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The lockdown has proven that annual performance reviews are losing meaning, and it is worth evaluating and reflecting more often

15 July 2020

Berta Čaikauskaitė - profile picture, Berta&

By: Berta Čaikauskaitė

Company heads who practice employee evaluation would definitely agree that this process can bring more efficient work results and increase staff motivation. That said, this is effective and beneficial only when the evaluation conversations and methods are not fictitious – they must feature equal involvement and preparation on the part of both staff and employers.

While in Lithuania, it is quite usual to organise an annual review, the lockdown period has been a key period which has shown that it is healthy to practice such conversations far more often, and I personally advise to at least do so once every six months or so.

A survey performed last December by the portal cvonline.lt revealed that 60 per cent of employees have periodical evaluation conversations in their companies, and 34 per cent of respondents from across Lithuania indicated that their company performs annual reviews, while only 14 per cent have evaluation conversations every half-year or quarter.

Based on statistical data, annual or one-time conversations are usually chosen in large companies with 250 or more employees, while semi-annual evaluations are typically performed in private foreign or local capital companies, and also in state-owned enterprises. After all, it is the fulfilment of the company’s own values and vision, and so the decision often depends on both the initiative of the employer and also that of the staff.

Numbers are great to have, but real examples illustrate the situation better than anything else. When taking charge of the team at Berta&, I was certain that in order to know the person as a specialist, to understand their view of our working processes, and to find out questions that concern them and help raise new professional and perhaps also personal goals, one conversation a year is not enough.

Firstly, I believe that traditional annual reviews usually fail to match existing staff expectations. In other words, what was highlighted in January might have turned 180 degrees over the year. Not only because the employees’ views might have shifted over such a long period, but their attitude toward the employer or the entire business culture also might have changed, as various unexpected things can happen over such a long period of time. For example, the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which has flipped over not only my staff’s personal lives, but also significantly adjusted their professional path, realigned their values, side-lined some goals, and yet uplifted others (not necessarily the poorer ones).

Secondly, annual conversations allow the taking stock of what and how much was achieved, but usually, a review of results does little to motivate anyone and does not lead the dialogue to a more authentic connection between its participants. Of course, if you apply a hierarchical style of management in your company, perhaps creating relationships is not a priority. I sympathise with this and practice a flat company philosophy where the names of positions, work experience and other bonuses the employee holds are not exaggerated, as everyone is equal here. As such, connections are a value for us, one that we stoke through each major regular conversation.

Finally, when competing in the competitive market, you cannot allow your team to stagnate. When you meet your staff tête-à-tête just once a year, you limit yourself from fully knowing your staff’s talents and internal resources because the goals they raise for such a long period will more often be abstract rather than specific. Semi-annual conversations allow adjusting or even completely eliminating long term goals if they are (and this can definitely occur) no longer relevant. In such a case, it is simpler to make a timely offer of increasing and nurturing competencies or perhaps even choosing a new path.

If the above arguments failed to convince you, perhaps you are not yet prepared for changes. Annual conversations are definitely better than none at all. Nevertheless, according to business analyst Josh Berin, approximately 70 per cent of organisations on the international market namely seek to or are already transforming annual reviews, including more frequent evaluation intervals and informal guidance conversations. The year has just hit its midpoint, perhaps you have already had a talk with your staff?

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