When or How Often Should You Conduct Performance Reviews?

Annual or Continuous? —Conducting performance reviews at the right time can help you unstuck your employees frequently and solve engagement issues preemptively.

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Yes, performance reviews are important. But conducting reviews the right way at the right time is even more crucial. 

Today, most organizations realize the futility of once-a-year formal performance reviews, but they struggle to find an alternative that suits their needs. 

Furthermore, they struggle with implementing a regular review cadence that not only helps in performance appraisal, but also boosts employee performance and motivation.

In this article, we will discuss the following —

  • Different performance review cadences
  • Why annual reviews don’t work anymore
  • Some alternatives to traditional annual performance reviews (bell-curves and continuous feedback)

SUPER TIP — Are you finding it hard to transition from annual performance reviews to continuous performance management? Our detailed guide on CPM can help. Download for free today!

What is the best time to conduct employee performance review?

The frequency of performance reviews depends on the scale of the company’s growth, market, and performance deliverables. Implementing the right kind of performance reviews that is effective for the organization is where major growing organizations get stuck. 

There is no fixed answer to what kind of annual review is the best. However, the most common types of performance reviews are:

a) Annual reviews

Annual reviews are a traditional practice of performance reviews and almost all previously growing companies followed its system at one point. Companies hold annual performance reviews once a year for appraisals, feedback, rewards, etc. Even though in the agile digital  world, a lot of companies have stopped following the annual review system, a few big companies still follow the yearly reviews. 

In the absence of an effective performance management system they find it hard to transition into other more effective performance review processes with a large number of employees spread globally. 

b) Bi-annual reviews

This performance review system is similar to the annual review system. However, instead of conducting a review only once a year, bi-annual reviews are conducted twice a year. The review and feedback for performance are conducted once every six months. 

In these reviews, the participants discuss their achievements accomplished and areas that need improvement, and objectives that need to be achieved in the upcoming six months. 

c) Quarterly reviews

The most recent system that a lot of organizations are trying to implement for performance reviews is quarterly reviews. This review system sets a chain of four performance reviews in a year. It helps managers and team members set short-term goals that are achievable within three months. Since quarterly reviews happen so frequently, employees get instant feedback on their projects that help them improve their performance sooner. 

SUPER-TIP — Get all your top questions answered about managing employee performance in our detailed guide on Continuous Performance Management. Click here to download the PDF

6 reasons why annual performance reviews don’t work anymore

The system of annual performance reviews has lost its merit in the fast-paced, digital corporate scene. In the dynamic work culture without the office boundaries, waiting for reviews at the end of the corporate spectrum do not seem very fitting. 

1. Annual performance reviews are arbitrary and weakens company culture

Annual reviews are arbitrary, as they are something the manager recalls by memory about employees' contributions to the company. Thus prone to recency bias where managers tend to give more weightage to the work employees did and didn’t do in the last few weeks leading to annual review. It fails to take into account the actual performance of the employee throughout the year. 

Moreover, most annual reviews are filled with opinions and judgments rather than backed by actual data and involve using metrics like attendance, which has no real impact on an employee's performance. 

Using manager’s opinion as a valid input for performance reviews often creates an unhealthy work culture where employees are more interested in pleasing their managers than improving their performance. When employees don’t open up about their actual problems at the workplace, the management does not get a clear picture of the root problems leading to low employee morale and poor business performance.

SUPER TIP — Learn A to Z of building a high performance company culture. Download our free culture guide today!

2. Annual reviews fail to engage or motivate employees

As mentioned, annual performance reviews often put employees in a position where they are at the end of the goodwill and mercy of the manager. Managers who strive for employee welfare and wellness sometimes feel they are put in an uncomfortable position of power against their employees, making it hard to conduct themselves well to give an effective review in absence of a continuous unbiased performance tracking system.

In contrast, managers who seldom care about employees may use it as an opportunity to take advantage of their subordinates and assert their dominance. 

Both are unfavorable situations that flow against employee morale, goodwill, and productivity and can be easily avoided with continuous employee performance review methods that are more casual, transparent, and promote good morale. 

SUPER TIP — Supercharge your team’s engagement with custom pulse surveys and create your own index. Book a free demo here

3. Annual performance surveys are prone to favoritism and rater bias

Among the forbidden things that clog up the workspace dynamics to achieve productivity is favoritism shown by some managers to their employees. A practice that brings down teamwork, creates a gap between employees and generates ill will towards managers and the company. Some managers also fall prey to unconscious biases such as the rater bias, which makes them rate employees higher in performance reviews if the employees showcase behaviors that resemble them, even if their output at work may be less than impressive. Hardworking employees who may not be at the grace of the managers might also have to watch poor-performing coworkers climb up the corporate ladder. 

Rater bias defers growth, and consequently, the manager's actions affect the whole company's performance. It also reduces employee satisfaction and makes the workplace toxic over time. 

4. Annual performance reviews often tie up with salary creating anxiety and stress  

One major factor that managers and employees hate about annual reviews is that it often ties with salary. 

Managers feel the stress as they have to make judgments about the employee's overall performance, review their productivity, code of conduct and finally make decisions about their future roles in the organization. The review decides whether to promote, demote, or fire the person. Moreover, in most organizations, there’s no proper learning program to train managers to provide a meaningful review.  

