Counselor Commentary: End Annual Reviews Forever

It's Time To Be More Progressive

Dave VagnoniLet’s not mince words here: annual performance reviews are outdated and they need to die. Bury them, burn them, put them in a bottle and toss them into the ocean – just don’t hold them anymore. The manager-employee discussions are awkward, filled with a lot of robot-like nodding, clenched fists and fake smiles. Workers leave ticked off they got another 2% raise and their bosses’ blood boils when they remember how much HR-induced paperwork they have to finish. Who exactly benefits from this yearly misery?

It’s time to start doing things differently and some companies already are. One example is software firm Adobe. A few years ago, executives there ditched annual reviews and replaced them with a Check In system. Here’s the basic idea: at the start of the year, employees sit down with their managers and set specific, attainable goals. Then, every month or so, employees check in with their bosses to see how things are coming along. At an annual Rewards Check In, managers offer raises and bonuses based on reaching the agreed-upon goals.  

But the coolest part? Managers are empowered to reward employees how they see fit, without quotas, matrixes, or parameters set by human resources. In other words, if five staffers deserve great recognition, they all get it, instead of two earning top honors and more money, while the other three are curiously out of luck. 

What’s been the result of the Check In program? “Managers are now having on-going, genuine conversations with their team members; employees are engaged in feedback; we are saving approximately 80,000 hours of our manager’s time in the annual review process; and our voluntary attrition continues to trend downward,” wrote Donna Morris, Adobe’s senior VP of people and places, in a company blog post.

Morris points out an added advantage to holding Check Ins: they help more quickly weed out employees who are underperforming. Why wait a full year to have a hard conversation with a poor hire? Those who aren’t cutting it will, in effect, cut themselves – they may even decide your firm isn’t the right fit for them and voluntarily move on. 

If you’re still holding once-a-year reviews, it’s time to be more progressive. Communication and transparency are critical to your company’s culture – far more important than field days, pizza parties, and allowing dogs to roam around your firm’s hallways. If you really want to retain top talent, you need to create a Check In-type process that works at your company. So, again, here are your options: keep doing something that’s wasting your time or try something better. It’s not that hard, people.