Performance Review VS Performance Development

Whether you call them performance reviews, performance appraisals or performance evaluations, as a leader in an organization we’ve all done them. And, we’ve all had to have one conducted on us as well. If you are normal, you probably strongly dislike performance reviews as a whole from both sides of the fence. But that’s just it, isn’t it? If you’re like the consensus, you dread the performance review process… so why not change it? So many organizations do performance reviews because, “that’s just the way we’ve always done it”. It doesn’t have to be, and this manager moment would like to show you how.

To begin, there are two things you must do before anything. First, you must change the language. The face of your evaluation process is the title itself, so give it a more positive image by terming it something like, “Performance Development”. Second, change the time horizon. Performance reviews generally focus on what happened over the last year, but don’t tend to focus on the implications and connections to the future. If the employee is to ever get better and also produce more for the organization, the employee has to understand the future implications of their work toward their own goals, and the goals of the organization.

Once you have changed the display of the process, it is time to redesign the process itself. Performance development is about creating efficiency and adding value to the performance review process. To do that, the process should be conducted around once every quarter instead of once a year. You might be wondering how conducting a performance review four times a year instead of just once is more efficient. Consider the following questions:

  1. If the process is conducted 4 times a year, do as many questions need to be asked?
  2. If the process is conducted 4 times a year, is there as much to cover?

If you answered “no” to these questions, you are probably right. If the time span between the processes is shorter, not as much has been done compared to an entire year. If you answered “yes” or “maybe” to the above questions, you may also be right. To elaborate, consider an example. Company A completes 12 major projects in a year. In the old style of performance reviews, the interviewer is going to need to remember important details of project 1 and 2 that happened close to a year ago, not to mention the other 10 projects. Many of us would have a hard time making the most of the process when an entire year sits between where you are now and the data you are reviewing. In the performance development process, less than 4 projects have been completed – given that the company evenly spreads out the projects – and therefore the evaluation process has much less to cover, and what is covered is still relatively fresh in both minds. Less material to cover could mean less questions and shorter evaluation time, which increases employee performance. However, it may be wise to utilize this increase in efficiency to ask more appropriate and meaningful questions. Questions that you ask can be more detailed to reach specific, important information. Yes, ask about how projects have been going and ask about the employee’s performance. But equally important, discuss with the employee the implications of their performance and the projects they’ve been working on. One of the primary goals of redesigning the performance review process is to give a forward outlook.

Discuss current and future goals. With the performance development process, setting goals is more manageable for two reasons: First, they are easier to track given less time between the review processes. And two, it is easier to set both short term and long term goals that can be both attainable and challenging. Setting quarterly or project-based goals in tandem with the performance development process can help you set yearly goals that are more relevant.

To better understand performance development we can look to stay interviews. Stay interviews have a similar formatting in that they are shorter, conducted more often, and ask questions that provide a forward outlook. Essentially, a stay interview allows a manager to have a casual discussion with the employee about why they stay with the company, and what the manager can do to improve quality for that employee. For more information on stay interviews, refer to the final link in the references section.

In today’s world, human capital is one of the most valued assets of an organization, or at least it should be. The biggest part of your budget is probably your employees, so practices that increase their happiness and productivity are crucial. Switching to a performance development process will undermine the stigma that comes with the old process. It gives employees a reason to look forward to the process because they can express concerns and progress made without having to wait until the end of the year to do so. As well, managers can evaluate critical issues in a timelier manner with this system. The process should take less time, which will increase productivity more and more with each employee interviewed. At the end of the year, your organization might send out a survey to gain insight on how your employees view your performance development system. Your organization should be as efficient as possible, and this system is designed with efficiency in mind.


Here are ten great questions to ask in a performance development session:

  1. Can you please explain to me what you believe the company goals, vision and strategy are?
  2. Do you understand your personal role in the company goals, vision and strategy?
  3. What are your personal, professional goals?
  4. Do you understand why we use the processes and practices in place?
  5. What would you change about those processes and practices?
  6. Are there areas of your job you wish you could receive retraining?
  7. What skills do you need to learn to excel in your job?
  8. What important-but-not-urgent task or project do you wish you had more time on which to work?
  9. What risks would you take in the next year in your current role, if you knew that you could not fail?
  10. What’s a recent management decision you didn’t understand?