On the other hand, being at the receiving end, employees feel the pressure and stress as the once-a-year performance review decides their future in the company, and decisions will directly affect their livelihood. 

Add to the misery, sometimes, companies use annual performance reviews as a time to cut down wages, and staff either to survive in the market or to keep the charts clean in terms of profit to keep the goodwill of the stakeholders. 

Tying salary with performance reviews may have worked well in the past, but now it lowers employee morale, engagement and long-term employer brand. 

SUPER TIP — Looking for employee recognition ideas? Check out our complete guide on employee recognition do’s and don’ts.

5. Annual performance reviews are too formal and prevent open feedback from employees

Formally structured performance reviews fail to collect authentic and open feedback from employees. Instead, it often comes as a namesake, and employees feel that their feedback may either not get valued or might be used against them. 

Performance evaluations feel like a sit-down interrogation. The employees do not get enough room to comment and reflect on the manager's performance or share any other general issues that may indirectly affect them, making it a dull, unproductive, biased, and one-sided affair.

SUPER TIP — Take your performance reviews 1:1 and team meetings from being an interrogation to two-way feedback driven conversations with SuperBeings 1:1 meetings tool

You can also check these top 50 1:1 meeting conversations prompts to guide your next meeting.

Most of the time, the review's formal structure also prevents employees from opening and sharing their feedback. They are rigid, and the structure feels unwelcoming to provide any meaningful feedback. 

6. Lack of timely feedback in annual reviews negatively affect productivity

In this agile environment where scrum meetings and standups are the norms to save time and bring focus to work, annual reviews hold no significant value. It is because yearly reviews make managers wait to give feedback to an employee who urgently needs it. 

Instead of tackling an issue head-on, right at that moment, often they are dealing with it only when the performance review is near. Such delays negatively affect team morale and company culture because, during that waiting time, the poor performer is either stuck or only helping to bring down the rest of the team.

Continuous feedback vs. annual reviews

Annual performance reviews were a largely followed tradition for providing raises and bonuses and all the required feedback of the year. But with the changing times, the annual performance review methods and evaluation lost their value in performance management or employee satisfaction. 

These reviews allow employees to receive feedback from their immediate supervisor. But puts both managers and employees in a difficult, anxiety-ridden situation, where the manager has to deliver the feedback of their performance all through the year with various aspects at stake. It is inevitable that some major details are skipped, leaving employees dissatisfied with the results. 

Annual reviews were replaced with more modernized and tech-based processes to streamline the way feedback and reviews are done within the organization. Continuous feedback creates a cycle of more regular review and feedback sessions with transparent conversations between employees and managers. 

Since it is a two-way communication system, employees can voice out their concerns as well as receive praise and feedback instantly for their work. Continuous feedback provides real-time insights for employee growth, improving engagement, and building good relationships through open communication. 

SUPER-TIP — Read this article to learn more about implementing continuous feedback in your workplace

How relevant is the bell curve today?

Bell curve has also lost its relevance in the upcoming times, due to its extremely rigid system and several issues in measuring the performance of individual employees with accuracy. 

A bell curve is a form of equal distribution, it contains a large group at the center and then an equal number of people on either end of the spectrum. This means the maximum number of people falls under the curve of average while a relatively smaller and equal number of people are put in the top-performers and non-performers. In today’s workplace culture, employees look for equal treatment and opportunities when considering taking a job and the bell curve rarely includes any of it. 

There are several reasons why it lost its relevance such as —

  • In this method, collaboration isn't a factor 
  • Assessments that are inaccurate and unfair 
  • Employees are severely discouraged by forced rankings and constructing the idea of losers and winners sets the wrong example. 

The Bell Curve performance appraisal best remains irrelevant as it is replaced with much more effective and data-driven performance appraisal systems that provide results based on real-time insights. 

Which performance review cadence should you choose?

There is no strict rule that specifies how many performance reviews an organization should do in a year. However annual and bi-annual reviews are being criticized for lacking accuracy. These reviews are usually related to salary appraisals and promotions, managers and employees both have to rely on their memory to recall the achievements of the past twelve or six months.

On the other hand, studies indicate that enabling managers and employees to have more frequent and transparent conversations about work expectations, problems, and progress improves engagement and performance in the long run.

Making it evident that having a continuous feedback-based performance review system naturally leads to proper employee development, brings more connected and engaging employees, builds solid organizational bonds and results in the company's overall growth and revenue.

Garima Shukla

Marketing, SuperBeings

Hello world! I am Garima and I research and write on everything we are doing to make the world of work a better place at SuperBeings

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Performance
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How to choose the right performance rating scale 101

When it comes to performance review, there are several aspects you need to focus on, including when to conduct, how to conduct, etc. One important aspect that deserves due recognition is the use of performance rating scales. There are schools of thoughts on both sides of the discussion on using vs not using it. However, if used strategically, a performance rating scale can effectively make the employee performance review process smoother. Through this article we will cover:

  • When to/ when not to use a performance rating scale
  • How to select the right employee rating scale for your organization
  • Common pitfalls of using a rating scale to be aware of
  • Top performance rating scale questions you must use

Performance rating scale: Top use cases

While preparing your organization for a performance review, you might find yourself conflicted about whether or not you should use a rating scale. A performance rating scale is highly effective in gauging an employee’s performance from a quantitative perspective, but has limited scope when it comes to evaluating performance qualitatively. 

