Recency Factor

“I’ve been conducting annual performance reviews for about five years but, overall, I don’t feel they are very effective. My managers add very few comments. How can we improve them?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Most employees want feedback on their performance and some will even ask for it. The result is often an annual performance review that rarely makes the employee or manager feel good. There are several reasons for this but the recency factor is an obvious one.

Annual reviews require managers to make usable notes throughout the year about an employee’s performance. Too few companies have trained or even thought about training managers to document performance in a way that doesn’t take a lot of time but is useful for anything performance-related. So, when a review is due, the manager is trying to think about how the employee has done over the past year. Unfortunately, without those notes, all they can usually remember is the last 3-4 months… the recency factor. The employee ends up getting judged or reviewed only on their recent behavior.

If you aren’t going to learn how to properly document performance, you need to find another solution for conducting fair reviews. One of the easiest is to create a one-page, simple review form that is used quarterly. This type of review takes much less time to complete, it accommodates the recency factor, and allows you to provide positive and negative feedback more frequently. Plus, both the manager and employee seem to feel better about the process when using them.

A good performance review process takes time and effort to develop. However, before putting in that effort, decide what you want as an outcome. If it’s just to provide frequent feedback so you can keep employees on track, the simple quarterly review can achieve that with less effort. If you want to use the reviews as a training tool, then the review process can be worth the effort of developing one that works toward that result. Decide what you want, then create the proper tool that will get you there.

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