At design services firm Dialog, awkward annual reviews with their nerve-wracking five-point rating system are no more.

“No-one enjoyed doing them,” says Tania Oppedisano, Dialog’s national director of human resources in Toronto. “There was anxiety on the employee’s side, on the supervisor’s side. . . . And so figuring out how we can tie development into that process, we just completely rehabbed our performance reviews and realized it can have a really strong connection with retention and employee performance.”

Read: Traditional performance reviews get a makeover

Under the new program, employees, their direct managers and one partner have a big development conversation once a year where they identify goals for the year. This is followed up by quick check ins every quarter. Employees develop both learning and performance-based goals, all of which should be achievable within 12 months, and their managers help them break down the steps necessary to achieve their objectives.

This change has helped managers separate goal-setting from performance issues, Oppedisano says. Instead of waiting for one big meeting to point out productivity problems, managers are encouraged to address issues as they arise. “It’s helped on an organizational perspective to increase the visibility of performance issues and performance management conversations and separating it out of this process,” she notes.

Read: Employers look to modernize performance management

Dialog has also partnered with York University in Toronto to measure the success of the program. Researchers at York will be surveying employees throughout the year to see how the changes have affected development and retention. Committing to this evaluation, and explaining to staff that the company will reassess the development conversations if the York study finds them lacking, is supported by employee, Oppedisano says.

“It’s about transparency and visibility and being as honest as possible around what we’re trying to do to accomplish our goals,” she says. “On an HR perspective, that’s something that’s really important that we need to do: to be able to properly measure our programs and acknowledge when something isn’t working and be willing to change it.”

Read: How to retain employees 

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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