Therefore, we have identified the top situations and advantages of using a performance rating scale as well as when you should not be using them.

When to use a performance rating scale

You should use a performance rating scale when you need to:

  • Capture quantitative evaluation of the performance to study trends over time
  • Compare performance of two or more employee on similar parameters
  • Focus on a particular behavior or attribute of performance and don’t want the respondents to digress
  • Gauge concrete data points on performance to decide on appraisals and increments
  • Eliminate the ambiguity from interpretation of subjective responses
  • Get quick responses to your performance feedback

Advantages of a performance rating scale

Based on the use case above, here are a few advantages of using a performance rating scale:

  • Quantitative performance analysis which is easy to comprehend
  • Clear alignment of performance and compensation, leading to reinforcement of high performance
  • Ability to gauge a shared understanding of performance expectations and achievements
  • Ability to clearly identify areas of improvement and strengths

When not to use a performance rating scale

Despite the diverse use cases above, a performance rating scale doesn’t have universal applicability. In fact, using a rating scale in situations it doesn’t fit may lead to a poor performance review for employees. Therefore, you should refrain from using a performance rating scale when:

  • The job roles and responsibilities between employees are not consistent and cannot be compared
  • The role is relatively new and the expectations from performance are ambiguous
  • You want to personally evaluate the performance of each employee
  • You need a detailed report on the developmental areas and remedial actions for an employee
  • You want to offer constructive feedback on the way forward for performance improvement

Disadvantages of a performance rating scale

Here are a few disadvantages of using a performance rating scale:

  • The objective responses might be interpreted differently by different raters based on inherent biases (keep reading to learn more about these biases and how to avoid them)
  • Managers may over/under rate an employee based on few perceptions
  • Performance ratings might label a person without enough context, leading to low motivation and other challenges
  • Focus shifts from development in performance to rationale behind the rating
  • Getting a good rating becomes important over performing well

How to select a performance rating scale 

Now that you have an idea when to use a performance rating scale and the various advantages and disadvantages, you need to move to the next phase of understanding how you should select the right performance rating scale. 

Depending on the nature of responses to the scope and intent, there are several types of performance rating scales that you can choose from. In this section, we will help you understand the different types that you can explore and best practices to make the right choice. 

Types of performance rating scales

Focusing solely on performance, we will discuss the top 4 types for rating scales that you can use for different situations. 

1. The Point Scale

The point scale is one of the most commonly used employee rating scales used by organizations. It involves rating employee performance on a pre-decided scale across a spectrum of responses. It can range from a 3-point scale to a 10-point scale depending on the scope and the need

For a long time, the 5-point scale was the one that most organizations relied upon. While the 3-point scale gave only a macro level view, the 10-point performance rating scale became too comprehensive. Thus, the 5-point scale maintained a balance of being detailed but not overwhelming, where identifying differences between the points was difficult. 

The points on your point scale can be numbers or numerals with each number having a corresponding meaning. Alternatively, it could be words like Average, Above Average, Exceptional, etc. to indicate performance levels. 

In the most recent times, there has been a rise of the 4-point scale which focuses on eliminating the neutral or the middle option which is often seen as an easy way out that requires no further explanation. 

4-point scale example

4 point rating scale

2. The Likert Scale

Another common performance rating scale that many organizations use is the Likert scale. Like the point scale, it generally has 5 parameters on the scale. However, the difference lies in the value of the parameters. They are always written and the same for all questions. 

The five options on the Likert scale include

Strongly Disagree-Disagree-Neither Agree Nor Disagree-Agree-Strongly Agree

While the normal range is five options, it can range from 3 to 7 depending on the context and performance parameters. 

The Likert scale can be used as a matrix with statements on one side and the scale options on the other and can run like a list for performance review. An effective Likert rating scale generally has an equal number of positive and negative outcomes with a neutral option in between. 

Likert scale example

likert scale for performance review

3. A scale to improve above average spread

This is a reinvention of the point scale which changes the balance of the positive versus the negative options. Generally, a point scale has an equal number of options that indicate that performance needs improvement and for a job well done. However, many organizations claim that a limited number of options on the positive side make it difficult for them to distinguish between good performers and top performers. 

In most cases, if there are 5 options, with one neutral in the center, there are only two options indicating good performance. Generally, these two options are unable to capture the performance rating for those 1-2% employees who set new expectations and a bar for performance. Invariably, their exceptional performance fails to get noticed and rewarded and is equated with the good performance of other employees.

To bridge this gap, many organizations are using a performance rating scale which increases the above average performance spread. The scale for below average performance is limited to one, which can be substantiated with qualitative feedback. On the other hand, the scale focuses on more above average performance options.

Example

how to rate beyond average performance

4. The Frequency Scale for Interpersonal Skills

Finally, when it comes to a performance rating scale for interpersonal skills, the frequency scale is most sought after. Like most scales, it consists of a statement, followed by a few options. However, the nature and scope of the statement and options is what makes a difference. 

On the statement front, instead of directly asking whether an employee manifests a particular skill or quality, it focuses on a behavior that comes as a result of personalizing that skill. For instance, instead of inquiring if the person has good communication skills, the focus should be on behavioral aspects like display of active listening, ability to articulate thoughts, confidence of presenting in front of a group, etc. 

