Due to changes in the digital and social landscapes, performance management is undergoing a dramatic shift. One driver is the developing labor pool: younger employees are demanding ongoing, immediate guidance from their supervisors. Another cause is rapid innovation: teams must constantly evolve their goals to keep pace with the advancements. A third catalyst is increasing competition: now more than ever, companies are under pressure to accelerate performance and upgrade management models to retain their best talent.

Given the current flux in today’s workplace, many organizations are turning to nimble performance management models that allow for continuous feedback, frequent check-ins, and flexible goals. However, the model will continue shifting — we only need to study history to remember that.

Performance Management Through the Years

The performance management model has evolved alongside the changing workplace. Appraisals are rooted in the U.S. military’s merit rating system, created in the early 1900s to identify poor performers for discharge or transfer. After World War II, most U.S. companies were using this rating system to document employees’ performance and to allocate rewards.

Over the years, the model moved in step with worker demand and cultural norms — shifting from accountability to development and back again.

Most recently, organizations have become flatter and teams have grown more collaborative. We follow a social-based model of learning and workforce optimization that balances the company’s needs with the employee’s career aspirations. As a rule, companies favor a performance management model that is ongoing, forward-looking and transparent. In a word: development.

Hands-on Performance “Previews”

In lieu of traditional annual reviews, performance previews focus more on future potential than past work. This process aligns with the mentality of younger employees: three-fourths of millennials would like to have a mentor and 8 out of 10 want regular feedback from their boss. Consider some of the key aspects of continuous performance management.

  • Forward-Looking Performance Reviews: Continuous performance management encourages managers and direct reports to periodically set, assess, and revise goals. These reviews include employee self-assessment, peer review, and managerial evaluation. Discussions are informed by relevant data from check-ins, notes and the employee’s performance history. Together, the manager and employee establish new goals to work toward.
  • Ongoing Check-In Conversations: Held more regularly, check-in conversations focus on the present day-to-day work. Managers and their direct reports can use this time to cover immediate feedback, goal alignment and development needs.
  • Crowdsourcing Feedback: A key aspect of continuous performance management is collecting performance data from a variety of sources. Under this model, employees receive real-time feedback throughout the year from different sources, including managers, colleagues and clients or other external contacts.

Technology for Retaining Talent

It’s time to explore tools that help performance management to become crowdsourced, measurable and aligned with future objectives. With Avature Performance Management, organizations can:

  • Create a tailored process for setting and reviewing goals
  • Keep track of periodic performance reviews
  • Collect 360-degree feedback from peers, managers, direct reports and others from outside the organization
  • Assess employees on goals, core company competencies and role-based competencies
  • Acknowledge high performers and motivate all employees by publicizing achievements companywide

In order to meet the shifting demands of performance management, HR leaders have to rewrite the rules for how they develop, manage and engage the 21st-century workforce. However, there is no true model that works for everyone. Therefore, companies need a technology that is flexible and that adapts to their unique workforce, processes and culture. They also need an agile tool that helps them adapt their performance management model over time to best engage their employees.