From Anne McGraw with Warren Whitney, Making Potential Happen since 1989.

Two years into the pandemic, it is clear that organizations need to modernize how they address performance reviews; the old one-size-fits-all approach and rating systems no longer serve a purpose in the modern-day workplace. While the traditional style of performance reviews was already being questioned pre-pandemic, it is more evident now why the process needs to be reevaluated with workers placing greater importance on job satisfaction. With this shift in mindset, businesses need to nurture employee skill sets, improve communications, and have reviews focus on the positives. Professional development needs to be at the core of this new initiative which in turn will create a healthy culture, build leaders, and foster retention.

Here are three ways to rethink how to handle performance management to build an agile, involved, and dedicated workforce.

1. Set quarterly review meetings, define goals, and make the process collaborative

The first step is to think about performance reviews as an ongoing conversation rather than an annual event. Start by scheduling frequent performance check-ins, ideally once a quarter. These periodic meetings will help managers track progress throughout the year, which they can use for annual evaluations.

During these meetings, set realistic goals and review them quarterly. When setting goals, be flexible, and make the process collaborative so employees feel inspired to perform. Make sure to align individual goals to the company and department goals. Track the progress during these quarterly meetings and remember business priorities change, which is why the goals should be revisited and updated.

In addition, allow for:

  • Real-time feedback
  • Course correction so minor issues don’t become bigger problems
  • More frequent input to improve agility, which supports the “fail fast, learn faster” mentality
  • Constructive comments focused on growth
  • A celebration of wins when they happen (i.e., improved engagement and productivity)

2. Focus on employee development, training, and leadership potential

Exit interviews have shown that the lack of businesses focusing on developing their employees is a big factor in why people leave their jobs, especially millennials. Performance reviews should be centered around employees’ future capabilities and leadership potential. The emphasis should be on employee strengths, which can be achieved by understanding what each employee excels at and what they enjoy doing most. Employees can add the most value when they do the things that bring them joy and keep them engaged. Support this by:

  • Ongoing discussions and observations to best understand their strengths
  • Providing the tools/resources to encourage employee-driven continuous learning
  • Having a designated space and time to learn

3. Train managers to be mentors

Coaching and mentoring employees in the workplace helps team members develop new skills allowing them to grow into new roles. To effectively support the performance management process, managers need to be taught how to become better coaches and mentors.  Becoming a better mentor means knowing what questions to ask to better support and develop their employees. It also requires an understanding of the differences between coaching, mentoring, advising, sponsoring, and instructing. Their training should focus on how to:

  • Address poor performance
  • Provide quality feedback
  • Be an effective career coach
  • Track performance throughout the year to help with career advancement
  • Understand the difference between high performing vs. high-potential individuals
  • Manage performance virtually (or in a hybrid environment)

For this initiative to be successful, managers need to embrace mentoring as part of their day-to-day jobs and be reminded that mentoring helps their team reach their full potential.


If organizations shift the purpose of performance management to focusing on what each employee does best, they will lay the groundwork for a better workplace. Focusing on realistic goal planning, open dialogues, and developing skillsets will positively impact everyone!

Another item that needs to be addressed is what to do when there’s a real performance problem which Warren Whitney’s HR professionals address in this newsletter, How to Handle Poor Performance




Warren Whitney’s HR team works with business leaders to strategically evaluate your best path forward. Our work includes strategy consulting, in-depth compensation and benefits analysis, organizational structure and planning, as well as performance management. If you have any questions or seek further clarification, please call us at 804.282.9566 or email Stephanie Ford at We do not charge for the initial call. We want to learn more about your business needs.


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