They’re a hotly contested topic amongst managers, employees, and executives alike—and it’s up to Learning & Development (L&D) and HR professionals to make them successful. Unfortunately, today’s performance review is widely unpopular.

But the performance review is important. It offers opportunity for impactful dialogue to advance employee careers and strengthen employee manager relationships. The performance appraisal plays a critical role in standardizing reward and promotion decisions, while encouraging employees to learn and grow.

The performance review just needs a shift to address the modern workforce.

It’s time to make the shift in performance management from an antiquated one-time-per-year conversation focused on outcomes, to the continuous discussion around performance and growth that employees crave.

In the 2017 Human Capital Trends Report, research firm Deloitte found that

In this toolkit, we give you:

  • 6 tips for updating performance management
  • Links to top courses to help you and your people managers
  • Advice from learning leaders on the front-lines of their organizations
  • A conversation checklist to help managers rock their reviews

“The bottom-line question is this: How can organizations build career models that encourage continuous learning, improve individual mobility, and foster a growth mind-set in every employee, year after year? This is the opportunity for today; companies that gure this out will outperform, out-innovate, and out-execute their peers.” 

—Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder, Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP

TIP 1: Enable Real-time Continuous Feedback

The golden rule of performance evaluations is, avoid the shock factor.

Employees should have a good idea of what will be discussed before they walk into their review. On the flip side, consistent feedback helps managers gather more data, increase employee engagement, and drive business outcomes.

Ensure that managers across your organization have regularly scheduled touch-points with employees. This is usually a combination of weekly 1:1 meetings with managers, quarterly reviews, bi-yearly written reviews, and of course, the once-per-year formal review. 

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“It’s important to create a consistent experience, but still honor the exibility of teams and the demands of the business. For example, you see a lot of variation between what sales does vs. engineering in terms of the timing and the cadence of reviews.”

—Cynthia Hannah, Director of Talent Management at LinkedIn

“Our goal is to ensure feedback is a prominent part of the culture at LinkedIn by making sure open, honest, and constructive feedback isn’t happening just at single point in time, but throughout the year.”

—Kyle Grubman, Senior Talent Management Consultant at LinkedIn

TIP 2: Encourage and Reward a Growth Mindset

Effective performance management evaluates employee contributions holistically.

Google asks managers to measure employee performance beyond outcomes—they want to look at how the employee achieved those outcomes. They look at the employee’s ability to demonstrate company values, problem solve, execute with little guidance, and make himself or herself heard in an increasingly large organization.

Effective performance appraisals encourage employees to explore their career trajectory.

Not all employees will approach the subject of career growth. The organizations that encourage managers to discuss career paths regularly with employees will retain star contributors they grow into managers and leaders themselves.

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“We should change our reward systems to encourage people to change roles, build technical expertise, and move horizontally for breadth and experience...The old adage that ‘you manage your own career here’ o en means people managing themselves right out of the company.”

—Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder, Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP

TIP 3: Educate Your Managers

Managers are the key to impactful performance evaluations.

Help your managers master critical feedback and compensation conversations. As an L&D leader you should feel most powerful here—you have the ability to create and curate resources to help managers thrive. Provide training on how to run a meaningful annual review (like this performance review template for managers!).

Arm managers with the inputs they need—like learning resources, career ladders, feedback they’ve gotten from peers, compensation matrixes specific to your organization. Perhaps most importantly you need to help managers give clear, honest and constructive feedback. Having conversations around performance and compensation is hard—especially if the manager needs to provide negative feedback.

Research shows that managers consider giving negative feedback one of the most difficult and stressful interactions in the workplace. 

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“We spent a lot of time sourcing great content that supported our new performance management process— for example, how to conduct a performance review, giving feedback, coaching—and created playlists with the Lynda. com courses we found on these topics. As a result, we saw an increase in the number of reviews completed and a major improvement in the quality of conversations.”

—Tania Formosa, Global Head of Talent Development at Just Eat

TIP 4: Set Clear Goals and Expectations

Clearly defined, measurable goals must be a central tenet of performance management.