The options, on the other hand, seek to understand how frequently that behavior has been observed. The idea is to gauge whether the employee has been consistently displaying the desired behaviors or is there a particular pattern to it or if it has just been observed as an off chance. 

Frequency scale example

The employee starts and ends meetings on time and runs them with a concrete agenda

  • Not at all
  • Seldom (20% of the times)
  • Sometimes (40% of the times)
  • Most of the times (70% of the times)
  • Always (90-100% of the times)

This question can help gauge the time management, organization and planning skills for an employee, without directly asking the question. 

When to use numbers vs words performance rating scale?

As you have seen above, your performance rating scale can have options in the form of words or numbers. However, choosing which way to go can have an impact on the overall efficacy of the performance review process. It is best to use a rating scale with words over numbers because it is:

  • More explanatory as numbers can have different meanings for different raters
  • More personal as being associated with a number label can be a little dehumanizing
  • Better accepted as numbers are generally absolute and can sound harsh

However, you can still use the number rating scales to review performance in situations where you need an absolute rating or when there is a clear and uniform understanding of what each number represents.  

How to choose the best performance rating scale? 

Working with multiple growing organizations over the years, we have been able to identify a few tips and tricks that can help you select the right employee rating scale for your next performance review. 

1. Go for a 4 or a 5-point scale

As a growing organization, choosing a 4 or 5-point performance rating scale makes sense because, it: 

  • Is neither too abstract nor too cumbersome and detail oriented
  • Will ensure that while your managers have enough options to choose from to rate employee performance, they don’t get lost in the sea of options 
  • Can help eliminate the risk of managers going safe with the neutral middle option, by removing the same and going for a 4-point scale with only positive and negative options

2. Choose description over number

To augment the efficacy of your performance review rating scale, choose one which provides options in words or a description over numbers to:

  • Ensure that your managers are able to give constructive feedback without an absolute label
  • Prevent employees from being demotivated or left with a feeling of condemnation in case they receive rating in the low half of the spectrum
  • Prevent any confusion of what the numbers means, which may lead to a skewed analysis

3. Be aware of the biases

Almost all performance rating scales are vulnerable to biases both in their scope and nature as well as for the rater themselves. Thus, when you pick a rating scale, you need to be aware about the potential biases and have remedial actions in place to ensure that they don’t give you an unauthentic picture of the overall performance. We will talk about some of the common pitfalls and biases in the next section for greater clarity. 

4. Create clear differences

When you choose a performance rating scale, you need to ensure that the difference in options is very clear and not ambiguous for the raters to figure out on their own. There are several aspects to it:

  • First, having one option as sometimes and the other as seldom can be difficult to differentiate between
  • Second, ensure that two options are not poles apart, leaving room for several performance categories in between. For instance, you can’t have one option that never meets expectations and the other as often meets expectations. There needs to be a balanced spectrum

5. Use the right words

Next, it is very important to use the right words in the statements and options that you choose. When it comes to the options, make sure there is a clear index of what each option means, especially if it is numeric. This index must be shared with all the stakeholder, the raters, those analyzing the results as well as the employees

Similarly, the questions should be very specific on one performance aspect. For instance, if you combine performance on communication and punctuality, it might lead to a lot of confusion. An employee might have great communication skills, but may not be punctual and thus, addressing them in the same question will be difficult. Furthermore, even aspects within the same performance parameter like active listening and ability to present in a large group can be separate.  

Common biases in a performance rating scale

Now, let’s look at some of the common biases a performance rating scale might be vulnerable to that you need to be aware of and try to avoid to the maximum extent possible:

1. Definition bias

As discussed above as well, the definition for options can be significantly different even when they are descriptive. This is so because all of us have different notions for each term. For instance, a manager might award an exceptional rating to some of his/her employees because they have been performing consistently well and that’s how they define exceptional. On the other hand, the bar for perfectionism might be too high for another, leading to a lower incidence of being awarded exceptional. Similarly, in instances where the options talk about meets or exceeds expectations, bias on what the expectations are can set in.

How to prevent this: The easiest way to prevent the definition bias is to have very clear definitions for all options which are communicated time and again to all. 

2. Leniency bias

The leniency bias occurs when the rater tends to give a more lenient or positive rating to an employee than what the performance actually begets. This can be seen when the rating is more on the positive side. Mostly the reason is that managers don’t want to demotivate their employees with a lower rating and, thus, end up giving a higher rating, which may not be a true reflection of the performance.

How to prevent this: Leverage a performance rating scale which increases the above average spread and talks about different aspects like top performers, outstanding, etc. This will ensure that decent performance is ranged at above average while exceptional ones have a separate rating. 

3. Numeric bias

Numbers can have different meanings for different raters in a rating scale. While each number can have a different meaning, the entire spectrum can be also looked at from two lenses. For instance, on a scale of 1-10, both 1 and 10 can be perceived as the top or the bottom. 

How to prevent this: Similar to the definition bias, the numeric bias for a performance rating scale can be prevented by using a clear index which clearly illustrates how the spectrum works and a definition against each number. 

