[Updated November 29, 2013]: It's interesting to see that seven years after this article was first published, the trend we saw in 2008 has taken hold. Focal reviews have proved to be the better approach.
What has changed though is the distribution of work in the performance management process itself. While back then, choosing a focal review process meant dumping a huge amount of work on managers and HR in a condensed period of time, what we're seeing more and more is performance management becoming a collaborative, ongoing task. And the annual review is simply a "recap" of all that's gone on during the year.
In their research on goal management best-practices, Bersin by Deloitte found that organizations where goals were revisited at least quarterly, outperformed those who review them only once per year. This revisiting means checking in on progress, ensuring goals are still SMART, readjusting and realigning where necessary, and communicating status.
Performance management needs to be an ongoing conversation
And with performance management as a whole, now the focus is more on the ongoing conversation, and the feedback, coaching, development and direction given. It's interesting too to see the accompanying shift in talent management software. Today's products support and even encourage this ongoing collaboration and communication. I know we've added all kinds of support for collaboration and dialogue to our suite, and have plans to do even more.
Shameless product plug aside, my point is that best practice performance management is much more participatory today than it was in years past. Employees are involved in evaluating their performance and in establishing their goals and development plans.
Where do you sit today? Has your approach to performance management changed?
Originally published by Stanley Janas, CHRP | Dec 16th, 2008
Keeping your sanity come performance review time
If you're a manager or HR prime whose company uses a focal review process, also known as calendar or fixed date reviews, chances are you're just winding down or getting ready to start up your annual performance appraisal process. The first and fourth quarters of the year are the two most popular times for conducting employee performance reviews.
If you're tearing your hair out wishing you could spread the work out over the year instead of having to do it all at once, you're not alone. When faced with having to complete employee evaluation forms for all your employees, and schedule review meetings within a short span of time, it's common to think that an anniversary-based process might be more sane.
But actually, in the long run, focal reviews are much more popular than anniversary-based reviews, because they offer a lot of significant advantages.
Streamline performance management by using focal reviews
If you're in HR, focal reviews are much easier to administer. You setup your process and forms at the start of the process, then go! You never have to worry about adjusting the process or making a change in a form that will make reviews unfair to some employees. You can also start using the employee performance data you collect as soon as your focal review process is complete, rather than having to wait a full year to get the whole picture.
That's important if you're using performance data to drive other talent management processes like compensation or succession planning. Another advantage of focal processes is that your on-time completion rates tend to be higher.
Another big benefit of a focal review process is that it's easier for managers to compare employees' performance. It's easier to decide on a rating for "John" when you can compare his performance and rating to "Tom's". Reviews and ratings tend to be fairer and more consistent.
Both methods have their advantages and drawbacks. But more and more, we're seeing people switch to a focal review process so they can reap their numerous benefits.
If you're interested in learning more about this topic or if you're wrestling with deciding which process is best for you, read our reference article: Which is Best? Anniversary vs. Focal (Common Date) Performance Reviews.
Your turn: I'd love to hear you thoughts on the subject. What works best for your organization and why? Any good stories to share?