When annual performance reviews work

There are lots of people who are skeptical about annual performance reviews. Why have save feedback for annual reviews when you can give feedback in the moment?

While that’s true, annual reviews, to me, serve a different purpose. They help us to zoom out of the day-to-day or week-to-week and help us take stock of events from the entire year. When viewed in that time frame, it is often remarkable to see how some folks have grown and changed over the course of a year. They’re not a replacement for regular, candid, feedback. Instead, they serve as a supplement.

I’ve been taking time over the last week to write reviews for teammates and I’ve finished most of them feeling very inspired. The act of writing these has reminded me how much I value working with them while also pushing me to ask myself how I can emulate what many of them bring to the table.

Annual performance reviews can work well if we do the following –

  • Encourage everyone to seek feedback from folks they worked with on meaningful projects
  • Encourage everyone to give constructive feedback to folks they had sufficient interaction
  • Have managers review all the feedback and synthesize it as part of the annual review process

If any of these aren’t done, annual reviews become a farce. If feedback is only given by managers or by a few people who don’t take the effort, the feedback is useless.

Like most good things, a solid process followed by thoughtful follow ups can make all the difference.

So, as you wind up for the year, I hope you take the time to think about annual reviews for your teammates. It matters.

PS: Notes on self reviews are coming next week. :-)