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The Future of Performance Management is Defined by Rhythm

Everything about typical performance management strategies has completely changed over the last five years, both due to the COVID-19 pandemic and changing attitudes on the workplace in general. Newer generations entering the workforce have no interest in the old guard’s traditions, and as a result, many companies are adapting. But how?

Well, the changes in the ways employees are seen and treated are endless, and vary on an industry-by-industry basis. Let’s focus, then, on the changes you can make quickly and easily in any industry: the rhythm of your performance reviews and goal creation.

What do we mean by “rhythm”? Let’s talk about it –

Your Performance Review Process

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, reporting on tasks, and giving feedback are all done most effectively through personal discussions.

There is some new 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 our 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 completely ditch the performance review in favor of weekly check-ins. Here at HelloTeam, we’re proposing a groundbreaking idea: why not do both?

Now, 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, try establishing a rhythm with both! Find a balance that incorporates a few one-on-one meetings that lead up to a quarterly performance review – or any similar rhythm that fits your team’s size and your own schedule.

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 without an intentional plan can actually lead to more clutter than it’s worth. 

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, think of this as the season finale.

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. 

Your Goal Setting Process

Setting goals is a system that goes hand-in-hand with your performance reviews, and thus, you’ll want to establish a similar rhythm.

The days of declaring, “We must sell 500 units by December!” and sitting on your hands until December rolls around are long gone. Smaller, quicker goals over shorter time periods are much more efficient, as well as easy to track. That said, that doesn’t mean your new objective should be, “We must sell 50 units this month!” The future of performance management is in smarter goals… or, well, S.M.A.R.T. goals.

The SMART goal system, developed by Robert S. Rubin, is one of several popular goal strategies that have exploded in popularity among the world’s hybrid workforces. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, denoting the type of goals you should be striving to set. When actually writing out the goal, fill out this mini-template:

Action Verb -> Results in Measurable Terms -> By When

Example: Lead two ad campaigns that help land & retain 100 clients by 2023

Another massively popular goal-setting strategy is the OKR method, developed by Andy Grove. OKRs, which stand for Objectives/Key Results, are designed to give a structure to long term plans like New Year’s goals. First, you create an Objective – a clear destination that will propel your business forward. Underneath, you construct three to five Key Results – measurable, specific goals that your team can achieve in order to further your Objective.

Think of the Key Results as steps to completing your one-year Objective. What sets them apart from a basic step program, though, is the importance of Key Results being measurable and completable. 

Example

Objective – Clear our physics program for launch by the end of Q4

Key Result 1 – Develop a debugging tool for physics simulations

Key Result 2 – Finish a complete design for the program’s user interface

Key Result 3 – Release a beta build to select customers in Q3

In this case, you might want to launch your program by the end of the year, but that alone is too broad of an objective. That’s where your Key Results come in, demonstrating why the OKR method is a great choice for your New Year’s goal(s).

OKRs and SMART goals are somewhat similar, but one particular feature sets them apart: their rhythm. When you adopt a performance review process that includes a few one-on-one meetings preceding a quarterly review, you can match them up perfectly with an OKR’s Key Results and Objective.

Rhythm is the reason we believe setting recurring meetings to review OKRs is a fantastic new performance management process that all companies should consider adopting as they move into a post COVID, hybrid world. Set some goals for your team and get going!

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