Management Skill Series – Performance Review Frequency

This is the fourth in a series of posts discussing management skills. If you haven’t already, please refer to the introduction first.

This topic of Performance Reviews will have several articles discussing several aspects of the process. The previous article in the series introduced the benefits and pitfalls in having review sessions. This will deal with the frequency and scope of each session.

Each company may set their own standards, but it is not uncommon to have one yearly session that includes a performance review, a salary discussion, goal setting, and goal tracking. It will often happen right after the yearly budget review. My experience showed that bundling all of these issues together took away a lot of the focus. Let’s break them down.

Performance Reviews

Setting a yearly session that follows budget talks makes a lot of sense. Doing this once a year will give the process some strategic perspective and gravity. That said, a lot can happen over the course of a year. Performance Reviews are a stressful topic for many people, so having them too often can take a very negative tone. Doing these reviews once a year will allow you to do it properly – in some companies the entire process can take over a month to perform. As I’ll mention below it may be effective to add periodical goal tracking sessions in order to maintain focus.

Salary Discussions

Bundling together performance reviews and salary discussions will make it seem as if the review results dictate raises. Yes, a person’s performance impacts their salary – but no, the review itself isn’t means to decide whether a person gets a raise or not. While larger companies will set a yearly session for this topic, smaller ones may have no session at all – individual cases may come up only when the employee asks for a raise. If your company holds a yearly talk about this topic, it is very important to split it off from the performance review itself, and have it on a different day. Logically speaking, it will follow the performance review and will not come before it.

Goal Setting and Tracking

With Performance Reviews focusing both on performance and setting goals for the future, I have found that having quarterly tracking meetings and goal updates really help in keeping your team on-track. Setting and tracking goals only once a year makes little sense. It is very hard to set goals for 6-12 months away. What you’ll see in performance reviews are goals that become more and more abstract as their deadline is further away. You’ll be able to maintain focus with quarterly tracking sessions so long as you avoid making these “secondary performance reviews.”

Whatever you choose as your schedule for these sessions – it’s crucial to uphold it. Performance Reviews are meant for your team members even more that they are meant for their manager. Upholding their schedule shows respect for the team and the amount of stress that can be associated with it means that giving feedback on time is important.

The next and final article on Performance Reviews will discuss the actual content of these sessions, what to avoid and what to aim for.

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