We began a discussion last time on the uselessness of the annual performance review. Taking the discussion a step further, as a manager giving out these reviews you know that you cannot give everyone who works for you a top grade. Even if your department has all of the company’s top performers, you cannot have that show in your results! In this silly exercise, someone or several will have to finish below average. The result could be an enormous amount of damage to your company’s future if these top performers given low ratings have to leave your company in order to realize their potential.

So what do you do instead of these annual reviews? You have conversations, a rarity in many companies. By talking with your people you find out what motivates them or maybe find out there’s a personal problem at home that is keeping them from performing at their best. By talking to them you can also convey the vision of the future you see for the company with the success of their project or operation. That is so critical. Particularly when a person’s project is mired in a rut or beset by technical difficulties, a refreshing discussion on how that project will fit into the company’s future can help re-motivate that person’s efforts. Or maybe as you listen to the problems you may have suggestions to offer from your own experiences. I have found this to work on many occasions.

During these conversations you can also discuss your plans for where they can go in the next couple of years if the company’s success continues. This will do more for your group’s morale than any annual performance review could achieve. Of course, the goals you lay out have to be believable for that employee. No pie-in-the-sky dreams that they’ve been hearing for years without ever seeing any real results.

When your slower performers are in difficulties, these conversations can show your dissatisfaction with their progress. The options you will lay out for these people will not be as attractive, of course. Hopefully, the conversation will lead to positive changes instead.