A guide to continuous performance management (with FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Assessing the performance of an organisation's staff is an important task for managers and human resources professionals. The continuous approach to this entails a much more involved and regular process that has certain benefits. Understanding the benefits and methodology of continuous assessment can help determine if it's the right approach for your workplace. In this article, we explain what continuous performance management is, describe how you can implement it, list a few of its key benefits and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is continuous performance management?

Continuous performance management is a more involved and regular approach to performance reviews. Whereas other forms of performance review might occur on an annual or another regular basis, the continuous approach takes place constantly through regular and frequent intervals. A common approach is to set numerous short-term goals and assess staff members' capacities for achieving them. This can allow for rapid adaptation and intervention to help personnel who require training or other assistance.

How to implement continuous performance management

If you want to manage performance continually, there are several steps and best practices that you might employ. Many of these are mutually compatible and reinforce each other, allowing you to find the best approach for the organisation at which you work. Here are some steps and best practices to consider:

1. Hold regular check-ins

Regular check-in is one of the simplest and most straightforward ways of starting a continuous performance assessment programme. To do this, team leaders simply have regular check-ins with their team members to check on their progress, discuss what they're finding difficult and allow them to ask questions. This tends to encourage open communication between leaders and team members, allowing the former to make decisions to improve performance quickly.

You could either formally implement this with regular appointments once a week or do it more informally with a broad aim to check in with everyone over the period of every week. You can also try out different lengths of time for the check-ins, although it may be unnecessary to have long weekly check-ins due to how frequent they are. Alternatively, a longer interval between check-ins can be more practical in larger organisations, such as once every month or every quarter.

Related: How to engage employees (and the benefits of doing so)

2. Review objectives

Another key element of continuous performance reviews is to set clear objectives and regularly review progress towards them or their completion. Check-ins can be a good opportunity to do this. This means you can include and review both short and long-term objectives. When these objectives have clear deadlines, your reviews are going to allow you to better assess the productivity of the team member in question over time. This can be beneficial for assessing their workload and whether it's too much, too low or just enough.

It's useful if the manager and staff member communicate their concerns and ideas regarding objectives. The staff member in question can voice any concerns, and their supervisor can give constructive feedback.

Related: What is management by objectives (MBO)? (With examples)

3. Implement observation

Observation is the part of the process between meetings where the supervisor or manager sees what their team members are doing without directly interacting. This can mean taking notes about behaviours and patterns they notice, getting feedback about staff from customers or clients, comparing what they see against organisational guidelines and speaking to colleagues. A useful addition could be the use of self-assessment forms.

Observation is useful because it allows supervisors to see the effectiveness of their regular check-ins, evaluate progress and ensure that the new continuous performance system is fair to all staff. This can be particularly important when you're first implementing a continuous approach to performance management.

Related: How to conduct employee performance reviews (with steps)

4. Provide training and development

One of the primary aims of continuously reviewing staff performance is to identify training and professional development requirements. The combination of regular interaction and observation means that you can identify training needs early and quickly assess their effectiveness. You can also evaluate the quality of the training, how quickly staff adopt what they've learned and get relevant feedback. A good way of organising training and making the right choices is to align training programme selection with the short and long-term objectives of staff.

Related: Six steps to creating training objectives (with examples)

5. Collect feedback

Making the transition to continuous assessment of performance can take some time and adaptation. It's unlikely that two separate organisations would make the exact same choices for implementing this approach, so a little trial and error is likely and can be a valuable learning experience. Getting feedback over time is an integral part of this process, both from the organisation's staff and the leaders or managers who are implementing it. In addition to feedback, data that reveals changes in productivity and output can be a valuable tool for assessing the new approach.

Related: 10 strategies for getting feedback from your team at work

Benefits of continuous performance managing

Knowing why this approach can be effective can help you to determine whether it's the right one for the organisation at which you work. Here are some of the major benefits of managing performance continually:

Staff engagement

Having a regular process of communication and feedback between staff and their supervisors or managers can be very beneficial for staff engagement. They're more likely to feel like their leaders value their input, want to help them perform their tasks and desire their input. The result may be stronger relationships between managers and staff based on mutual respect. This can also mean that managers are more engaged with their teams, giving them a better understanding of their capabilities and thereby allowing them to make more effective decisions regarding task allocation.

Related: What is employee engagement? (And how to incorporate it)

Objectives and goals

Achieving goals and objectives can often become easier when you regularly monitor progress towards them. One of the key reasons for this is that it allows you to make adjustments and interventions throughout the process to improve it. Continuous assessments make this possible due to the regular check-ins with staff, assessment of progress towards objectives and getting feedback from the people who are actually doing the work.

Related: What is the difference between goals and objectives?

Time savings

By focusing on regular and incremental feedback and assessment, an organisation might save time compared to traditional annual reviews. Annual reviews can take a lot of time to complete and may require managers or supervisors to dedicate significant time to them, meaning they're going to be temporarily distracted from their normal duties.

Although a continuous approach may take a similar amount of time over the course of a year or perhaps even longer, the relatively shorter duration of each activity means that leaders can fit check-ins and other activities around their normal routines. The result is less work disruption, more relevant information and annual time savings.

Related: What is time management? (Importance and how to improve it)

Informed decisions

For any leader within an organisation to make effective decisions, they're going to require relevant information. Annual reviews can provide a lot of information, but the time periods between them can mean that certain interventions occur too late. For example, if an annual review comes out in December, but an issue arose in March, intervention could be late by several months. With monthly or even quarterly reviews, leaders receive relevant and up-to-date information and can act upon it promptly.

Related: Models of decision making: descriptions and processes

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about managing continuous performance, together with their respective answers:

Are there continuous assessment software applications?

Yes. Some software applications can facilitate the process of managing performance continually, allowing for real-time acquisition of information and subsequent storage and communication. These can be useful tools for larger organisations that want to implement a continuous performance approach.

Related: How to use HR software (plus examples of the best software)

Is continuous assessment compatible with annual performance reviews?

Yes. You can implement a continuous performance approach and still provide annual performance reviews. Sometimes, you can save time on the annual reviews because you've already gathered the necessary information through a continuous performance assessment system. You can then compile the information from the previous year and use this to produce a report. Software applications can be very helpful, especially for larger organisations.

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