4. Centrality bias

This is a very common bias when it comes to using a performance rating scale. Here, the rater tends to select the neutral or the central option to avoid any conflict or external explanation. More often than not, poor performance needs to be substantiated with improvement actions while high performance needs to be supplemented with evidence and rewards. To avoid any such actions, some raters take the easy way out, which doesn’t help differentiating between high and low performers.

How to prevent this: The easiest way to prevent the centrality bias is to remove the center or the neutral option. As shared above, you can simply go for a 4-point scale which doesn’t have a neutral option and thus, the rater has to distinguish between high and low performers. 

If you are dealing with consistent poor performance issues within your team, this article on Performance Improvement Plan might help.

Performance rating scale questions 

Invariably, you will have a statement or a question which will become the basis of the ratings for your managers. This final section will focus on the different nuances around performance rating scale questions that you must be aware of. 

How to choose right rating scale questions

Let’s start with a basic understanding of how to choose the questions for your performance review rating scale which can help you yield the best responses. To make the right choice, you must ensure that your questions are:

  • Relevant for a group of employees. This suggests that your questions should have a meaningful spread and should be able to capture diverse performance levels
  • Valid for the critical parameters for your organization. Put simply, your questions should seek answers for factors that define success for your organization. Simply getting ratings on any parameters will yield no impact
  • Crisp and to the point. Don’t use jargon or very fancy language. Keep the questions simple and easy to understand
  • Concrete and not ambiguous. The meaning of your questions should not be left for interpretation by the rater, they should be very specific
  • Supported by the right kind of options or responses. For instance, if your question/ statement is The employee takes interest in team building exercises and your options are likely, not likely, etc. it may not make a lot of sense. However, options like never, sometimes, often, always, etc. make sense 

Read 150+ performance review phrases to find a diverse set of questions and statements for your rating scale across 17 employee qualities

Common questions for different types of performance rating scales

Before we conclude, here are some examples of common questions you can use for different types of performance rating scales. These questions can help you understand which scale is most appropriate for you depending on the situation. 

Point scale

  1. How well is the employee able to communicate his ideas?
  2. How often does the employee own up to her mistakes?
  3. How well does the employee make an effort to go out of his way to help others?

Likert scale

  1. The employee takes initiative without being asked to
  2. The employee pays attention to detail
  3. The employee delivers all the work before deadlines

Frequency scale

  1. The employee respects the opinion of others
  2. The employee is able to communicate his ideas clearly in front of others
  3. The employee understands the project needs effectively

Wrapping Up

While there are different views on whether or not a performance rating scale is the best tool to measure employee performance, there is no doubt about the merits it brings along. Therefore, it is critical for organizations to leverage this potential. Here’s a quick revision of everything you need to know about performance rating scales:

  • You should use rating scales to get concrete data points for quantitatively driven performances or when you wish to compare performance levels
  • Rating scales are easy to administer and quick to get results for
  • You may want to stay away from rating scales when you want to measure progress for roles which are different or are relatively new, with no benchmarks
  • You must be cognizant of the rater biases and contexts while interpreting rating scales
  • You must understand the different rating scales before choosing the right one based on the number and nature of responses for your needs
  • When choosing a scale, aim for 4-5 point scale, which focuses more on numbers than description, be cautious about the words you use and have clear differences between different options
  • Finally, make sure all your questions are relevant, valid, crisp, clear and supported by the right options

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding about performance rating scales, you should get started with applying the same to gauge performance levels in your organization. Follow the best practices and be aware of the pitfalls to make a dent in organizational success. 

Suggested Reading

150+ performance review phrases to use in your next employee review

100+ most useful self appraisal comments 

How to address poor employee performance at work

Manager Essentials
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How Can Managers Use Employee Coaching to Unlock Performance

“Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn, rather than teaching them.” - John Whitmore 

Employee coaching is the secret tool that high performing organizations use to develop and nurture talent they already have. It supports continuous  performance management by not only addressing challenges of today, but also preparing the employees to tackle what comes their way in the future. 

In this article we will discuss:

  • How to provide coaching to employees at different levels of performance
  • 16 tips for managers to use coaching to improve performance
  • Top skills for managers to become better coaches

Importance of employee coaching

Before we discuss further about how coaching can be implemented to achieve performance improvement and how managers can support the same, let’s quickly look at a few reasons that illustrate the importance of employee coaching:

importance of employee coaching

On a closer look, you will see that employee coaching not only enhances employee experience leading to greater engagement and retention, but also has direct business impact with better performance, productivity and revenue. 

Identify coaching needs for different levels of employee performance

Before we start with specific employee coaching tips, you need to understand that the same coaching approach may not work for performers across different levels in the organization. There are two sides to this understanding:

  • First, coaching will be different for different vertical levels based on tenure and experience within an organization. The same employee coaching framework will not work for a fresher and for someone with 30+ years of work experience. 
  • Second, coaching for high performers will be different from that for a sub-optimal performer. You can either get this understanding by looking for performance trends manually or use a tool. For example, the Performance Snapshot feature of SuperBeings helps managers with a 9 grid matrix to identify employees at different performance levels based on their performance history over time and their future potential. 

