Employee assessment and performance reviews have been under fire for some time. Studies show that not only do people actively dislike performance reviews, they dread them, allowing them to interrupt real productivity and value delivery.

At the same time, most experts agree the real problem isn’t performance reviews or employee assessment, it’s organizations using outdated assessment practices that fail to take the individual, goals or other factors into account.

Performance reviews can add a lot of value for organizations that want to understand their employees, their actual productivity, and how they are reaching goals. These 5 tips will help you make those changes to improve your assessment practices.

Set Goals and Measure Performance Towards those Goals

Yearly performance assessments have a long history in top-down organizations, where they’re used to reduce low performers, highlight candidates for promotion, and highlight those who are doing enough. This assessment practice results in stress, poor ratings, and a mandated percentage of employees at the top or bottom of a scale.

Setting goals and measuring performance against those goals allows you to create a more dynamic performance scale. For example, you can measure performance as a whole, measure performance in the light of individual, team, or organizational goals, and better understand what people are doing and why. This may mean redefining what you measure as part of performance, simply because flat output may not be a good measure of what an individual is actually doing.

Coach and Develop Employees at Every Level of Performance

Receiving negative feedback is almost never helpful in and of itself. However, if you combine feedback with coaching, mentoring, and development, it gives individuals an opportunity to improve. If someone performs poorly during assessment, coaching them to improve that performance would not only save you the cost of letting an employee go and recruiting a new one, it would increase loyalty from that employee.

Achieving coaching and development means creating a culture of coaching across your management and leadership teams. It also means investing in employees as a whole, so that when you see individuals struggling with something, you can introduce courses, classes, or mentoring from a peer or manager to solve the problem.

Create a Culture of Feedback

People often react badly to, are stressed by, or don’t know what to do with feedback because they aren’t accustomed to it. Creating a culture of feedback, rather than integrating it once per year, is an easy way to make this shift.

Integrating positive and negative feedback into daily and weekly meetings, asking leaders and managers to coach individuals on problem areas, and making time to actively invest in performance throughout the year will make a difference.

For example, if your teams are accustomed to receiving feedback after every project, actively discuss what went wrong and what could have been improved, share time management strategies, and work together to boost performance they won’t be stressed about the same thing happening on a company-wide scale.

Validate Assessment Practices and Results

No assessment practice should ever be run without some validation. This means checking your results against results without those practices, testing other practices, and checking to ensure that the data you are measuring impacts your organization in the way you think it does.

Validating assessment practices may require bringing in external help to do so and it may require using external benchmarks or data.

Keep Employees Involved

No matter how employee-friendly your assessment practices, it’s crucial to keep employees involved and in the loop. If you’re measuring something, they should know about it and why. Understanding what the organization sees as important is crucial to allowing teams to make good time-management decisions and judgement calls, will build trust inside the team, and will prevent issues where teams or individuals are underperforming because they didn’t understand their role. It also reduces fear and therefore attrition, because your employees know what you’re doing and trust you with that.

Improving employee assessment practices is about more than improving results, it’s about improving how you collect data, how and why it’s measured, and what you do with it.

Legacy assessment practices often collect data in relative secret, assign 20% of employees to a top tier and 20% to a bottom tier, and are forced to include or leave out some of those employees. Individuals who are failing in legacy systems rarely receive extra help.

Changing this into a modern assessment system that integrates feedback as an ongoing process, measures against existing goals, and works to coach and develop individuals at every level will improve your assessment practices.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick