Data, Not Dates

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Many organisations follow a pattern of half year or full year reviews. But what's special about those dates? Performance reviews should be more in tune with the speed at which your people develop.

Last week, the UK government stuck to their promise to focus on ‘data, not dates’ and delayed the lockdown easing in England by four weeks. And that got me thinking, how many companies follow that principle when it comes to developing their people?

Organisations tend to follow a pattern of half year or full year reviews. But what’s special about those dates? Performance reviews should be more in tune with the speed at which your people develop. And they should be timed to provide support or inspiration when employees are most in need of a boost in energy, not arbitrary moments in time.

I’ve put together a few pointers that may help you use data, not dates to upskill or reskill your people.

  • Make sure you are constantly assessing engagement levels: Are you looking at data about how engaged your people are? Make sure you are frequently assessing engagement so you can track any dips or spikes. Both of those trends could indicate a good time for you to check in and ask for feedback on development, as dips in engagement are often linked to a feeling that development has stalled. One study by Udemy found that the top reason for boredom and disengagement in employees was a lack of opportunities to learn new skills. The same survey also found that 80% of respondents agreed learning new skills would make them more engaged.

  • Monitor performance: Similarly, monitoring performance is essential for assessing the right time for a check in. This is where performance management tools can come in handy. Whatever tool or system you choose, they can help you notice changes in performance. If you notice dips in performance, this would be a good time to check in and see if any changes or additional support is needed. Similarly, if you identify a rise in performance, a check-in to reset development goals will be positive proof that you care about an individual’s development and appreciate the steps they have taken to improve.

  • Check in regularly with line managers: In addition to having tools in place that give you a clear picture of engagement and performance levels in your organisation, your line managers are another essential knowledge source for you to get a good picture of what’s going on in your company. Ensuring your line managers have regular check-ins with every team member will mean they will be able to spot any changes in energy, happiness and performance. Make sure the leadership team is in regular contact with line managers so they can share if they notice any of these changes. It will help you to identify trends as they emerge so that you deal with any issues or capitalise on any opportunities.

  • Don’t make a performance review feel like a schoolteacher’s end of term report: When we asked 1000 people in full time employment if they had ever been surprised by a performance review, 58% said they had. Of those people, 50% said they would prefer regular check-ins with their line manager, so they know exactly how they are performing. Almost the same number (47%) said they want regular and clear feedback on where they need to improve so they can make the necessary changes in a timely manner.

The past year has taught us many things about the importance of agility and frequently reassessing plans based on the most recent data. It’s also highlighted the importance of identifying the optimum window required to see changes following recent decisions. I think we should apply this agile, data-driven approach to performance review cycles.

I’m sure there are lots of other things that can indicate a good time for a review, I’d love to read them in the comments.

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