Appraisals are dead. Long live the conversation.

Appraisals are dead. Long live the conversation.
Appraisals are dead. Long live the conversation.

Stuart Hearn

Stuart Hearn

Founder & CEO

This isn’t another article about why annual appraisals don’t work. There’s been enough written about that already. In case you missed it, they don’t improve performance and everybody hates them! So the big questions is, what to do instead?

As a replacement for appraisals, leading academics and organisations have endorsed and implemented performance management approaches based on regular, meaningful, performance and development conversations, combined with real-time feedback.

But most organisations are yet to make the shift away from appraisals. Why?

Fear and Confusion

When we talk to HR professionals, they tell us that they want to adopt a culture of continuous performance conversations, but they are scared of making the change and are confused about how to make it work in practice. These fears are understandable given there is little available information to answer important questions such as how to get managers to engage in regular performance dialogue and how to handle pay and promotions without annual appraisals.

However, there are answers to these questions (explored in this ebook) and it is possible to successfully replace appraisals. We at Clear Review have helped almost 100 organisations successfully implement a continuous performance management approach over the last 2 years, including banks, local councils and even football clubs. However, we can’t ignore that some organisations have tried to embed regular performance conversations and failed to get traction. The common factor is that they didn’t have appropriate technology to support their new approach.

So why is technology so vital in the new world of performance management? To understand that, we need to delve a little into human psychology.

Driving New Behaviours

Dr. B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Behaviour Design Lab at Stanford University has developed a model to understand what drives our actions as humans. It is represented by the formula:

A given Behaviour will only occur when Motivation, Ability and a Trigger are present at the same time in sufficient degrees. From a performance management perspective, if we want people to have regular conversations and give frequent feedback, we can help drive the Motivation part of the formula through communication and training workshops. But to properly fulfil the Ability and Trigger elements of this formula, we need technology.


Technology can provide automated triggers, such as emails or notification badges, in a way that a manual process simply can’t. Without these triggers an individual is unlikely to take action until they have formed a new habit.


Fogg defines Ability as an individual’s capacity to do something at a given time, which is influenced by a number of factors including:

  • Time - how long it takes to complete the action
  • Brain cycles - the level of mental effort and focus required to take the action
  • Disruption - how much the action disrupts existing routines
  • The easier the action, the more likely the user is to do it.

With this in mind, consider the steps a manager might take in preparing for a one to one check-in conversation without dedicated technology to help you. For example finding notes, thinking about what to discuss and what kind of questions would work, track down the person’s objectives, trawl through emails for feedback, the list goes on.

Such a process fails the Fogg ability test on all three counts - the Time and Brain Cycles required and the level of Disruption to the individual’s routine. So much so that only the most motivated of managers will do this regularly.

When you use the right technology

Contrast this with the process of preparing for a check-in conversation using Clear Review. The manager clicks one button and has a check-in meeting ready to go with suggested prompts for discussion, notes from the last meeting, the individual’s current objectives and status and recent feedback, all on hand to discuss. It’s quick, simple and effective.

The same goes for giving feedback. If you provide technology to employees that enables them to give feedback in-the-moment in a couple of taps from their mobile phone, they will be much more likely to do it.

And it’s not just theory, it really does work in practice. Clydesdale & Yorkshire Banking Group adopted a continuous performance management approach using Clear Review last October. In only the first 6 months, their 6,500 staff had over 15,000 check-in conversations and gave over 75,000 pieces of feedback. Find out more with this webinar recording and here’s what their people said:

"A fantastic system that is transforming performance discussions! A really positive step forward." 

Elissa Mckinlay, Area Manager, Customer Banking

"I love it, it adds real structure and I look forward to receiving and giving feedback. Thank you for the change, making a real difference."

Kerry Bircumshaw, Bank Manager

To find out how Clear Review can help your organisation to move from broken annual appraisals to meaningful conversations go to

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