Giving employees what they need throughout the Performance Management process

In a previous blog I discussed identifying what drives or motivates your employees in their work life to help facilitate a career discussion.

In a similar vein, I’d like to discuss the innate needs of all of us around the performance management process. Meeting the needs of employees throughout the process is just as important as meeting their career development goals.

We carried out some research into how UK companies were approaching personal development. What we found was that many performance review processes had built in failure points and drove employees away (31% of employees said they had left after their annual review). 

Looking at the study we could see that the way line managers are forced to handle talent and performance reviews as well as the personal development process doesn’t satisfy what neuroscientists see as the five deep-seated ways our brains work. These five needs (SCARF) are: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. They are based on the innate reward/threat response that is hardwired into our brains.

58% of employees have been surprised by their performance review and cited infrequent contact with their line manager as one of the major issues. Frequency of both contact and feedback shows the employee that they matter (Status). It enables them to check that they are on the right track and that the decisions they have been taking have been the right ones (Certainty and Autonomy). It also minimises the potential for surprises in the formal performance review (Fairness). The need for Relatedness is satisfied by another response – the desire to have feedback from other employees so they understand their impact on other members of the team.

Over half of employees also stated they have been left in the dark when it comes to understanding how what they do contributes to the company’s purpose and that they don’t know about the career options open to them. This simply does not meet the Certainty and Status needs. As a result, almost a third did not feel fairly treated by the way the personal development process is run. The majority of those surveyed also wanted to understand what their future career and contributions look like so that they can learn and improve in areas required, giving them Certainty and Autonomy over their careers.

How employees learn matters too. Almost half want access to an online learning platform so they can learn at times to suit their lifestyle (Certainty and Autonomy). Employees also want feedback once they’ve implemented what they’ve learnt (Certainty, Autonomy) and want to be able to see examples of how colleagues have learnt the same skills (Certainty) and to be able to collaborate online with colleagues so they can learn together (Relatedness, Certainty).

Many of those surveyed said that they thought their organisation did not value line management enough to give managers the tools and skills needed to perform their jobs, leading to ineffective performance reviews completed as a tick box exercise. Employees want line managers to have the support they need to deliver effective personal development. The lack of support for line managers will continue to lead to disaffected and non-engaged employees, and in turn compound productivity issues the UK economy was already facing before Covid hit.

I’ve covered a very high-level summary of the findings we think are most important for you to think about with regards to your company’s performance review process.

If you would like to hear more about how our technology can enable more of what your employees need (SCARF) visit

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