If you’re not already, have managers document individual and team goals for the quarter and the year. Annual goals should be more aspirational (e.g. sign 1,000 customers) than quarterly milestones which should be more granular and should explain how you’ll get there (e.g. drive 1,000 quality leads to build pipeline to close 1,000 customers).

Many organizations look to goal setting frameworks like SMART goals and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to drive consistent goal setting across the organization. 

 SMART Goals:

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests SMART Goals:

Specific, clear and understandable

Measurable, verifable and results oriented

Attainable, yet sufficiently challenging

Relevant to the mission of the department or organization

Time-bound with a schedule and specifc milestones 

Learning Goals:

Set learning goals as part of your quarterly metrics. Identify and document a learning plan based on places the manager and employee see room for improvement.

This could be reading a few articles per week on the subject, interviewing colleagues, watching courses on an eLearning platform, or attending a classroom training. The manager and employee should meet regularly to discuss progress on learning goals, improvement milestones, and employee learning’s connection to overall performance. 


Companies like LinkedIn, Google, Walmart and Target have turned to OKRs to measure employee goals.

The formula is:

I will ____ as measured by _____.


I will (Objective) as measured by (Key Results).

Objectives are usually qualitative goals (e.g. increased brand recognition).

Key Results are a series of metrics that show that you’ve met that goal:

  • 3% increase in unaided brand awareness

  • Reach 2,000 Twitter followers

  • Increase new site visitors by x% 


LinkedIn Learning Course Previews and Resources

“When you only measure and look at outcomes, you essentially create a competition culture. Employees tend to ‘stay in their lane’ and focus on their strengths. They think, if I take this risk and don’t hit my outcome, then this is not worth my time. Outcomes are important, but make that 70% of the score, and have learning and growing be 30% of the score.”

—Dr. Britt Andreatta, L&D consultant & top LinkedIn Learning instructor

TIP 5: Give Your Team the Tools and Technology to Succeed

Provide the tools and technology your managers need to collect data, and communicate and learn about the performance review process.

Provide a central hub for information: Managers are busy. Provide one central place where managers can find what they need to learn about the review process, document feedback, and stay on schedule. If managers need to put too much effort into finding what to do, they likely won’t do it—or won’t do it the way you want them to.

Collect and document employee performance: Employee reviews should be a year-long process. Provide managers with the tools they need to formally document employee feedback—scheduled or unscheduled.

For example, GE implemented an app that allows employees to request feedback from managers. It provides summaries of employee goals and any notes that managers or employees have around those goals.

While you may not have an app dedicated to your performance management, there are tools like Workday that can help you document employee feedback.

Gain access to expert learnings: Point managers to eLearning platforms like LinkedIn Learning to help them gain confidence at review time and as a resource to recommend to employees to support their development in key areas discussed in the review. 

“Give your managers the tools and resources they need to feel supported and empowered to own the process. Build a combination of internally created content so that it feels and sounds like the company, along with external skills content.”

—Tania Formosa, Global Head of Talent Development at Just Eat

TIP 6: Invest in a Robust Communications Plan

Invest in a communications plan to get your managers and employees psyched up and focused on performance reviews.

This is your chance to put on your marketing hat and
get creative. Think about the different communication mediums available. Email marketing, physical desk drops, posters, bulletins on monitors throughout the office, all-hands meetings, external speaker events, a pancake breakfast—these are all fair game.

Leverage your internal infuencers and partners. HR business partners should be at the top of your list. For each company-wide communication you send, have your HR business partners follow up with a more personal note to the teams they work with. Get managers’ attention and buy-in by sending emails from your executive team.

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“Having a robust communications plan to start the performance review cycle sets us up to reach every audience where they are with the information they need when they need it. We can certainly develop world-class content, but if we don’t market and communicate it well, the support won’t be as impactful.”

—Kyle Grubman, Senior Talent Management Consultant at LinkedIn

Performance management is a central tenet of talent development.

While the one-time-per-year performance review is becoming a relic of the past, we’re seeing a surge of real-time regular performance feedback about more than just metrics.

The modern performance review is about the employee, himself or herself—not just outcomes. Use resources like these to help your performance management shift toward a system that continuously grows and supports your talent. Your managers and employees will thank you for it.