional performance reviews can cause you to miss out on more personal communication and up-to-date feedback, but only holding weekly one-on-ones can cause you to forget the bigger picture and the deliberate adjustments your team members need to make.

So… should you integrate both? Yes, but it’s not quite that simple.

For one, the cadence of your meetings largely depends on the size of your team. As much as you might like to, holding meaningful weekly meetings is unrealistic on a team of 20+ members. Scheduling your one-on-ones to be every two weeks, or even every month, is still acceptable. Keep in mind that the longer you go between meetings, the more substantial they should be.

Your performance review cycle should therefore be based on how often you hold your one-on-ones; with a small team, you could hold weekly one-on-ones and quarterly reviews. If you were to wait a full year between performance reviews on a small team, it would not only be less efficient, but your team may come to expect milestones like raises or merit increases. A large team may require monthly meetings and semiannual/annual reviews – but they’ll understand that there’s no way around it.

Once you’ve decided upon your team’s cadence, your next step is to make an effort to weave these two types of meetings together. Setting up weekly meetings alongside performance reviews can actually lead to more clutter than it’s worth if you don’t have a direct plan. 

Let’s suppose you started rolling out one-on-one meetings next week; you’d sit down with your employees to talk about the week’s objectives and their recent productivity. In light of their performance review down the road, you’ll want to take notes on what they’ve achieved, the effort they put in, their attitude, and more. 

Once their performance review rolls around, you’ll be able to refer back to their series of one-on-ones to examine trends in their accomplishments and output. If we consider those meetings episodes of a show, this would be the season finale.

At the end of their performance review, you’ll recommend to them a list of goals for the next quarter (or year) and ways they can improve. Thus, as you start your one-on-ones back up, you’ll be able to monitor their progress based on the suggestions you made. 

One-on-one meetings can call back to the last performance review, and performance reviews can call back to past one-on-ones. It’s a cycle that both keys people leaders into their team’s operations and leaves each individual member feeling like their manager is invested in their experience at the company. So, don’t get caught deciding whether to ditch the formal review in exchange for quicker, more laid-back meetings – try utilizing both!

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