Best Practices in HR

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David Whitmarsh
  December 1, 2023

Going From Dread To Hope In Your Upcoming Performance Review Cycle

As the end of the year approaches, many companies brace themselves for the annual performance review cycle. For employees and managers alike, this period often conjures feelings of dread. The anticipation of judgment, the fear of underperforming, and the general stress associated with these reviews can overshadow their intended purpose – growth and improvement. If you’re among those who view the performance review cycle with trepidation, it might feel like it’s too late to make any significant changes for the better. However, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Understanding the Dread

Before diving into solutions, it’s crucial to understand why performance reviews often elicit a sense of dread. Traditionally, these reviews focus on evaluating past performance, which can feel like a final verdict on a year’s worth of work. They often highlight areas of weakness or failure, which can be demoralizing. Additionally, the process can seem rigid and disconnected from daily work experiences, making feedback feel less relevant or actionable.

The Glimmer of Hope: A/B Testing in Performance Reviews

In various business sectors, A/B testing has become a popular method to compare two versions of a strategy to see which performs better. Interestingly, this concept can be applied to performance reviews. The idea is simple: take a small team within the organization, perhaps just 5-10 individuals, and pilot a different approach to performance reviews alongside the existing process. This small-scale experiment could pave the way for significant improvements in the way your company conducts these evaluations.

Choosing the Pilot Team

The first step in this process is selecting the right team for the pilot. It should be a diverse group representing different roles, levels of experience, and perspectives. This diversity ensures that the findings from the pilot are comprehensive and applicable across the organization. It might be tempting to find a team that is enthusiastic about change, but remember that a successful solution will need to be rolled out to the entire organization, not just those that are excited for something new.

Selecting the Different Approach

The different approach to performance reviews should be more of a radical departure from the existing approach, as opposed to an incremental improvement. This is your chance to try something new and quite different! The cost is low, and there is essentially no risk, so don’t play it safe. The more you can contrast with your existing approach, the better you will be able to evaluate what type of solution will ultimately be best for your organization.

Think too about being more collaborative, forward-looking, and growth-oriented. Look for ways to focus on skill and career development. The emphasis should be on continuous improvement and support, rather than judgment.

Running the Dual Process

During the pilot, the selected team will participate in both the traditional and the new performance review processes. This dual participation is crucial as it allows for a direct comparison between the two methods. It’s important that the team understands the purpose of the pilot and is encouraged to provide honest feedback about their experiences.

Evaluating the Results

After the review cycle, gather data and feedback from the pilot team. This should include both qualitative feedback from participants and quantitative data if available. Compare the experiences, satisfaction levels, and outcomes from both the traditional and new methods. The goal is to identify which aspects of each approach were most effective in promoting growth, satisfaction, and performance.

Learning and Iterating

The findings from this pilot should not be the end, but rather the beginning of a continuous process of improvement. If the new approach shows promise, consider expanding the pilot to more teams or integrating successful elements into the existing review process. If the results are mixed, use the feedback to refine the approach and try another pilot. The key is to remain agile and open to learning and adapting.

The Bigger Picture: Culture Change

Beyond the mechanics of performance reviews, this pilot can be the catalyst for a broader cultural shift within the organization. It can move the focus from purely evaluative to developmental, creating an environment where continuous learning and growth are valued and supported. This cultural shift can have far-reaching impacts on employee engagement, retention, and overall organizational performance.


The dread associated with performance reviews doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in your organization. By adopting a mindset of experimentation and continuous improvement, you can transform these reviews into a process that employees not only appreciate but also find motivating and helpful. The small-scale pilot proposed here is just the beginning. With a successful pilot, your organization can gradually move towards a more effective, growth-oriented approach to performance reviews, turning dread into hope and opportunity.

Duane Edwards

Cofounder & Head of Product Development & Customer Engagement, Teamatics
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