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Alternative to the Annual Review

I am not a fan of the traditional annual performance review process – I believe too much occurs throughout the year for a manager to sit down and rate an employee on a numerical scale and then expect to get results from the employee. Keeping your employees motivated is not a once-a-year conversation tied to a financial incentive.

In order to maintain a productive and motivated workforce, periodic reviews are essential and the research confirms this. In job satisfaction surveys, communication repeatedly comes in as one of the most important job factors. Your employees look to you for frequent feedback and information about their performance, about organizational goals and priorities, and about the future. The manager/employee one-on-one is an effective tool to engage and retain employees.

The first one-on-one should begin with the manager and the employee each listing the top 3 to 5 priorities the employee should accomplish on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. At your next one-on-one meeting, compare the list. My guess is the list will be very different – if the list is similar, you’ve done a good job communicating your expectations to the employee.

Assuming your employees know how to perform a given task, your employees decide how, or if, they will commit to that task, and the level of effort they will give. Even self-motivated employees make that decision every day. Are you motivating them to ensure that their decision is to stay and work hard as part of your team and your company?

An employee’s decision to stay with a company has more to do with how he’s treated and how valued he feels. Employees who feel forgotten, unnoticed, or lost in the corporate shuffle usually have trouble staying motivated to perform well. If you expect excellent work from your employees, you must provide constructive feedback and a support system to keep them motivated. Manager/employee one-on-one meetings are a vital part of that support system.

Almost everyone performs better when held accountable. Employees who are not given performance benchmarks, goals and a vision will often fail. Take a little time at the beginning of each quarter to establish a few basic goals for each employee. Your employees will perform better, feel a sense of accomplishment and grow in their abilities when held responsible for meeting goals.

Many managers get so busy that regular employee communication about performance is neglected. Although regular communication is always desired, at the very minimum schedule one-on-one meetings with your employees on a quarterly basis and cover at least three (3) things: (1) Things that are going well; (2) Things that aren’t going well: (3) Ask if there is something you can do to help them succeed. If managers implement a system of continuous one-on-one’s there is no need for a pile of paperwork once a year.

One of the top reasons for poor morale is uncertainty. Manager/employee one-on-one meetings provide a framework for measurement and performance feedback, which eliminates uncertainty. These focused conversations are invaluable motivators. Even constructive or negative feedback gives an employee a sense of certainty, which will help improve morale.

Managers who meet with employees on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis will have better performers and be able to lead more effectively because they have their finger on the pulse of the organization – regular meetings allows the manager to know how that employee is feeling right then and address problems when they occur – not wait until the annual review.

TruHR Business Consultants welcomes your questions, inquires and feedback. If you would like to receive more information about HR Consulting, audits or Training, please contact us at

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About the Author

Barbara Trumbly, TruHR Business Consultants
San Ramon, CA 94583

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