It’s that time of year again, the dreaded annual review. The well-meaning manager has yet another stack of endless paperwork to add to their already endless paperwork. When it comes to the annual review, the paperwork for a manager at a restoration company, or anywhere else for that matter, has a special kind of discontinuity as they will face a new-and-improved nebulous employee grading system that someone sitting high atop the organization with a gold tipped quill pen composed as their latest masterpiece. The manager will take the multi-page forms home and labor through the labyrinth that is corporate policy dreading only the distribution of the information more than the lengthy composition.

In business, there are rituals that neither management nor employees enjoy and yet they are widely practiced because a) it’s what everyone else is doing, b) we’re required to do it by the unwritten codes of business handed down from our ancestors and/or c) leadership is unwilling to admit that something needs to change. A recent article in Mashable (as well as other sources) notes that 20 percent of employees feel their managers come unprepared to reviews and the result of more than 30 percent of these annually structured meetings lead to decreased performance related to disengagement from the process (McCord 2015). There may be a battle for whom the dread of annual reviews resonates deeper, the manager relaying the information or the employee receiving the life changing feedback.

The process has worked so well for years, why would anyone change it? If things are not changing, the conclusion would be that either organizations do not recognize a need for change or are unwilling to make changes. Managers are overloaded with paperwork, so the company adds more paperwork. Employees feel disengaged from the decision making process and so the organization continues with a murky system that rarely is directly related to advancement or a raise.

With all business practices, shouldn’t leaders be asking – why do we do THIS and is IT serving its purpose?

When the process is presented as a formal meeting that is annual, structured, detailed and graded then the expectation generated from that structure is that it will lead to advancement and/or a raise in salary. There is nothing more confusing than putting on a formal production as an organization that is supposed to be very detailed and yet it formally results in no net change of role or position. If the purpose of the review is not to create a clear path to advancement and/or lay out a process for raise consideration then the structure of the review should be re-tooled.

Many leading companies are recognizing the need to shift how they communicate with their teams and are designing their processes around increasing clarity as well as frequency. Recommendations from progressive leadership voices include conducting more regular check-in points with employees, simplify the process, clarify the messaging, and as noted by Inc. magazine, focus on setting future goals rather than rehashing the past (Winfrey 2015). Cease and desist with annual reviews simply for the sake of annual reviews.

So, where do we start?

Be prepared. This should include clarifying as a leadership what goal(s) these more frequent employee engagement check-up meetings will meet. Dedicate time to preparing for the meeting so that employees understand management values this meeting, values the employee’s time and there is an organizational commitment to evolving as a team.

Be personal. Employees desire feedback but not all employees communicate or learn the same way. Any meeting with employees, whether formal or informal, should be utilized to discover more about team members, how individuals communicate and what motivates them. With so many resources available to assist with personality, communication and skills development, identify one that meets an area of need for the team and invest in learning about the members of the organization.

Be clear. Whether leadership is investigating methods or is developing a process, communicate the organizational vision and allow all team members to assist in creating momentum within the company. Focus meetings on reaching the collective team goals and associate individual assessments to those shared objective. Ask questions to confirm communication clarity; there is great value when checking in with individuals to enlist simple questions such as, “What are you hearing me say?”

Be open. By creating a process that is a two way conversation and practicing this on a regular basis (formally and informally), leadership can generate discussions that will assist the organization to recognize issues as well as opportunities that can only be identified by those in the field. Information must originate, flow and be valued from top-to-bottom as well as bottom-to-top or the organization will struggle to generate any real change. Managers are aware that employees could always be improving in the performance of their responsibilities yet organizations are often reticent to receive input from employees on ways the company could improve. Opportunities are missed and engagement is lost when feedback from employees is not valued.

If you do not recognize a need to evaluate and improve your processes, you are probably right – everything is fine and you are going to be awesome (sarcasm). But, if you recognize that there are always areas that can improve, you may start by relieving the additional strain on managers as well as the deflating of employee morale that is often tied to the annual employee review as currently practiced. The good news is that simple things go a long way in making strides towards reaching the vision your organization is pursuing. Keep developing yourself and your processes, fight the good fight.

There are plenty of examples of what isn’t working, please tell us what you have been trying and what is working with improving employee engagement. Contact us through

McCord, Sara (2015, September 23) How To Make Performance Reviews Useful. Mashable. Retrieved from

Winfrey, Graham (2015, July 27) Why Performance Reviews Are A Waste Of Time And Money. Inc. Retrieved from immediately.html