3 Ways to Improve Performance Management Conversations

November 24, 2020

Contributor: Mary Baker

To make performance reviews more effective, incorporate team-based feedback, make them a shared responsibility and keep them forward-looking.

Gartner research shows that a whopping 92% of organizations have formal performance reviews and 65% of organizations provide formal performance feedback, and yet performance management remains a largely unsatisfactory experience — for both employees and managers. 

“ Only 17% of respondents to a recent Gartner survey said employees were evaluated by their teams”

Performance review conversations are a key element of performance management, but they aren’t isolated events that only happen at year-end. They encompass things like setting goals and objectives, which often occurs at the beginning of the year, and involve ongoing check-ins. 

Learn more: Performance Management That Delivers

Here are three things you can do to make the process more productive.

Incorporate team-based feedback into performance conversations

Gartner research shows that there is a 3.5% increase in the utility of performance management and a 14% increase in employee performance when employees are evaluated by peers with interconnected work and shared goals. Despite the reality, only 17% of respondents to a recent Gartner survey said employees were evaluated by their teams, while 99% said that direct managers evaluate employee performance. 

“Collecting and including team feedback in performance conversations enables managers to share a holistic picture of employee performance,” says Brent Cassell, Vice President, Advisory, Gartner.

Incorporate team feedback into performance reviews in these ways:

  • Discuss how the employee contributed to the team’s performance and objectives and how the employee’s actions or behaviors may need to change to improve overall team performance.
  • Utilize examples from others to fill any gaps in your assessment.
  • Understand any discrepancies between the employee’s self-evaluation, team feedback and your evaluation.

Create a two-way dialogue and shared responsibility

The more information that is available to employees when discussing performance, the better. Communicating to employees how they were rated improves performance management utility by nearly 3%, while explaining how ratings are used and how decisions are made based on ratings increases utility by 5.4%. Gartner research also found that when a manager explains specific actions an employee can take to improve performance, utility increases by nearly 2%.

HR needs to ensure that these types of conversations between managers and employees are happening by making performance, and performance reviews, a shared responsibility. This enables employees to be active participants in performance conversations.

Making performance reviews forward-looking can increase employee performance by 13%

Managers are responsible for things like gathering peer and client feedback on the employee’s performance, reviewing the employee’s self-assessment and 360 feedback prior to the conversation, focusing and aligning with the employee on next steps, and connections to other talent management processes. Employees must own proactively seeking feedback and coaching from peers and clients, articulating personal goals and priorities, and understanding how their role aligns to the business unit and organizational goals.

Make reviews forward-looking 

While it’s natural to associate performance reviews with a look back at how you did the previous year, Gartner research reveals that focusing on the future makes performance management more useful. In fact, when reviews include discussion around the development of skills and competencies, utility increases by nearly 4%. And making performance reviews forward-looking can increase employee performance by 13%.

“To shift to forward-looking performance discussions, managers should focus on the future capabilities the organization will need and the career interests and growth the employee wants to achieve,” says Cassell.

Gartner suggests managers ask employees questions that span several buckets, including:


  • Ask about skills he or she wants to learn in the future.
  • Talk about the skills the employee must learn and the development areas the employee needs to work on to continue providing value in their role.
  • Discuss how the employee’s strengths can contribute to the organization’s vision and future goals.

Career Interests

  • Ask about their future career interests and aspirations.
  • Discuss whether the employee’s future career aspirations align with the organization’s vision and purpose, and if they do not, discuss how the two can align.
  • Discuss the possible career paths available to the employee, as well as what the career progression would look like for at least two positions above the employee’s current position.


  • Ask the employee about the types of networks (role-related, technology-related, process-related, etc.) they are interested in connecting to based on future career aspirations.
  • Discuss the types of networks in which the employee needs to engage to be successful in future roles and how the organization can help.
  • Discuss the peers and senior leaders who could have a positive impact as mentors or coaches on the employee’s future performance.

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Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:

This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients.

Gartner for HR clients can read Employee Performance Management Primer for 2021.

*Note that some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.

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