Why Shorter Employee Performance Reviews Are More Effective

Rob de Luca
Rob de Luca  |  July 17, 2019

You might think the more thorough and detailed you make an employee performance review, the better it will be. But actually? It’s almost the opposite.

When employee performance reviews are shorter, more frequent, and leave less room for speculation, the results are better in multiple ways and for a number of reasons.

In keeping with the theme, we’ll try to get right to the point. 

Short employee performance reviews equal better results

More isn’t always better, and that’s especially true for the questions you include on employee performance reviews. The trick to getting the most out of your employee reviews is to simplify the format and increase the frequency. 

They're easier

Short reviews take less time to perform and less time to read. That makes them easier on managers and employees alike, allowing you to do them more often. 

More frequent reviews are more topical

Fresh and important is better than stale and trivial. The more frequently you perform employee performance reviews, the more likely you are to cover issues that are fresh in the employee’s mind. With less space for tangents, you’ll discuss what really matters.

Subjectivity is a review’s worst enemy

You don’t want opinions, you want facts. When questions are vague and answers are open-ended, they leave more room for personal relationships and value judgments to enter the fray. On the other hand, direct, specific questions about accomplishments and shortcomings make it easier to spot subjectivity and eliminate it from your assessments.

They aid engagement

Millennials are rapidly taking over the bulk of the workforce, and surveys show they love not only avocado toast but also constant feedback.

Short, quarterly reviews, especially combined with monthly 1:1 check-ins, deliver that always-on channel of critique and validation. That leads to higher engagement and an even better employer brand for your organization. 

How to improve your employee performance reviews

In short, make them shorter, and conduct them more often — ideally on a quarterly basis, but at least semiannually. So how can you make them shorter? 

Ask fewer questions

We’ve seen employee review templates that go on for pages. It can take an hour or more to fill one out, so it’s easy to see why doing so for a dozen or more employees would fill managers with dread, not to mention decision fatigue.

Instead of asking more questions, consider what you really want to know and cut the number of questions down to half a dozen or fewer.

Limit your responses

Asking fewer questions doesn’t solve anything if you get essays in return. Try asking for a single, specific thing: the employee’s most recent "win" or a short list of bullet points. You can also limit word counts and use multiple-choice questions in which the reviewer picks the closest matching response. 

Assess more frequently

Recency bias, the tendency for people to focus on recent issues, is a big issue in employee performance reviews. Why not work with it instead of against it? When reviews are done quarterly instead of annually or semiannually, managers can feel free to focus on what they really remember (the last three months) instead of trying to encapsulate an entire year of ups and downs. 

Stop relying on numerical scoring

People aren’t easy to quantify, and by asking for numerical scores, you’re asking reviewers to form and retain their own internal translation of what your rating system means. For example, on a five-point scale, a three could mean “barely adequate,” “about average,” or “I have no opinion one way or another.” But if you replace or pair numbers with actions, like, “(5) I’d do everything in my power to keep Gary on the team," you’ll know that the scale is consistent for every employee.

Get peer feedback at the same time

Nobody knows employees better than their coworkers. Adding peer feedback to reviews is a great way for managers to see more clearly at the ground level, and it makes for a much less stressful load on managers of large departments. One or two questions applied with the same attention to brevity and specificity as your reviews are all it takes to grant insights that a supervisor might never see otherwise.

The one-step solution? Performance management software

It’s time to take another look at how you conduct employee performance reviews.

Addressing the issues present in performance management does more than save time and money, it makes the entire process more effective while simultaneously changing the negative perception of reviews for employees, managers, and entire organizations.

Still stuck on whether you can create short reviews and sell the concept to your executive team? It might be easier to adopt performance management software that does it all for you.  

See the Highest-Rated Performance Management Software →

Rob de Luca
Author

Rob de Luca

Rob de Luca is the senior copywriter for BambooHR. He believes HR professionals and others deserve information-rich content that enables them to do great work, and he has written extensively on the topics of HR leadership and best practices.