One of the best things we have done to improve employee performance was to stop doing performance reviews. As most companies have done forever, we used to meet with everyone once a year to go over a questionnaire of sorts that was supposed to objectively measure each employee’s performance. The questions varied from year to year as we learned of new and “better” ways to evaluate performance. There were the standard forms that we’d spend weeks filling out leading up to the reviews that rated the employees in various areas, there were the self reviews where they answered questions about themselves, and then of course the 360 degree reviews in which others could anonymously evaluate their peers and their managers.

While the performance review process is a standard practice in just about every company, we have seen exponential growth in our people by not doing it. Instead we address any negative issues right away, never letting anything fester and become a bigger problem; we have as many day-to-day conversations as we can, and rather than doing one formal review each year, we meet quarterly with everyone for 15 minutes. There is no longer a form to fill out, only a 10-15 minute conversation during which we can be real, we can show love, we can encourage growth and guidance in a way that suits each individual. Our goal in these meetings is always to help make better people. Better people always become better employees.

Why We Stopped Doing Reviews

Reviews don’t motivate people to be better. Just because you sandwich some positive attributes with the areas of improvement, it doesn’t make it easier to hear. Motivation to be better has to be ongoing and has to be something that is felt through the entire company. If someone is told they need to improve on x, y and z, after a year with virtually no feedback in this area, who on earth is going to take that and get excited?

The goal of a performance review is to be as objective as possible. To accomplish this, rating scales are used to measure an employee’s strengths and weaknesses, but does this really motivate them to improve? The crucial lesson we’ve learned is that this tends to pigeonhole a person which can follow them throughout their career. This can be detrimental to an individual as well as a team. When we look at strengths and weaknesses of different people on a team, a well-rounded team is important. However, it also slices the team into neat little buckets with Sally being methodical and organized, Bill being compassionate and friendly, and Larry being no-nonsense and direct. This can further propagate a manager’s bias, as well as the employee’s, towards what they are capable of. It also gives the employee an excuse to not get better in an area where they are not as competent, because they don’t need to be. We want our people to be better versions of themselves; sometimes that means pushing them to make difficult changes, and not let them make the excuse of “that’s just not my personality.”

The leaders also need to be learning and improving to foster the motivation for others to follow suit. Continuing education has always been paramount to the success of AXIS, but over the last several years we have put more emphasis on our own development so we are truly leading by example. Each year we attend fitness conferences to stay up on what is happening in the industry, but we also see the value in getting out of our industry and learning about other current topics such as longevity, health, the brain/gut connection, etc., as well as learning from some of the top founders and CEO’s in the business world. This is how we can help motivate people to grow when we can share the excitement of what opportunities and knowledge are available.

In Part 2, we will discuss more reasons why we stopped doing reviews and replaced them with genuine conversations. In the end, these generate more motivation, growth and commitment. Please enjoy our next installment as we discuss the effect this change has had on our employees and our company culture.