Has The Annual Performance Appraisal Had Its Day?

This is a very topical question and one which is the focus of discussion across all sectors of employment.


Employee engagement strategy and its associated initiatives are being recognised as key to achieving higher performance and better financial results by many organisations. Consequently, the annual performance review has come under the spotlight as being unfit for purpose.

Weve all been there at some point in time –

  • The dreaded annual appraisal – your past performance is judged, you’ve been talked at for over an hour, you end up with a label or numerical rating. You leave feeling demotivated and undervalued.
  • The tick box exercise – one size fits all. Let’s just get the form done. Whack the results into the latest HR software system. Your Manager looks good as they’ve hit their direct report appraisals target. You leave feeling demotivated and undervalued.
  • The let’s not bother doing it again this year - you’ve done really well and thanks for all your hard work. Again, you’re left feeling demotivated and undervalued.
  • The just sign here approach - It has all been taken care of, no form filling required, no meeting needed, just scribble on the dotted line. The most demotivating and undervaluing approach of all.

Annual Review meeting



Organisations devote huge amounts of time to these processes, investing in online performance management systems, developing managers, collating data nobody knows what to do with and expecting compliance to complex, bureaucratic processes with no perceived benefit for the manager or employee.

The problem we face is not the lack of motivation or will to make this meaningful but rather having the right practice, delivery methods and organisational culture in place.

But if we abandon the traditional annual performance appraisal, which approach should take its place?

Many organisations are leaning towards continuous appraisal conversations where frequent and meaningful discussions take place, with the view to improve levels of employee engagement. The manager adopts a coaching style, giving scope for development and opportunities for growth.

The conversations often centre around -

  • A strong strategic vision - about the organisation, where it’s come from, where it’s going and how you fit in.
  • Clear objectives and insights - on how your work contributes to the organisation’s objectives.
  • Giving you a real voice – ensuring that you’re involved, listened to, and invited to contribute your experience, expertise and ideas.
  • Building trust - where the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours by all, eliminating the ‘say –do’ gap.

I am not a Human Resource, I am a Human Being(source)

Casual Check In Meeting



 The regular ‘Check in’ meetings negate the need for the annual review.

 Continuous appraisal conversations – better known as ‘check ins’ – involve a set of coaching style questions which the employee prepares for in advance of each conversation.

 By having 4 to 6 weekly ‘check ins’ the need for an annual appraisal becomes irrelevant. The manager and the employee have great conversations on a regular basis about how well things are progressing and  what support and development is required, which in turn provides an opportunity for recognition and  feedback.

 Unlike traditional approaches which assess past performance, this approach looks at an individual’s future capabilities and developmental needs. It also provides the manager with a golden opportunity to ensure  changes to business process are understood and implemented as quickly as possible.

 Although feedback remains an important part of the process, as a starting point for individual development, giving negative feedback is replaced with understanding strengths and finding opportunities  for those strengths to be used, benefiting both the employee and the employer.


 This strength based approach is being termed ‘feed-forward’. The manager actively listens and asks questions with the employee controlling what performance examples are discussed. Similar to models  used in coaching conversations, employees are then asked to identify gaps between desired and current  states of performance and how they can bridge the gap.


Feedback VS Feedforward Table



Feedforward Coaching is a continuous process focused on future performance and career progression where the manager serves as a coach, not a critical parent or executioner of engagement and motivation.


Two of the primary drivers of employee engagement are a sense of growth and development, and having an authentic manager who genuinely knows and cares about you.


Sending the annual performance review into room 101 and introducing continuous appraisal conversations pushes both of these hot-buttons. Indeed, a Bersin study (November 2011) showed that organisations, whose managers are highly effective at coaching, outperform their peers by a two-to-one ratio in productivity, retention and financial performance…


Enough said.