Implementing ‘Real-Time’ Reviews

Gary Glass Headshot
Photo Courtesy of Gary Glass
Communication is the foundation of a well-functioning workplace. Here’s how more frequent check-ins with your team can revitalize performance.

The performance review is a familiar dance for most in the workforce: The once-a-year get together for managers and employees to run through the wins and challenges of the past 12 months, and plan strategy for the 12 ahead. This practice is hardly as meaningful or, frankly, useful as it is routine. But there is an effective alternative—make it a “real-time” process.

This is according to Gary Glass, CHRO of Labor Finders, an industrial staffing company. He spoke with StrategicCHRO360 to share tips and tricks on how HR leaders can lead the charge for more productive and engaged workforce, through effective communication.

Performance reviews—everybody dreads them! What’s the best strategy and execution?

The very construct we have accepted as the standard for performance reviews is broken: a highly structured, prescriptive, annual process. Undeniably, this paradigm urgently needs to change.

However, HR leadership can develop an effective “real-time” performance review process that operates seamlessly throughout the entire year, offering numerous benefits: managers are relieved of a cumbersome, year-end review process; poor performance is promptly addressed (and strong performance acknowledged); and the daunting annual review conversation is simplified into a “walkthrough” of the year’s discussions, fostering a more productive dialogue.

What would this process actually look like?

It’s quite simple.

At the beginning of the year, HR leaders should require managers and their direct reports to collaboratively develop three to five annual goals and objectives. Every month or semimonthly, managers and direct reports should discuss and document at least one noteworthy performance—whether positive or constructive. This brief, real-time exercise should assess the direct reports’ performance in the context of the annual goals.

Then, managers should send an email, which strikes a healthy balance of positive and constructive feedback, to their direct reports, who should acknowledge receipt.

Over the next twelve months, each manager has cultivated a file for each direct report of one or two dozen real-time performance documents.

At the end of the year, managers review these documented performances and then score their direct reports’ overall performance using the company’s designated scorecard. The manager and their direct reports meet to reflect on these documents, and the manager delivers the overall score to the direct reports, which informs their annual raise and/or bonus.

The traditional annual performance review process may be flawed, but with manageable time and effort, an alternative “real-time” approach for more effective performance management can be achieved.

How do HR leaders make sure that they are promoting the right people with the right skills into the right positions?

Company leaders follow a fundamentally flawed principle: they reward employees who are excelling in their roles by promoting them to more complex, higher-titled positions. This approach is inherently flawed for two reasons: success in the current role is rarely predictive of success in the new role, and promotions should primarily serve to enhance company performance rather than simply reward individual employees.

Leaders should identify employees who excel or show great potential in the skills necessary for the new position and then promote them accordingly. Simply promoting them without training sets them up for failure because they are left to “sink or swim,” navigating the new role without adequate preparation or support.

A successful promotion strategy hinges on these key principles:

  • Focus on the employee’s ability to master the skills required by the new role, rather than solely on their demonstrated success in the current role.
  • Ensure that the primary beneficiary of the promotion is the company, with the employee benefiting as a “third-party beneficiary.” While the employee enjoys the benefits of this new role, the decision to promote should primarily serve the company’s objectives.
  • Any promotion where the employee lacks demonstrated mastery in essential skills for the new role must be accompanied by comprehensive training to position the employee for success.

By adhering to these principles and advocating them throughout the organization, HR professionals can facilitate successful promotions that drive company productivity to new heights.

What are the best communication strategies to help break down organizational silos?

When business teams and corporate functions hoard their thoughts, feedback, strategies and plans, they create headwinds that impede every project, task and objective, inevitably leading to diminished productivity.

However, effective cross-functional communication can transform these headwinds into tailwinds. Below are ways that effective cross-functional communication can solve problems:

Core business projects often suffer from delays and suboptimal outcomes because subject matter experts are frequently excluded. Effective cross-functional communication bridges the gap between SMEs and project owners, optimizing project outcomes.

Operators often find themselves burdened with tasks outside their expertise due to insufficient support. Effective cross-functional communication ensures they receive the necessary corporate support, enabling them to focus on core business activities.

Leaders often become mired in operational details, failing to operate at their full potential because they only rely on their own function or department. Effective cross-functional communication empowers leaders to encourage their teams to seek assistance across functions, reducing senior-level involvement, and thereby keeping the senior leaders at a higher level.

Problems may linger unresolved due to inefficient communication channels. Effective cross-functional communication facilitates the swift escalation of issues to the appropriate problem-solving leaders or functions, resulting in more efficient solutions.

Organizational culture suffers when mid-level and senior leaders lose trust in colleagues from other departments, fostering an “us versus them” mentality. Effective cross-functional communication enhances trust among colleagues, nurturing a healthier organizational culture.

By leveraging HR’s expertise in communication, we can break down organizational silos, unlocking significant value and unprecedented productivity levels.

What are some fundamental and effective strategies to increase employee engagement?

By practicing the following principles, companies can unlock the full potential of their employee base and drive sustainable growth and success.

Foster a culture where exceptional performance is recognized and rewarded, whether through increased compensation, promotions or other incentives. Prove that hard work actually does pay off, dispelling notions of indifference or favoritism.

Establish a clear and achievable path for advancement for all employees. Spotlight success stories in company publications of those employees who have ascended to give credence to the company’s claim and validate the company’s commitment to growth and development.

Convene senior leaders and high-potential employees under one roof—and not merely by video call—for a few hours every quarter or twice per year for strategic, not merely tactical, discussion about the future of the business. This collaborative forum not only energizes leadership, but also instills a sense of purpose and ownership among attendees, signaling that the company is on an upward trajectory, and they are integral to its success. In particular, it energizes the more junior employees and sends the message: This company is going places…and I’m driving!

Implement a process for real-time performance feedback from managers, replacing cumbersome and infrequent annual reviews. Timely feedback fosters continuous improvement and empowers employees to address areas of growth proactively.

Proactively invest in developing your managers to ensure that the organization retains its most talented individuals. The old adage “people leave their boss, not their company” should serve as a powerful warning to senior leaders. A robust roster of skilled managers is absolutely essential for developing and preserving a healthy and vibrant company culture.

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