The Benefits of Quarterly Reviews: More check-ins, fewer headaches

The annual performance review—a high stakes, once-a-year evaluation that ignites anxiety in even the highest performing employees. However, it too often remains a check box for employers struggling to juggle work environments increasingly squeezed for time. So, why conduct them FOUR times a year instead of just once?

Benefit No. 1: Relationship Building

Engaging with employees on a more regular basis engenders trust. As a leader, it demonstrates you’re not conducting reviews simply as policy but because you’re actively interested in your employee as a human being—both inside and outside the office.

“The review process is about building relationships with individuals, and that’s the thing we miss so frequently,” said Kirk Davis, Tandem HR’s Senior Director of HR Client Relations. “If I’m only doing reviews on an annual basis, I’m not really investing in the individual. If I’m doing them quarterly, I’m going to have more intentional connections that ultimately go beyond their performance and talk about the things important in their life.”

More touch points offer employers insight into an employee’s personal life, inter-office dynamics, professional goals, and any other factors that may drive their workplace behavior and decision making.

Benefit No. 2: Timeliness = Action

Timeliness is critical. Quarterly reviews alleviate the anxiety that naturally builds when anticipating a yearly evaluation—where feedback on 365 days of work performance is compressed into a mere 60 minutes.

“I want people to get just-in-time feedback that doesn’t catch them off guard,” Davis said. “If something is a difficult conversation or something I need to address, I don’t want to wait a whole year to have that conversation. It’s much more difficult to turn the train around than it is to slightly move it in a different direction.”

It’s easy to forget employees want feedback, too. According to Gallup, 80% of employees who reported receiving meaningful feedback in the past week are fully engaged. But letting too much time pass before giving guidance results in a loss of impact.

Think of an annual review as the big picture—your ultimate destination. Quarterly reviews are mindful pitstops along the way. They quickly address negative feedback, reinforce things employees are doing well, and allow for course correction—without an employee worrying whether the conversation is tied to a pay raise. Quarterly reviews also help avoid recency bias. This cognitive bias favors recent events over historic ones, which can cause leaders to emphasize what’s just happened (good or bad) over an employee’s sustained, long-term performance.

Benefit No. 3: Reciprocal Transparency

Consistently investing time in your employees throughout the year pays dividends in the long-term. It ensures there are no surprises—for both leadership and the employee—come annual review time. Create an outline or structure for performance reviews, so employees know beforehand what will be discussed and can prepare to receive that feedback.

“Be real with people, and don’t hide anything. I want people to know what those conversations are going to look like going in, so it’s a dialogue,” Davis said.

Creating a culture of open communication also benefits the employer. After switching from annual to quarterly reviews, Davis and his clients report employees are more proactive. They’re more willing to go to management with issues or to pitch new ideas, taking more initiative, and talking more openly about life events impacting their work.

“It’s completely changed the game for them,” he said.

And finally, it’s important to remember why performance reviews are conducted in the first place.

“The point is we’re making more A players for our organization,” Davis said. “We want to invest in people so they’ll be more efficient and productive, so they build skillsets that will help move them and the organization forward and ultimately, build more meaningful relationships with clients.”

Quick Hits

  • Quarterly reviews boost office relationships because they ensure consistent communication and touchpoints between employer and employee throughout the year—not just once.
  • Timeliness of feedback ensures employees are rewarded for things they’re doing well and given the opportunity to course correct. It also ensures annual reviews aren’t overshadowed by the promise of a pay raise or recency bias.
  • Quarterly reviews help increase transparency and create consistent communication that results in higher employee engagement and proactive behaviors.