Developers who work for companies that still prioritize annual performance evaluations tend to have the dates for those reviews circled on their calendars, but not because they’re excited about them. In fact, these evaluation periods are often the most stressful time of the year for developers.
With this in mind, how can HR leaders rethink the way their companies conduct technical performance evaluations? Here are a few things to consider.
Annual performance evaluations have a negative connotation for one simple reason: they only occur once every year. Almost by nature, this creates an environment in which all feedback is given during these review periods, often including input from people cross-functionally who can’t fully speak to a particular developer’s work.
Anne Fisher at Fortune Magazine points out that people aren’t averse to receiving feedback, but that they do prefer real-time conversations about goals and performance. It’s up to you to determine how often managers should be providing this level of support, but ultimately you should ensure that nobody on your tech team is surprised by the feedback they receive.
Because of the way companies have conducted evaluations in the past, yearly performance reviews tend to make developers feel like they’re simply defending their employment. While you should be transparent with employees who are not up to par, it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense to put every member of your technical team under this amount of scrutiny.
Many companies have started to shift the direction of these conversations to allow employees and managers to have better conversations about personal development. Start by encouraging managers and developers alike to think about future goals. Some have already started implementing this change. As Terri McClements, vice chair at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told Human Resource Executive, “People created them, but rarely talked about them after.”
Of course, your company will have to make decisions around performance-based compensation every year. But with the amount of stress associated with yearly reviews strictly because of performance, adding a developer’s potential increase in salary to the conversation only makes the conversation more contentious. As David Hassell wrote for Forbes, “The experience can be that the manager/company is not truly being supportive of growth; they are just trying to nitpick to avoid giving a raise.”
Consider separating conversations about performance and salary. Developers will be more likely to open up about their achievements and goals if they’re not afraid that a misstep could potentially have a financial impact on their lives.