Continuous performance management is the modern response to the overhaul of traditional annual performance reviews. The continuous performance management system is a style that is becoming increasingly popular among companies, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way most workplaces across the world function.
It is viewed as the bastion of agile. With attitudes toward Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) changing and revaluations of how traditional performance reviews work, continuous performance management systems are being seen as the right approach.
The continuous performance management process adopts a more people-centric perspective. Logically, that makes it a better fit in a post-pandemic world where employees, especially Gen Zs and millennials, are pushing for more purposeful work, mental well-being, and work/life balance.
With remotely located teams, fast-evolving workplaces, and high collaboration, it is essential that the way companies measure an employee’s performance also evolves to keep up with the times.
The continuous performance management system explained
As the name suggests, the continuous performance management system is one wherein an employee’s performance is not just reviewed once or twice a year at scheduled, lengthy performance review meetings. Instead, in continuous performance management, check-ins between employees and their managers occur on an ongoing basis.
Feedback received by employees under the continuous performance management system will be real-time and, ideally, more meaningful than the traditional once-a-year review. Tools and solutions are available that also help companies foster this kind of real-time feedback culture, such as UpRaise performance management app for Jira.
Managers and employees can schedule these check-ins anywhere from one to three months. These regular check-ins can extend beyond just employee and manager meetings. Employees can also seek feedback regularly from peers, other departments, or external stakeholders under the continuous performance management system.
For example, suppose Employee A has just completed a significant project for their team. In that case, they could request feedback from their immediate supervisor or manager to get real-time feedback on how the project went. They could also go a step further and seek feedback from the client the project was delivered to, or their peers who worked with them on the project, etc.
This feedback could be recorded using a continuous performance management system or software. It can also be integrated with employee recognition and reward programs. If in the above example, Employee A had done an outstanding job on the project, the company can use real-time feedback to recognize their contribution promptly. Similarly, if there were areas of improvement, the continuous performance management system also facilitates timely discussions around that.
Using that example, it is easy to understand what the continuous performance management system entails. In the next section, we’ll take a more detailed look at the components of a continuous performance management system.
Key components of the continuous performance management process
An effective continuous performance management process must include specific vital details. The goal is to make it more frequent and flexible than the rigidities that govern the traditional annual performance review system and emphasize on positivity and constructive or meaningful feedback.
How can you achieve that? By making sure that your continuous performance management process covers these key aspects:
Conducting frequent check-ins between employees and their managers forms the bedrock of an excellent continuous performance management process. These check-ins can be scheduled anywhere between once every month to every three months. The frequency depends on individual companies, teams, employees, and managers. But without these check-ins, your continuous performance management system will not function as effectively.
Effective, constructive feedback can come from more than managers. As in the example we mentioned earlier in this piece, a continuous performance management process should allow employees to seek more frequent feedback from their peers (cross-departmental or within their teams), clients, and other internal and external stakeholders.
There needs to be more than scheduling frequent check-ins. It’s important to approach these check-ins with a few critical aspects in mind. For example, have a rough idea of what employees and their managers should discuss at these check-ins. It could progress in a current major project or other existing objectives; personal development of the employee; priorities and re-evaluating them if needed; identifying challenges, issues, or concerns at that time and addressing them jointly; identifying and deciding on changing, tweaking, or making other changes to an employee’s objectives or goals; and finally agreeing on action points based on that check-in.
Real-time reports and analysis:
To complete the continuous performance management process, you must holistically use whatever you’ve gained from the frequent check-ins. How do you do that? A performance dashboard, for instance, allows a manager to keep a visual track of an employee’s performance and examine trends that these frequent check-ins show over a year. With this kind of analysis, managers can more effectively identify areas of concern and work with their teams to solve them.
Advantages of adopting a continuous performance management strategy
Adopting a continuous performance management strategy can be highly beneficial for businesses. Here are a few ways how it can benefit your company:
A recent Gallup survey showed that employees crave meaningful feedback. When employees strongly agreed that they received ‘meaningful feedback’ in the past week, they were nearly four times more likely than other employees to be engaged, the survey found. Regular check-ins also work towards building that all-crucial trust between an employee, their manager, and the organization.
Employee performance & retention:
If your employees feel more engaged and connected to your organization, the chances that they benefit from performance also logically increase. That, in turn, will help in keeping attrition in check. Adobe, one of the early and most well-known adopters of continuous performance management strategy, has publicly stated that it saw a 30% drop in employees quitting after it switched strategies.
Employee growth and development:
Along with employee engagement, performance, and retention, the other important aspect is employee growth and development. A continuous performance management strategy makes it easier for managers to chart development and progress plans for individual employees.
Builds more connected workplaces:
When your employee feedback is based on a 360-degree, real-time continuous performance management strategy, it also works toward organizational connectedness. Employees across teams will feel like they belong to a single entity with coherent OKRs that flow easily across teams rather than working in silos with the more single-dimensional traditional annual performance review.
Supports agile, flexible workplaces:
Given the rapid way the world is changing, it’s essential for companies also to be agile and ready to evolve whenever required to stay relevant and strong against the competition. At the micro level, a continuous performance management strategy will help create employees, teams, and departments that are more agile, always on top of their current performance, and more readily prepared to face changes if needed.
Of course, if most of the company employees feel engaged and involved, it will also help boost the company’s performance. Engaged employees are more likely to be able to reach their full potential, and when that happens, they perform better.
Better performance by individual employees will, in turn, improve overall productivity. A productivity improvement is bound to impact a company’s bottom line or financial performance.
If your employees are happy, sales executives can better engage with clients, for example. When that happens, it also leads to clients who are happier and more inspired to be loyal to your company or brand.
This shows that continuous performance management programs are a beneficial and effective strategy.