You’re glad when performance reviews are finally done. Your employees are, too. Perhaps you feel that you conducted them as best as possible, given the limitations of the form you may be required to use, and other factors, including a shortage of time.


You may even feel optimistic that some improved results

are likely to happen, but now you need to pay attention to ongoing day-to-day tasks and projects.


Three results will occur, but only one is desired. First, some positive improvements and advancements will likely occur, as planned. Second, some items will remain status quo, losing ground. The third type of results are when projects, behaviors, relationships, or objectives move backwards. We often don’t discover these until they create noticeable consequences.


What happened between the end of the review and the end results that were achieved? In many organizations, little or nothing happens in terms of one key action, and that’s exactly where the problem is. And where the greatest opportunity is for improved results.


The one key action is intermittently discussing progress by having “continuing conversations” with employees. They’re brief, identify progress, and pinpoint adjustments and improvements.


We already do this in other areas at work and home:

   >We measure customer satisfaction and make improvements where needed.

   >We check on a sleeping child.

   >We review milestones as part of effective project management.

   >We get regular dental checkups.

   >Airline pilots frequently do this in order to remain on course and safely arrive at distant destinations.

Why don’t we do the same thing with employees whose performance is so important to organizational performance?

   1) Shifting day-to-day priorities and workloads overtake us.

   2) Managers feel they just don’t have the time and are already overwhelmed.

   3) It will take too much time.

   4) Conversations will result in long drawn out discussions or even arguments.

   5) Important work won’t get done, and deadlines will be missed.

   6) We don’t have a good process or structure to do this. (The “process” we often read or hear about sounds something like this: “have regular conversations with each of your employees to coach them on how they can improve their performance for optimum results.”) It’s not enough.

All of these concerns are valid and understandable; let’s employ an effective process to negate them as much as possible and improve employee performance between reviews, or throughout the year.

We’ll call these “continuing conversations” instead of “meetings.”It’s true in terms of what we’re doing: we have performance review conversations, then we have several “continuing conversations” over time. Besides, “meetings” has a negative connotation compared to “conversations.” Who wants to go to more meetings?

Here’s an outline of the process or skill that’s helped other organizations improve their results:

One, employees take more of the lead for their progress. We’ll let them plan, begin, and run the “continuing conversation” meetings. For example, they’ll develop the agenda, and send it to their manager for review; an item can be added if needed.

Two, conversations are for a set and limited time: perhaps 14 minutes, as some groups have done. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when there’s a set time limit, and one that’s less than the 30 minutes some resources suggest. You’ll find the amount of time that works best for you.

Three, only what’s been agreed to in advance gets discussed. While it’s tempting to add other things that come up or are about to, or to discuss another item “since we’re both here, anyway,” don’t. This will subvert your process; make your conversations longer; get you off topic; and deliver less satisfaction.

Four, positive results are emphasized, making these conversations highly dissimilar to performance feedback meetings. If performance feedback is needed, it’s done at a separate meeting at a different time, for the reasons just stated above. 

Five, employees lead with what they plan to do next to move the objective or project forward. They should be in a good position to know. Managers listen; if needed, they ask questions; make requests; or facilitate employees in making improvements if the employee hasn’t seen and stated them first.

Six, employees get support from managers if needed after the above steps have occurred.

Yes, this will cost some time. On the short term. No question; anything that delivers worthwhile or improved results almost always needs a time investment. We make time investments in order to gain the benefit of improved results or performance later. It’s one of the reasons we spend years in school and college before starting careers.

What you gain on the mid to long term makes it worth it. This often includes less time working with employees to correct errors and problems, or rushing at the last minute to meet deadlines. Many managers find they actually gain time to work on more strategic tasks because their employees work more capably, and often have more interest in what they’re doing.

Other benefits include:

We come much closer to achieving the real purpose of performance reviews, which is improving employee performance between them.

Managers become more capable at helping employees improve performance, making them more effective and promotable because their people get more done.

Employees may become more engaged because they have more of a role in determining what they’ll do and how they’ll do it, while their manager provides input, improvements, and support as needed.

It’s what happens in more productive workplaces.



 Free people to communicate & do more productive work.

Conversations at Work helps people in organizations have the workplace
conversations they’ve been avoiding—and improve productivity.

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