A third of employees only have performance conversations once a year

21st March by Lee Robertson

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The Performance Management Report 2022 shows that people performance and development strategies are still out of kilter with the needs of the modern workplace. Its findings highlight that there is not only a problem with the frequency of performance-related conversations, but the quality of them too.

Published by Clear Review, the third edition of the report has found that a third of employees are having performance conversations just once a year, while only 13 per cent of employees are reporting that conversations had, are “really great with plenty of focus on goals, wellbeing and development.”

Here we explore some of its discoveries.

Performance management is on the back burner

The focus on performance development has dipped to just 31 per cent in contrast to 47 per cent in 2021. This has been attributed by respondents to the Covid pandemic and the shift to remote working.

Instead, employee productivity and engagement have been prioritised with 48 per cent saying they have redoubled their focus on this aspect compared to 33 per cent 12 months ago.

Since performance and engagement are so inextricably linked, what impact has this had? Without the ongoing support of performance development conversations, how have employees fared when it comes to goal setting, feedback and managerial support?

Half of employees have performance conversations less than once a year

Both employers and managers were asked how often they were having performance-based conversations.

Just 33 per cent of employees claimed to have such discussions with their line managers once a year or less, while a further 16 per cent said twice a year. Nearly a quarter of employees stated they had conversations once or twice a quarter and 20 per cent reported a rate of one or twice a month. Just seven per cent had a regularity of at least once a week.

This conflicts with what managers said. 31 per cent of line managers believed they had conversations once a week or more and 36 per cent said at least once or twice a month. Nine per cent reported twice yearly, three per cent once a year and one per cent less than once per annum.

So why the inconsistency?

The need for continuous performance management and meaningful conversations

With 27 per cent of employees having check-ins with their managers at least once a month, there is clearly huge room for improvement. Moreover, this is especially crucial when you also consider that 31 per cent of employees said they feel the conversations they do have are basic or bad with little or no focus on wellbeing or development. In essence, a basic “how are you?” does not qualify as effective two-way communication or fulfil the need for meaningful conversations.

Managers and HR teams should be adopting continuous performance management structures to keep pace with shifting employee expectations and the ever-changing nature of business. Without regular check-ins happening between team members and line managers, organisations cannot be sure that their productivity and engagement levels are not suffering as a result.

Best practice demands that conversations are more frequent with a firm departure from traditional annual appraisals. Continuous performance management gives better intel on engagement and productivity, but it also serves to strengthen collaboration and connections. Furthermore, it helps bolster the sense of belonging and can be transformational when flexibility is required in the face of challenge or uncertainty.

The final thought goes to Karen Smart, head of consultancy with the AoEC who said: “We are at a stage where employers must rethink how their performance management works. Hybrid working is dictating change in how we communicate with our teams and direct reports. Performance and development systems should be focused on constant recognition, two-way feedback, dynamic goal setting, frequent check-ins and self-evaluation. These elements combine to create a high-performance or coaching culture as well as delivering improvements to engagement, resilience, agility and financial results.”