Get Rid of the Annual Performance Review: Use Radical Candor or 4:40 Continuous Feedback Strategies



New ways of work need new standards for communication and feedback. Instead of the (dreaded) annual review, progressive workplaces embrace more frequent – if not continuous – feedback in order to drive employee satisfaction, management leadership, and ultimately company goals.

Old-style annual performance reviews can bring a feeling of dread for both participants. It may be impossible to communicate relevant details and exchange perspectives when the event or encounter is weeks or months in the past. Research and common sense say that addressing an issue or expressing appreciation in the moment will be more impactful and useful to the target. Sounds easy, right?

Turns out that many of us find it challenging to communicate directly and in the moment. In her book, Radical Candor, Kim Scott recounts difficulties she had as a manager both giving and receiving feedback. The tendency for a feedback session to become adversarial, or to shut one of the participants down, led to management tactics such as the ‘feedback sandwich’ or even supervised mediation of two colleagues. Scott believes that feedback is best delivered in the moment – even continuously – in order to create a culture of growth and appreciation. Her matrix calls for each employee to ‘Challenge Directly’, while at the same time ‘Caring Personally’ about the other person. You can hear more about her philosophy here.

Scott also directs managers to ask for feedback continuously – clearly stating objectives and asking for feedback on moving toward those. When employees see that their observations are valued and incorporated into the manager’s behavior, the culture will drive toward continuous improvement. Her book includes specific tactics and questions to guide this tricky exchange as well as plenty of encouragement that it is well worth any awkwardness as it is adopted.

Ron Kitchens of the Southwest Michigan Partnership is one of our favorite podcasters. In his ‘Always Forward’ edition from April 2018, he shares similar perspectives on annual reviews and the value of frequent feedback. Ron advocates for a shorter period of focus and feedback – forty days – with the employee focusing on four key goals over that relatively short period of time. Calling this a 4:40 program, Ron says his team prefers this system that allows flexibility to adjust goals and tactics, gives teammates the opportunity to acknowledge progress, and celebrate successes more frequently. Check out his podcast here.

So, toss out the Annual Performance Review! Set individual, team, and company goals and check in on them frequently. Give your teammates and direct reports feedback in the moment – making sure to show your care for them and the outcome. You will gain valuable knowledge about yourself and create a culture of growth and shared success for your team and organization.