The Secret to Performance Reviews that Inspire People

A conversation with Rhiannon Staples, CMO at hibob

powered by Sounder

About the episode

For many employees, the thought of an upcoming performance review, at least if a company handles it traditionally, is likely to bring up anxiety, cynicism, or some combination thereof. It doesn’t have to be that way, says today’s Technically People guest, Rhiannon Staples, CMO at hibob


“This shouldn’t create angst,” she says. “This isn’t a test. This experience shouldn’t be negative for the employee. It’s not a way to grade or rate them.” 


A semiannual or annual formal review can and should be an incentivizing, motivating conversation employees are excited to have. It can and should be a conversation that drives engagement and, in turn, retention. And in fact, there’s a formula (of sorts) to make that happen. 


“If you were to stop and ask someone their perception of a performance review,” says Rhiannon, “historically speaking, they’d say that half the conversation is reflecting on the past — what you’ve achieved, what you could have done better — and 50% of it is focused on the future.”

Rhiannon has a better ratio. Specifically, she advises managers to spend 80% of the conversation on the direction an employee wants to take their career, how they’ll get there, and how the company can support them. That leaves 20% of the conversation for reflecting on the past, including what an employee achieved and what they might have done better.


“That conversation feels a lot more like mentorship,” she says, “and it’s a lot more about growth than assigning or ranking people within the business.” 


No part of the conversation about the past, incidentally, should come as a surprise. “Feedback and continuous engagement with employees on performance, on goals, on objectives should be happening throughout the year,” says Rhiannon.


In fact, giving continuous feedback before and outside of the formal review frees it up to be a celebration of employee strengths and a time to chart their path forward. 


“We want employees to come into these conversations not with worry and fear,” adds Rhiannon, “but with optimism. And we want them to be invested and excited to share: Here’s what I really did well — and to be transparent and open enough and confident enough to talk about where they feel they could have improved.”

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