There are many ways to assess staff performance.

Performance reviews have traditionally always been a good indicator.

However, in today’s rapidly changing workplace, many organisations are now reassessing their formulaic annual performance review methods.

A recent article by leadership experts David Rock and Beth Jones in the Harvard Business Review reports that regular feedback and ‘talent conversations’ are now proving much more effective than annual reviews.

Of course, the benefits of giving your employees regular feedback are well proven – and companies are able to achieve much the same outcomes as they did with the annual review – but more effectively.

Some of these benefits include:

  • Motivating your employees to increase their effectiveness by maintaining effective behaviour
  • Preventing them using behaviours that may reduce their impact
  • Encouraging them to begin or alter behaviours that make them more effective
  • Promoting their commitment to their work and the organisation.

According to the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), giving feedback ‘in the moment’ and on routine, day-to-day behaviours is one of the best ways to establish and strengthen trust between managers and their employees.

It also creates a positive pattern of learning and growth between the two.

CCL recommends the following three-step model for giving feedback.

Called the Situation-Behaviour-Impact Model (SBI), it is a proven way for managers to reduce anxiety when delivering feedback, and also for employees to be less defensive when receiving it.

Put simply, SBI is:

Situation – Specifically describe the employee’s situation

Behaviour – Describe the behaviour without assuming you know what the other person was thinking

Impact – Describe what you thought or felt about the behaviour.

By following the SBI model, managers and leaders can make the next step in the ongoing performance plan much easier – the talent conversation.

CCL researchers Roland Smith and Michael Campbell state that the talent conversation is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to develop others – if you do it right.

A talent conversation builds a relationship that allows managers to influence others toward improved performance, development and positive outcomes.

Talent conversations can happen at any time, and each should be held in the context of whether your employee is top-talent, a high-performer, a potential performer, or an under-performer.

Managers need to follow six steps to carry out the talent conversation:

  1. Clarify the goal – what is the purpose of the conversation and what exactly do you want to achieve?
  2. Explore the issues – assess strengths, vulnerabilities, development needs and performance. Identify motivation and career goals
  3. Identify the options – generate ideas and opportunities for learning and improvement
  4. Set expectations – exactly what do we want to do, and what are the obstacles?
  5. Motivate – identify support and ensure the goals are meaningful?
  6. Identify the plan – how do you know you are on target, and how do you measure the outcomes?

By giving routine feedback and holding meaningful talent conversations, managers can better develop their teams and employees – without the need for out-dated and often-maligned performance review systems.

Of course, its success or failure very much depends on the relationship the manager has with their talent.

However, when it works well, a talent conversation can help build a relationship that allows managers to influence others toward improved performance, development and positive outcomes.

And in today’s volatile and uncertain times, that can only be a good thing.