4 Different Approaches Companies Are Taking to Performance Reviews This Year

June 24, 2020

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At many companies, June is usually the time when mid-year reviews are held. This year, however, employees are facing a number of stressors that are outside of their control — from the ongoing challenges created by COVID-19 to the recent reports of violence against Black communities and the ensuing protests against racial inequality. Because of that, some talent leaders have questioned whether it’s fair to proceed with performance reviews as planned. 

In some ways, questions about performance reviews are not new. As an increasingly large body of research has called the efficacy of the traditional review into question, some companies have completely overhauled their performance management process, focusing on more agile practices like regular check-ins instead of one or two big reviews a year. 

The current situation may lead more organizations to rethink their approach to performance management in the long term. But in the meantime, many are simply asking how they can best support their people right now and demonstrate compassion for the unique circumstances employees face. 

Whether you plan to make temporary tweaks or permanent changes to your process, here are a few examples of how companies are tackling performance reviews this year to help you determine the best approach for your organization.

1. Google and various consulting firms are postponing performance reviews for now

While Google typically holds comprehensive performance reviews twice a year, it has opted to suspend reviews for six months, since the time-consuming process could be a distraction from more pressing matters. This also means that promotions and goal-setting will be put on hold. 

“Even as we continue to serve our users, we have new and unexpected demands on our attention and energy,” wrote Eileen Naughton, VP of people operations at Google, in an internal email explaining the decision. “Where we have the opportunity to focus on work, it needs to be on the most important, mission critical activities.” 

In India, three consulting firms — Deloitte India, EY India, and PwC India — have taken the same approach, postponing the employee appraisal cycle and the promotions and bonuses that are linked to it. 

“We at PwC India have initiated proactive measures that will help navigate the uncertainties, keep all employees safe and make our organisation more sustainable,” Shyamal Mukherjee, chairman and territory senior partner of PwC India, shared on LinkedIn. “We will continue with all our efforts to keep our employees safe and engaged in this difficult period.”

2. TMF Group is providing flexibility for its global locations to do what’s best for their specific teams

For companies with locations around the world, a one-size-fits-all approach to performance management may not be possible right now. TMF Group, which provides accounting, corporate secretarial, HR administrative, and capital market support, is adjusting its review process to suit each of its 80+ global offices’ unique needs.

“The situation varies per office,” says Angelique Flapper, director of program management and office engagement at TMF Group. “We have offices that are already open again and are regaining business as usual. There are offices that haven’t been hit so much by COVID-19, and there are offices that are in the middle of COVID-19… So having a tailored approach was very important.”

Locations that are opening up again have the option to take a more robust approach, including setting market, financial, and commercial objectives for employees. Other offices are empowered to take a “low-touch approach,” giving employees the option to set goals if they choose to, but without any hard deadlines attached. 

“We [didn’t want] to make people feel more stress or anxiety by communicating all sorts of targets that they had to achieve,” Angelique explains. “Rather, we said, ‘No, let’s use it only to make sure people who want to have clarity and who want to contribute to the company’s productivity… know what to do in the current setting.’”

3. Sprinklr and SNI are increasing the frequency of check-ins and coaching in place of traditional performance reviews

In the eyes of many companies, formal reviews are less important right now than regular check-ins with employees. 

Before COVID-19, managers at Shapiro Negotiations Institute (SNI), a provider of sales, influence, and negotiation training and consulting, would conduct annual reviews. Now, they’re opting to check in with employees on a weekly basis instead. The company would also evaluate employees based on the revenue they generated, which it has decided not to do for the time being. 

“We're not emphasizing sales and revenue in the short term,” says Andres Lares, managing partner at SNI, “but we are tracking demonstrated thought leadership from our employees that leads to more sales.”

Sprinklr, a SaaS customer experience management platform, is currently conducting 1:1s with employees every six weeks. Employees are asked to rate their happiness level on a scale of one to 10 and to discuss what it would take to make them a 10. They’re also asked to rate their own performance toward their goals and development plan. 

Between the more in-depth 1:1s, managers have daily “heartbeat calls” with team members and rely on insights from a proprietary employee engagement tool to keep a pulse on their organization. They report that this has made performance management more agile and relevant, as well as reducing the administrative burden on managers. 

4. Facebook is giving every employee a positive performance review rating and bonus

In the past, Facebook has been a vocal advocate for performance reviews, which it conducts twice annually. This year, however, the social media giant has decided to give every employee the same “exceeds expectations” review rating for the first half of 2020. 

This ensures that every team member will receive their biannual bonus, in addition to the $1,000 bonus that Facebook gave all full-time employees in March to support them during this time. Looking forward, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also stated that employees who have positive performance ratings and who are at a “certain level within the company” may be allowed to remain remote permanently if they choose. 

Final thoughts

Every company is in a slightly different position right now, so it’s important to shape your approach to the performance review process to your current situation and needs — whether that means postponing, pressing on, or modifying. 

Whatever path you ultimately decide to take, frequently check in with employees — especially those who may need some additional support. Take the time to acknowledge what's happening in the world right now and make sure they know where to find mental health resources if they need them.

*Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels

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