Once you have figured out different groups of performers, use this list of tips to support employee coaching at different performance levels:

1. The newbie

  • Avoid micromanaging
  • Give direction to ensure a culture fit
  • Offer constructive feedback

2. The ones who have just started performing 

  • Encourage desired behavior
  • Appreciate a job well done
  • Help understand the next level of responsibility

3. The ones performing well

  • Help create a career trajectory
  • Encourage greater responsibility
  • Appreciate efforts and recognize initiative

4. The masters

  • Focus on niche coaching
  • Help navigate leadership journey
  • Create a ripple effect by encouraging second generation coaching

5. The high performers

  • Help chart out their high potential professional journey
  • Encourage them to anticipate potential challenges and prepare them to deal with them
  • Focus on building their leadership skills
  • Present them with new challenges to innovate and use creativity
  • Don’t let them off the hook because of halo effect
  • Understand and expand their core motivation

5. The low performers

  • Understand key challenges
  • Promote avenues for continuous learning
  • Involve them in creating a performance improvement plan
  • Encourage them to identify right opportunities for growth
  • Provide constructive feedback
  • Reward incremental performance improvement 
  • Read how to deal with poor performers to learn more specific tips for coaching the low performers

16 tips for managers to use employee coaching for performance improvement

When it comes to improving performance, employee coaching can help in many ways. Here are some actionable tips for you to implement easily.

  1. Ask questions to enable employees to come to solutions on their own, guide the way instead of driving them to the finish line.
  2. Have some questions ready in advance as an ice breaker to avoid any awkward silence
  3. Refrain from jumping to solutions if the employee is taking a little time to think, offer a safe space for brainstorming
  4. Promote open ended questions versus those with binary responses to encourage conversation
  5. Make your phrasing empowering, instead of using terms like “you should”, say “how would you”
  6. Try to make each conversation growth focused, instead of spending too much time on reflecting what has happened. Focus on the future
  7. Focus on professional development, even beyond organizational goals
  8. Show faith in the employee you are coaching and encourage them to believe in themselves
  9. Focus on identifying performance problems for the employee and ensure they understand the same
  10. Collectively with the employee, try to understand the underlying factors that can promote better performance outcomes
  11. Understand common barriers to performance and categorize them as internal (specific to the employee) or external (like organizational support)
  12. Reflect on your conversations to analyze when you are asking questions and when providing solutions
  13. Create an action plan for long term performance goals and areas of improvement
  14. Be consistent in following up the progress and address challenges that might come along the way
  15. Offer constructive feedback at every step
  16. Be open to feedback from the employees on what can be better

5 Must Have Coaching Skills for Managers

To undertake the practices mentioned above, managers need to have a certain set of skills that can enable them to unlock performance for their employees. Following is a list of top skills to hone and some best practices to master the same.

Skill #1: Inquisitiveness

For employee coaching, managers need to move away from providing solutions and towards asking the right questions. The questions should be powerful enough to help the employees think in a growth oriented direction.

How to become inquisitive?

  • Ask meaningful questions
  • Focus on open ended questions 
  • Keep your questions with a positive tone — don’t start a question with “don’t you think” or the like phrases
  • Have follow up questions from within the conversation

Skill #2: Active listening

While coaching is about providing guidance, it seeks to ensure that guidance and support is offered to the situation of the employee. Hence, active listening is an important skill for managers if they want to become better coaches.

Active listening involves hearing, understanding, reflecting on and responding to what the employee has to say. 

How to become an active listener?

  • Provide your undivided attention
  • Use your facial gestures and body language to indicate you are listening
  • Paraphrase and summarize to ensure your listening and understanding was accurate
  • Don’t interrupt to force your point of view
  • Don’t jump to conclusions

Skill #3: Growth mindset

Managers who seek to excel in employee coaching need to have a growth mindset with a commitment and belief for the development and success of their employees. 

How to adopt a growth mindset?

  • Align organizational priorities with growth opportunities for the employees
  • Encourage employees to see challenges as opportunities
  • Help them in mastering the art of reflection and learning 
  • Empower team members to come up with alternative solutions to the same problems
  • Facilitate autonomy and flexibility to innovate and experiment

Skill $4: Empathy

As a coach, managers will be exposed to many sensitivities of an employee that might be holding them back. In such a situation, empathy as a skill is extremely important to create a high level of comfort and confidence.

How to become empathetic?

  • Check your unconscious biases
  • Be open to new perspectives and experiences
  • Connect with your employees on a human and emotional level instead of just transactional
  • Be genuinely interested in the employee’s growth

Skill #5: Consistency 

Finally, for managers to become a highly effective coach, the skill of consistency needs to be imbibed. The intent is to ensure that your efforts are not limited to a one off instance, rather are sustainable and scalable over time. 

How to become consistent?

  • Create an action plan with a follow up schedule
  • Calendarize your 1:1 meetings with employees you are coaching
  • Constantly motivate the employees on their performance
  • Don’t be too pushy or over burdening

Wrapping Up

Drawing this article to a close, it is quite clear that employee coaching has incredible potential to skyrocket performance for any organization. However, a few things need to be kept in mind.

  • Clearly distinguish between coaching and other activities like managing and feedback
  • Have different coaching frameworks and approaches for different levels of performance
  • Coaching works in different ways for high and low performing employees
  • Managers need to hone specific skills to facilitate effective employee coaching
  • Focus on the above mentioned best practices is important to leverage coaching for improving performance

If you are interested in checking out more useful resources on managing employee performance, do check this out

Performance
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How to Use Start Stop Continue Feedback for High Performance

Feedback is an integral part of creating a high performance culture. Research shows that 60% of employees reported wanting feedback on a daily or weekly basis. However, in addition to the frequency of the feedback, the content of the same is also very important. 

