All Articles Leadership HR Performance reviews don't inspire growth. Focus on this instead

Performance reviews don’t inspire growth. Focus on this instead

Ongoing performance reviews that give employees actionable feedback that aligns with company values can enhance motivation and growth, writes Tammy Perkins.

5 min read


performance reviews

Visual Generation/Getty Images

The traditional performance review process has become increasingly scrutinized in the evolving landscape of the modern workplace. While once regarded as a best practice for employee evaluation and development, a growing body of evidence suggests that this time-honored practice may be more of a hindrance than a help. It’s time to rethink our approach to performance feedback since the current system has reached its limits.

But don’t just take my word for it. Chances are, if you ask managers and employees their thoughts on the value of performance reviews, you’ll most likely hear they see little value in them. In fact, according to Psychology Today, 66% of employees are strongly dissatisfied with their performance reviews, and 95% of managers are dissatisfied, highlighting a significant disconnect between the goals of performance reviews and their outcomes.

As a Chief People Officer who has spent years overseeing annual performance reviews at companies such as Amazon and Microsoft and private companies, I have not seen any significant benefits from these reviews. Frankly, this has led me to question these evaluations’ effectiveness and the resources invested in them. While I have always believed in the value and importance of performance feedback, my experience has taught me that we must reevaluate our approach to performance reviews and explore new methods to help our employees thrive. 

Ongoing performance management is far more effective and motivating for employees than the traditional once-a-year review cycle, which is simply out of sync with the pace of today’s business world. With that in mind, here are five core areas leaders can focus on to improve or evolve the performance review process while still rewarding, recognizing and compensating people for great work.

1. Shift to continuous feedback

Today, fewer than 14% of employees feel inspired by their performance reviews, according to Gallup research. Rather than continuing to pour valuable time and energy into an outdated approach, it’s time for leaders to reevaluate and shift to a continuous feedback loop focused on empowering and energizing direct reports.

Employees thrive on regular, actionable feedback that helps them adjust their real-time performance. Ongoing feedback fosters a culture of growth and allows employees to pivot to changing demands and opportunities. By holding frequent check-ins, leaders can ensure that feedback is timely, relevant and tied directly to day-to-day work.

2. Accelerate development and growth

Performance reviews often focus too much on past behaviors and need more on future growth opportunities. Leaders should reframe these conversations to emphasize employee development, setting goals that stretch the individual’s skills and align with their career aspirations. This approach motivates employees and ties their professional growth directly to the organization’s success. Encouraging employees to identify their areas for development also helps to create personal accountability around their goals and alignment on how they will measure success.

3. Activate peer feedback

High-performing employees are essential to the success of any organization, but often, traditional methods of evaluating employee performance cannot recognize and reward such valuable contributors. A peer feedback survey can be a helpful tool to acknowledge and celebrate employees effectively.

Peer feedback also provides valuable insights that managers might not be able to offer. It allows for a more holistic view of an employee’s performance, including how they collaborate, communicate and contribute to team dynamics. A structured approach to peer reviews can help build a more cohesive team environment while highlighting employee contributions that might otherwise go unnoticed. 

4. Optimize technology for efficiency

Encouraging a culture where constructive feedback is freely given and received can significantly enhance performance and job satisfaction. Technology plays a crucial role in creating an open way to do this while modernizing the performance review process. Performance management software enables real-time feedback collection, tracking goals and progress and identifying trends over time. This can reduce the burden of performance reviews and make the process more engaging for employees. Additionally, technology can facilitate anonymous feedback, which might encourage more honest and constructive input.

5. Align reviews with organizational values and goals

Continuous feedback between managers and employees is vital to overcoming an organization’s challenges. By tying these ongoing conversations to performance discussions and specific outcomes, leaders better understand their team members’ contributions. 

Align performance reviews with the broader goals and values of the organization. This alignment ensures the review process supports the company’s strategic direction and culture. Employees should clearly understand how their work contributes to the organization’s success, and leaders should recognize them for embodying company values. This reinforces the importance of organizational goals and helps employees see the bigger picture and their role within it.

Why this matters

Rethinking the performance review process is pivotal to successfully motivating and rewarding high-performing teams. Leaders can create a more effective, inspiring and forward-looking performance management system by focusing on continuous feedback, development and growth, leveraging peer feedback, utilizing technology and aligning with organizational values. Such an approach benefits individual employees and up-and-coming leaders and ultimately contributes to the organization’s overall success. As the workplace continues to evolve, so must our methods for evaluating and encouraging the growth of our most valuable asset: our people.


Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


Take advantage of SmartBrief’s FREE email newsletters on leadership and business transformation, among the company’s more than 250 industry-focused newsletters.