Rani Croshal used to review her direct reports once a year. Now, the manager at software company Revinate Inc. gives dozens of smaller-scale assessments throughout the year. That includes quarterly discussions about goals, semiannual evaluations in which managers, peers and direct reports give feedback, and multiple check-ins to ensure her nine employees are hitting long-term goals. And then there’s the annual compensation review process.
“We’re always talking about how we can improve ourselves,” Ms. Croshal said.
Welcome to the era of the never-ending performance review. As companies like Adobe Systems Inc. and General Electric Co. revamp and rethink the detested annual review, they have put in place new evaluations designed to give employees more-frequent feedback.
Companies say they are staying current with young workers accustomed to instant gratification in the form of Facebook likes and Yelp ratings. Managers and employees say it’s tough learning to give — and receive — constant critiques and praise.
“You really have to put your ego aside,” said Deloitte LLP consultant Cashel Discepola, who transitioned last year from twice-annual feedback to talking about performance with her manager every other week.
Companies now have an array of tools in their employee-assessment arsenals, include goal-setting programs and apps that allow managers to rate workers’ progress in real time. A software tool used by ride-hailing service Lyft Inc. and others scans staff calendars and asks them to rate colleagues after meetings. At big banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., new feedback programs allow workers to request mini-reviews from bosses and colleagues after projects or deals.
Ms. Croshal, Revinate’s senior director of customer success, says she used to compile eight-page written annual reviews for her reports at the San Francisco-based maker of hospitality-industry software.
“It was just too much information to digest,” she said.
Her team now receives bite-sized feedback, and lots of it. Ms. Croshal says an internal system that tracks goals — such as meeting client targets or taking a public-speaking course — keeps staff accountable.
At first, though, some workers found it hard to adjust to getting feedback that didn’t culminate with a decision about compensation, Ms. Croshal said. “I think the employee felt like, ‘Now what?’”
At Goldman too, feedback doesn’t directly affect yearly bonus and raise decisions. It “forms part of the picture of how a manager sees an employee,” said Elizabeth Reed, a Goldman vice president who participated in the pilot of the system.
Theresa Chiaramonte, who helps Revinate orient new customers, said she initially spent hours typing peer reviews for nine colleagues, unsure how much to share.
“You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” she said, adding that receiving feedback sometimes “still stings.”
Andrea Schulz, a senior manager in Deloitte’s tax business, meets with the 20 employees she oversees and coaches nearly every other week. Simply finding time for those check-ins was challenging at the outset, she says. So too was figuring out what to talk about.
“We would kind of start to sit down…and not really know what the check-ins were meant for,” she said.
Ms. Schulz shortened meetings to as little as 15 minutes and covers the employee’s projects, strengths and areas for improvement. Now that her team relies on check-ins, Ms. Schulz said she fields fewer questions during the workday.
Performance reviews at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP had been a lengthy process in which employees negotiated their assessments with bosses.
PwC revamped that process in favor of a tool called “snapshots” — short, frequent reviews that rate employees on five characteristics, such as leadership ability and business acumen. Employees can request a snapshot from bosses at any time. “They take like two minutes,” said Julia Lamm, a director in the company’s management-consulting group.
One consultant who worked in PwC’s Chicago office until last year said the snapshot criteria and ratings weren’t helpful.
“It was sort of a check, check-plus, check-minus rating, not actually feedback,” she said. She left PwC for a smaller consulting firm after being told she wouldn’t have a long-term career with the company.
A PwC spokeswoman said most employees have been happy with the system.
Some engineers at Lyft have been slow to adopt the company’s new feedback tool.
“They’re not as touchy-feely about things,” said Ron Storn, a Lyft human-resources executive.
The software, made by Zugata, scans workers’ calendars for meetings with other employees and asks them to review fellow attendees.
Some employees found that unnerving and some executives opted out because they were concerned about the tool having access to records of confidential meetings, said Mr. Storn.
It took Lumeris Healthcare Outcomes LLC two tries to get workers on board with a company-wide goal-tracking program by BetterWorks. Managers now use the tool to monitor employees’ workloads and progress, though not without some grumbling, according to Laura Lewis, a manager at the health-care solutions firm based in Maryland Heights, Mo.
“People have to overcome that negative of, ‘Why do I have to do this four times a year? Why isn’t once a year enough?’” she said.