That’s where a Start Stop Continue feedback becomes important. Instead of simply stating how the performance has been, start stop continue feedback enables managers to highlight the desirable actions and behaviors for employees and simultaneously shed light on what needs to be changed. In this article, we will discuss:

  • The meaning and importance of start stop and continue feedback 
  • When to use this form of feedback 
  • Start stop continue feedback best practices
  • 15 examples of start stop and continue feedback 

What is start stop continue feedback?

Start stop continue feedback is a highly intuitive and easy to implement feedback framework for growing organizations. It can be used for and by anyone including teams and individuals for feedback by managers and peers as well as for self reflection. Essentially, the start stop and continue feedback has three aspects or components, including:

  • Start: Focuses on actions or behaviors that an employee should commence for high levels of performance, generally around the areas of improvement
  • Stop: Focuses on actions or behaviors that should be eliminated or significantly reduced because of their negative impact on the performance, mostly the weaknesses
  • Continue: Focuses on actions or behaviors that must keep going based on their positive impact on the performance, often referring to the strengths

Thus, the start stop continue feedback enables employees to receive feedback on all aspects which is constructive, appreciative and sets a ground for improvement. 

Importance of start stop continue feedback

Now that you understand what this framework means, let’s quickly look at why you should use it for your organization:

1. Easy to implement

The start stop continue feedback is very easy to implement and does not require any specific training or upskilling. You can get started with a simple session introducing the framework. Furthermore, it can be implemented across the organization irrespective of the functional diversity, making it an all encompassing framework.

2. Easy to interpret

When you receive the start stop and continue feedback results, they are quite easy to interpret and put to action. Chances are seldom that you will have to read between the lines or require high level analysis, making it ideal for growing organizations with limited resources to easily improve employee performance.

3. Action focused

The start stop continue feedback delivers clear actions that an employee needs to take to facilitate high levels of performance, preventing it from being yet another form of feedback which is generic.

4. Encourages improvement and new ideas

Finally, the framework enables everyone to put on an analytical hat while providing feedback and come up with new and fresh ideas for better performance. 

When to use start stop continue feedback?

While the start stop and continue feedback framework has widespread relevance and adaptability, its impact increases in some specific situations, including:

  • When you have a clear understanding of the opportunities and challenges
  • When you want to cover all aspects of feedback (appreciation, areas of improvement and constructive criticism) together 
  • When you want to deliver action oriented feedback, especially during OKR or goal progress review or while writing a performance improvement plan
  • When you want to build a personal development plan

How to ask for start stop continue feedback from your manager?

As opposed to many other feedback frameworks, the start stop continue feedback can be sought by employees from managers and others to reach their goals in an effective manner. Here are a tips questions you can leverage while asking for start stop and continue feedback:

  • Ask specific questions in areas which you consider integral for your growth
  • Ensure that there are questions for all the three components to get a holistic picture
  • Try to gauge different aspects in terms of actions, behaviors and support for each component
  • Ascertain that answers to the questions are able to help you create a development plan with clear next steps
  • Try to get answers from 2-3 managers/leaders/peers for a diverse understanding
  • Focus on self reflection for the questions as well (Identify specific areas of improvements with the self assessment prompts)

How to give start stop continue feedback as a manager?

When it comes to giving start stop continue feedback, it is important to follow some best practices to maximize its effectiveness. At times, even when the intention is correct, managers might deliver the start stop and continue feedback in a manner that does not yield the intended impact. Use the following tips to bridge the gap from intention to impact.

1. Recommend specific actions 

As a practice, start stop continue feedback seeks to be action oriented. However, you have to make sure that the actions are specific and backed with supporting resources/ guidance on how to achieve them. 

For instance, if an employee doesn’t collaborate effectively, instead of using ‘Be more collaborative or be a better team player’ as a start action, you can use:

‘You should listen to what your team members have to say more often and build a relationship with them to facilitate meaningful synergies. I would recommend connecting with them over tea/coffee breaks, start asking for help instead of doing everything on your own and even lend a helping hand once in a while.’

2. Provide context and reasoning

If you simply mention an action that an employee should start, stop or continue doing, it might not have a large scale impact. However, if you back it up with examples and evidence, you are more likely to influence their behavior. 

For instance, if you tell an employee to continue upskilling himself/herself in digital marketing, it might be a good idea to illustrate why you are saying so with an example of how his/her skills have improved and the impact it has created for the organization as well as for the employee professionally. 

3. Maintain a balance

The start stop continue feedback framework seeks to motivate employees to take necessary action and improve their performance. However, if your feedback is skewed more towards start and stop actions, the employee is likely to get demotivated, considering himself/herself as a low performer. On the flip side, if your list of continue doing far exceeds the other two, it might set unrealistic expectations in the employee about his/her level of performance, potential appraisals and might lead to overconfidence. 

