Is the Annual Performance Review Dead?

The annual performance — a tool used by organizational management to measure the performance of employees — was the gold standard of employee development for decades. However, it has not been the most effective evaluation method during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw many public sector organizations switching to remote work models out of concern for safety.

In the months since the start of the pandemic, many government organizations have opted for a hybrid work model in which employees split their time flexibly between the office and home. Now, many experts are heralding that the future of work is hybrid. But what does that mean for performance management trends during COVID-19 and beyond? Is the annual performance review dead?

The short answer is: no, not entirely. But it is evolving into other evaluation methods as the "new normal" of work has clearly shown the shortcomings of relying solely on annual reviews for performance management. Here is more on how the public sector is pivoting on performance management for hybrid workers.

Trends in Remote Performance Management

Performance check-ins are taking the place of the annual performance review during COVID for many public sector organizations. Small check-ins with employees via email, zoom, text, phone call and in-person are more effective for measuring performance reviews in a hybrid work environment.

The increased frequency of communication with staff can help senior management adjust to staffing issues while seeing to the needs of employees as they navigate through workplace changes. This frequent communication has been the key to keeping employees informed and empowering them to collaborate on work traditionally done as teams in the same rooms.

Strategies to Maximize Frequent Check-Ins to Enhance Remote Worker Performance

The annual performance review alone cannot help facilitate the fast-paced changes necessary in a hybrid work environment during a pandemic as monumental as COVID-19. Whether impromptu or planned, frequent performance check-ins have helped managers overcome hurdles that both employees and managers have faced.

Some managers use the remote performance management strategy of making time for frequent check-ins with their staff. Some of the most common check-ins include:

  1. Morning Check-Ins: Also known as a "morning huddle," these 10-minute remote group meetings provide employees the opportunity to review their day's top priorities and share these priorities out with their colleagues for team transparency.

  2. Afternoon Check-Ins: Also known as an "afternoon huddle," these 10-minute remote group meetings allow employees to recount their day's successes to their team. This helps to keep employees accountable for their tasks and provides an important opportunity to celebrate successes in a remote environment.

  3. Weekly Priorities Meetings: Once a week, employees connect with their manager for a 15-30 minute meeting. These meetings are an ongoing performance discussion between employees and their manager and involve setting priorities, establishing measures of success and accountability, as well as development coaching.

These meetings go beyond setting work goals: they also serve as a valuable connection point between managers and employees in the absence of in-office communication. Managers can use these frequent check-ins to ensure that their employees feel supported, heard and confident while operating in new work models such as hybrid and remote.

Maintaining Good Performance Habits in a Remote Work World

Good performance habits in any organization come from proper training before an event. No one saw COVID-19 on their immediate horizon. However, public servants and other essential employees rose to the occasion to keep public sector organizations operating during the pandemic. These same organizations are now developing protocols for managing employee performance in a post-COVID world in which hybrid and remote work will likely remain the norm.

It's clear that future standards around performance management will need to come from a different blueprint than what has been previously used to evaluate employees. In light of hybrid work conditions, performance reviews need to be more frequent and look at the employee's needs, as they are critical to their organizations’ success.

Workplace culture has become even more critical in a hybrid work environment and has been the glue that holds everything together as it helps streamline workflows and communication. Therefore, performance management has taken on many new facets: it involves not just measuring productivity, but also supporting employees' professional and personal needs and concerns. These changes have shed light on the need to modify how, when and even where you do performance reviews.

Key Takeaways

Performance management trends indicate that the classic annual performance review is not dead. Instead, yearly reviews have evolved into tools and practices that work better for public sector organizations in the post-COVID environment.

The annual performance review alone cannot help facilitate the fast-paced changes necessary in a hybrid work environment during an event as monumental as COVID-19 has been. However, combining annual performance reviews with frequent performance check-ins — whether impromptu or planned — has helped managers overcome hurdles that they and other employees have faced during this stressful time.

Regina W. Romeo

Ms. Romeo has more than 20 years of experience in public sector human resources as an analyst, manager and director. In her role as Chief Human Resources Officer, she is responsible for managing the day-to-day HR operations and organizational development for CPS while also consulting and managing special projects for clients. Regina has worked for both large and small public sector agencies and brings a unique perspective and real-world experience to her role.

About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.