two men in business meeting reviewing paperwork
From the inception of feedback apps and an increase in real-time conversations, traditional once-a-year employee reviews are slowly becoming phased out. — Getty Images/gradyreese

Employee reviews provide valuable information for everyone involved. Team leaders and organizations can use reviews to help determine compensations or promotions. For employees, performance reviews provide useful feedback on what they are doing well and what they can improve.

However, this doesn’t mean you or your company are limited to using the annual employee performance review. The standard employee review process is changing as employers are replacing the once-a-year review model with more informal, ongoing methods. Here are five alternatives to employee reviews.

[Read: Are You a Compassionate Boss? Here's Why You Should Be]

Real-time 360 review

As the name implies, a real-time 360 review provides a holistic view of an employee’s performance, based on feedback from various sources that the employee interacts with regularly — from coworkers to leaders to the people they lead. Employees are rated on a set of standardized criteria such as communication, reliability and consistency. Real-time 360 reviews are meant to be an ongoing process that, over time, are quicker to administer and provide more useful information than a standard annual review alone.

Frequent one-on-one check-ins

Rather than meeting once a year, many organizations are adopting monthly or quarterly one-on-one check-ins. Much like the annual review, these check-ins focus on past performance and future goals, while providing more frequent opportunities for discussion and recalibration. ADP Spark adds that frequent one-on-one meetings are also supplemented with specific, real-time feedback from both managers and employees.

Since the performance conversation is essentially continuous, these don’t always require formal documentation. However, you may choose to implement some means of tracking, such as an employee feedback app.

[Read: How Can I Encourage My Employees to Share Their Ideas?]

Employers are replacing the once-a-year review model with more informal, ongoing methods.

Employee feedback apps

Some organizations have chosen to create or implement employee feedback apps to supplement — or even replace — the traditional employee review process. For example, the law firm Reed Smith has built its own app that allows managers to provide employee feedback on an ongoing basis. According to Casey Ryan, global head of personnel at Reed Smith, “The goal of the app is for partners and associates to talk more regularly and in real time. Particularly in a highly demanding and stressful job, the app is a way to both raise the performance culture and make a big firm feel smaller.”

‘Management by walking around’ technique

Management by walking around, or MBWA, helps leaders stay in touch with those they lead. The MBWA technique encourages managers to initiate spontaneous interactions on a regular basis — by walking through the organization and talking to their employees as they’re doing their jobs. These conversations can provide valuable information on workers’ current conditions, viewpoints and any potential issues. When done well, the MBWA technique fosters relationship building and stronger lines of communication between managers and their teams.

[Read: Employee Retention: How to Keep Your Best Employees Happy]

Stay conversations

Stay conversations, or stay interviews, essentially perform the same function as exit interviews: Employees share what they like or do not like about their position and their employer. However, stay conversations are performed while people are still with the company, which allows sufficient time to make any changes and encourage employee retention.

In a stay conversation, leaders ask employees what the organization is doing well — i.e., why they choose to stay — as well as what areas they think the organization can improve in. These conversations not only promote open and honest communication between managers and their subordinates, but they also provide valuable feedback on employee satisfaction.

When choosing how to conduct employee performance reviews, you’ll need to consider the culture and needs of your company. No matter which review method you choose, however, it’s important to have continual conversations with your team members about their progress and career goals, and orient your conversations toward the future with actionable solutions for any problems and clear, concrete goals for upcoming reviews.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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