4. Be objective

Finally, when you give start stop continue feedback, you need to make sure you are objectively focused on the performance around a particular goal/ area in mind. If you are talking about the interpersonal skills of an individual and you mention continuing high levels of technical efficiency, it will dilute the whole purpose. Stick to the main theme and provide feedback for the same, without being deflected around other aspects of the employee. 

Top start stop continue feedback examples

As mentioned above, the start stop and continue feedback can be used for teams as well as individuals. Here are a few examples for each of the two segment groups that you can consider as a starting point. 

Pro tip: Start with a specific goal in mind for which you want to create the start stop continue feedback strategy

I) Start stop and continue feedback examples for teams

From a team perspective, here are the top 5 examples:

Example 1: Facilitate better team understanding

  • What to start: Regular team meetings with high levels of attendance
  • What to stop: Working in silos without informing the other person what’s going on
  • What to continue: Team activities, lunches and get togethers

Example 2: Ensure better customer service

  • What to start: Clear division of client responsibility and Robust customer service process with specific milestones
  • What to stop: Delay in complaint resolution
  • What to continue: Proactive customer service with regular check-ins

Example 3: Build an empathetic culture

  • What to start: Regular sensitization activities on inclusion, empathy, compassion
  • What to stop: Acceptance of casual offensive comments
  • What to continue: Regular communication of empathy as a core company value

Example 4: Meet monthly targets

  • What to start: Setting clear OKRs with distribution of responsibility
  • What to stop: Putting accountability on only one person
  • What to continue: Effective sales meetings leading to high levels of conversions and Marketing efforts resulting in brand recall

Example 5: Create an attractive place to work

  • What to start: Focus on health and wellness by offering resources, support, insurances, time off
  • What to stop: Unnecessary overtime and Skewed work-life balance
  • What to continue: Regular team outings and Benefits and perks

Start stop and continue feedback examples for individuals

Here are the top examples you can use to set start stop and continue feedback specifically for individual employees based on their career trajectory and goals:

Example 1: Improve communication skills

  • What to start: Take up a course on storytelling to improve the way you pitch and Prepare a script and practice it well before presenting
  • What to stop: Using colloquial terms and slangs
  • What to continue: Use body language and gestures to communicate

Example 2: Build technical knowledge

  • What to start: Pick up courses on AI/ML and data science
  • What to stop: Focus only on tech stack you are working in
  • What to continue: Participation in hackathons and programming workshops

Example 3: Hone leadership qualities

  • What to start: Delegating work to others based on their strengths and interests
  • What to stop: Blaming everyone else for poor performance
  • What to continue: High levels of clear communication and team understanding

Example 4: Focus on health and wellness

  • What to start: 30 minutes of walk every day 
  • What to stop: Ordering food in every day
  • What to continue: 30 minutes of meditation and yoga

Example 5: Improve quality of work

  • What to start: Proof reading of work at least 3 times before delivery
  • What to stop: Multitasking between several projects at once rather than prioritizing
  • What to continue: Maintenance of a checklist with all timelines

Example 6: Take more initiative

  • What to start: Identify new areas where you can add value 
  • What to stop: Staying away from new projects and responsibilities
  • What to continue: Focus on picking up new skills and competencies

Example 7: Focus on interpersonal skills

  • What to start: Practice empathy by listening to others 
  • What to stop: Being disrespectful, even if unconsciously
  • What to continue: Clear communication

Example 8: Improve attendance record

  • What to start: Show up for meetings on time
  • What to stop: Taking time off without prior notice
  • What to continue: Adhering to timelines and being present at key discussions

Example 9: Facilitate better problem solving

  • What to start: Come up with solutions for problems and not just take problems to the leadership
  • What to stop: Hesitance to think outside the box
  • What to continue: Comprehensive understanding of the problem

Example 10: Be agile and adaptable

  • What to start: New courses and skills relevant for your functional domain
  • What to stop: Focus on long processes and cycles
  • What to continue: Willingness to change deadlines to adapt to changing priorities

Start stop continue feedback template

As we come to the end of our article, here is a quick template for you to help you get started with the right questions that you can add to your start stop and continue feedback strategy to ensure that all stakeholders get a fair understanding of what is expected of them.

Questions for start feedback

  • What are a few new skills that Mr.A can pick up?
  • As a part of Mr.B’s goal X, what additional responsibilities do you think he should take?
  • What are some competencies that will help Ms.P take the next career leap?
  • Ms.R sees herself as a Y in the next six months, how do you think she can reach there?

Questions for stop feedback

  • What do you think are some factors limiting Mr.L’s growth?
  • Ms.W is planning to take on these additional responsibilities, do you think she should refrain from any?
  • What is the one thing that if Mr.I stopped doing will help the team perform better?
  • Ms.O sees herself as a Y in the next six months, what do you think she should stop doing to reach there?

Questions for continue feedback

  • What do you think are Mr.T’s key strengths?
  • What do you think are some qualities and skills others can learn from Mr.K?
  • What are some responsibilities Ms.U shouldn’t leave for picking up others?
  • What do you think is Ms.D’s biggest contribution to the team?

While start stop continue feedback is the simplest way to provide actionable feedback, you need to make sure that the feedback you are giving is based on facts and not just mere opinions. Before you start your feedback session, analyze performance trends of the employee (it is even better to have it supplemented with behavioral data) as well as gather 360 degree feedback on the employee to have a qualitative understanding of the overall employee performance.

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