26 November 2021

Moving from appraisals to continuous performance management requires major cultural shift, says expert

Overhauling performance management is a task for the whole organisation, not just HR alone, says Head Light’s Ian Lee-Emery in a recent Ciphr webinar


Rachel Wakefield

Rachel Wakefield

Rachel Wakefield was a copywriting specialist for Ciphr in 2018-2019.


Leadership and management Performance Strategy culture and values


Overhauling performance management is a task for the whole organisation, not just HR alone, says Head Light’s Ian Lee-Emery in a recent Ciphr webinar

Moving from annual appraisals to continuous performance management requires a fundamental rethink of organisational attitudes, said Ian Lee-Emery, CEO and founder of Head Light – a talent management software company and Ciphr Connect partner – in a recent Ciphr webinar.

Making the case for the need to move to continuous performance management, Lee-Emery cited a 2016 CEB report found that 95% of managers are dissatisfied with their performance management systems, while 59% of employees believe reviews are a waste of time. The main problem with annual appraisals is that they do not provide a robust, engaging or accurate picture for management or employees, he said.

“Are we developing these reviews in line with an employee’s performance and potential?” he asked “Alternatively, is it simply a calibration exercise to provide a report which is never fully understood by anyone?”

Lee-Emery advocated moving away from auditing procedures and towards a developmental attitude to managing people by using continuous performance assessment. He said: “It’s a brave decision to make, but it shifts everything for almost everyone. Because now we’re talking solely about development and how it helps to improve performance.”

It involves a twist to the traditional way of thinking, he added. HR must not start from a policy exercise but a willingness to understand the different behaviours of managers towards their team and how they are motivated to change their approach to conducting appraisals. It also needs trust that feedback is open and reassurance that there won’t be any negative repercussions.

HR also needs to stop thinking the onus is on them to create a new change in procedure towards performance reviews. Lee-Emery highlighted the risks of building new policies and procedures in isolation: “HR should not update current policies because things like values, culture, and innovation suffer when we put in too many rules.”

Instead, Lee-Emery said HR needs to inspire confidence with the change in the process. Get managers and peers involved and become the facilitator of the team’s ideas on how they would like to conduct reviews in the future, he urged. “Do the difficult thing, walk into the room with a blank sheet of paper and write the first word. Say: ‘this is what performance management is going to be in our organisation’. This open conversation makes the review process genuine and authentic, and links it to the leadership values and the workforce’s needs.” Involving people throughout the organisation in the creation of the new performance management process was crucial, he added.

Lee-Emery said that technology – such as Head Light’s performance and talent management software, and succession planning solutions – makes recording the results of continuous performance management more manageable because notes related to “little and often” performance conversations can be updated in real time, from mobile devices. “We simply provide the tools to support the process towards driving better coaching conversations and move away from the annual HR ‘paper chase’.”

For some practical advice on getting started with continuous performance management, watch the on-demand webinar below.

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