Talent Reviews & Performance Conversations: Creating a Continuous Loop

Talent Reviews and Performance ConversationsWhen assessing talent and making important talent decisions, organizations have typically relied on annual talent and performance reviews. But with today’s pace of business (coupled with employee expectations) this is not an effective model.

You’ve probably heard a lot about continuous performance management and ongoing performance conversations—but have you considered doing the same with your talent reviews? These important conversations shouldn’t be happening just once a year.


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Employee needs are changing all the time—and so are the needs of your business. To keep up, you must continuously collect data that enables quick, smart, and agile talent decisions. When you pair frequent, lightweight talent reviews with continuous performance conversations, you’ll set your people leaders up for success.

In this post, you’ll learn why you should be creating a continuous loop between talent reviews and performance conversations, including:

  • The importance of frequent, lightweight talent reviews
  • How continuous performance conversations pair with talent reviews
  • The benefits of creating a continuous conversation loop


The importance of frequent, lightweight talent reviews


Most organizations conduct annual talent reviews to support their talent development strategy. HR and people leaders get in a room to identify high and low performers using some version of the 9-box matrix. They make important decisions about each employee’s future behind closed doors and often with less-than-stellar data.

These conversations are not effective! If you’re still going about your talent reviews in this way, it’s time for a new approach.

Effective organizations are moving toward more frequent, lightweight, and collaborative talent reviews. Moving to a quarterly frequency can help you keep up with the evolving needs of your organization and your employees. Keeping things lightweight and collaborative will increase the quality of your data and reduce the likelihood of bias and unfairness creeping into the process.

9-box matrixFrequent, lightweight talent reviews will help give you a clear, real-time understanding of your talent pipeline so you can make the right decisions at the right time to retain top talent.


Quantum Workplace’s 4-Quadrant Talent Grid

Simplifying the 9-box matrix into a 4-quadrant grid makes it easier to identify where employees stand and what needs to be done to develop and retain them.


How continuous performance conversations pair with talent reviews


Part of the problem with annual talent reviews and performance evaluations is that it’s difficult for managers to remember everything that happened regarding an employee’s performance over the past year.


Continuous performance conversations will fuel more accurate, effective, and real-time conversations around talent.

When managers and employees meet more often, they get a better picture of what’s happening with employees at any given time. This includes how performance and growth trajectory may have changed since the last talent review. Instead of basing decisions off of memories or past experiences, they’ll have actual data to talk about and make decisions with.


Talent reviews can also fuel meaningful performance conversations.

Talent reviews help managers identify action steps and discussion points to consider for future performance conversations.

For example, a manager might determine in a talent review that a top performer is at risk of leaving the organization. The next performance conversation would be a good time to talk about how that employee is feeling about their role and where they’d like to be in the future.

Or, if a manager identifies an under-performer, that manager and employee can talk about obstacles and challenges and develop a plan together to help the employee get back on track.

Here are three ways to leverage continuous performance conversations for talent reviews:


1. Empower employees to contribute.

Since employees aren’t part of talent review conversations, it’s really important for managers to gather feedback and understand their perspective during one on one meetings.

In order to do that, managers need to ensure these conversations are two-way. Managers should encourage employees to assess and describe their own performance, challenges, and opportunities rather than telling them how it is.


2. Be honest.

Talent reviews typically happen behind closed doors. But employees shouldn’t be surprised by an action or discussion that comes out of a talent review. That’s why giving honest feedback during performance conversations is so important.

Managers should put employees at ease by helping them understand where they stand and how they fit in the organization. They should be direct and refrain from avoiding the tough conversations just because they’re uncomfortable.


3. Keep detailed notes.

Managers are typically managing several employees at once, which means several performance conversations. It can be difficult to remember everything you talk about and keep the details straight among multiple employees.

It’s important to keep detailed and accurate notes so that you can go back and review. These notes will come in handy when the next talent review rolls around as you’ll have a wealth of information and an ongoing story to tell about each employee.


3 benefits of creating a continuous conversation loop


In many industries, companies have been using a continuous strategy like this for decades. In fact, 90% of IT organizations are already use agile practices.

  • Manufacturers address this process as lean,
  • Software developers refer to it as agile
  • Entrepreneurs call it the lean start-up

Bottom line, you can’t make strategic talent decisions if you’re only discussing talent and performance once a year. Your processes need to be more agile.

Talent decisions shouldn’t be made behind closed doors—and performance conversations shouldn’t be one-sided. Creating a continuous conversation loop between the two is a step in the right direction and offers many benefits for employees and managers, including:


1. Saves time, resources, and logistical headaches.

More frequent meetings might feel like more paperwork and time away from day-to-day tasks. But when managers spend more time throughout the year with employees, they open up additional opportunities for employees to share their experiences.

Continuous conversations can help reduce the headache, time, and resources that get sunk into large batch annual processes that don’t deliver much value anyway.

Leverage technology to help your managers facilitate ongoing performance conversations and talent reviews with ease. Your processes will become easier and people leaders will have more and better data to make the right talent decisions at the right time.


2. Creates opportunities to coach and mitigate risk.

When you have better, real-time data you can act sooner and be more effective. It will be much easier to uncover potential retention risk or opportunities for growth. Managers can then coach employees to overcome hardships or deliver development opportunities to employees on an as-needed basis, rather than waiting for the next talent review to come around.

HR can also benefit by frequently receiving decision-making information to help address long-term problems and career paths. A regular cadence means quicker documentation, more effective action steps, and meaningful progress.


3. Enables proactive solutions vs. reactive responses.

Employees aren’t going to stick around if they don’t feel like you’re willing to invest in them. It’s imperative to work to retain an employee before they leave. But do your talent review processes allow you to be proactive?

By only addressing talent decisions at the end of the year, you miss opportunities to capture needs in real-time. Putting these conversations on the back burner may convey to employees that you don’t prioritize their professional development or career goals. While addressing them head on could lead to new opportunities for employees and a reduction in turnover.

Organizations must be agile enough so that they are able to adjust as things change. Keeping a pulse on employee performance and talent development allows teams and managers to be more proactive in response to those issues.



To create a continuous conversation loop and make more strategic talent decisions, grab our ebook 6 Steps to Knowing and Growing Your Talent Pool: A Guide to Identifying and Retaining Top Talent.

6 Steps to Knowing and Growing Your Talent Pool

Published March 5, 2020 | Written By Mark Rathouz