Developing a Learning Culture

Case Study: A Conservative Approach to Annual Performance Reviews

We have come to understand that overall, annual performance reviews don’t really work. Besides the fact that it’s impossible to sum up an employee’s year long contributions in just a few moments, the process wastes, on average, 80,000 man hours annually. And what do you have to show for it? Performance reviews rarely leave the impact that you want, especially since you have to wait another 365 days to reassess progress.

Adobe completely revamped their evaluation process by doing away with APRs completely. Now, the tech giant relies on regular check-ins and mentoring to help employees get where they need to be. But just because Adobe started from scratch doesn’t mean every organization needs to follow suit.

A more conservative company came to us with the challenge to improve performance evaluations without getting rid of them completely. And, as their success tells us, you might not need a total overhaul to see big changes in the way your company thinks about employee evaluation.

Communication Overhaul

For a risk-averse company, it might not be what you say, but how you say it. While regular performance evaluations needed to stay intact, management realized that those conducting the evaluations were focused too heavily on the internal scoring system. Simply checking the boxes to get the evaluations over with wasn’t creating real change in the workplace, and the employees took the process about as seriously as the supervisors.

So, we changed the dialogue: by creating eight different modules to retrain supervisors and management on how to talk to employees, the performance evaluation process becomes more useful to both parties. Creating eLearning scenarios helped model the right conversations and behavior, which could then be adopted during evaluations.

By offering opportunities for employees to self-evaluate and get feedback throughout the year, it was much easier for this company to influence behavior and redirect employees to the necessary and helpful resources. By simply plugging in the right intervention along the way, regular performance evaluations became a vehicle for real change and improvement, not just another task on the to-do list.

Without the right conversation and employee personalization, there’s almost zero chance that an annual performance evaluation can affect real change. But even when annual performance reviews are an absolute necessity, there are ways to make them more personalized and effective. By creating scenario-based modules, we helped a company make the most of their evaluations. Gone are the days of checking boxes and simply going through the motions; finally, the man-hours spent on annual performance reviews won’t go to waste.