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Woman candidate giving her resume to HR manager during a job interview in office. Young female applying for open position.Gunnar Svanberg Skulason/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

When recruiter and career coach Jermaine Murray hears about managers doing once-a-year performance reviews with staff, all he can think about are missed opportunities.

In today’s competitive job market, where attracting and retaining workers is a top challenge, Mr. Murray says organizations should be providing regular feedback year-round to keep workers engaged.

“Managers need to convey to the person that [their] best interests are [the company’s] best interests,” says Mr. Murray, founder of Toronto-based Jupiter HR.

Frequent discussions help managers stay current on employees’ interests, enabling them to advocate for any enticing opportunities for advancement.

“A lot more leaders are realizing how important it is to engage in sponsorship of their employees; championing somebody to get work, or a promotion, or an assignment they might otherwise not get.”

Mr. Murray is among a growing number of career experts who believe that simply reviewing workers’ performance once a year, tallying their strengths and weaknesses, is no longer effective.

Consider Gallup research showing only 10 per cent of people who leave their reviews feeling bad are motivated to improve, and four out of five say they’re actively or passively looking for other employment.

A 2018 EY survey shows Gen Z employees are hungry for regular feedback; 97 per cent want it on an ongoing basis after finishing a big work assignment, and two-thirds prefer to receive timely constructive feedback throughout the year.

Some workplaces offer employees weekly one-on-one meetings with their managers and more support to reach their personal and professional goals. The frequent meetings supplement the annual review process, manage workers’ expectations and prevent surprises, Mr. Murray says.

“For some people, any meeting with your manager that starts with the word ‘performance’ is going to enable anxiety,” explains Mr. Murray, who goes by the nickname ‘The Jobfather.’

“Taking the mystery out of it before you have [that meeting] is a big thing,” he adds.

More companies are also providing what’s known as “360-degree feedback,” which includes input not only from managers but also peers and maybe even customers, providing a more well-rounded perspective.

Experts say a more collaborative, empathetic approach to employee evaluations – which also considers the realities of the new hybrid workplace – can drive engagement and potentially increase productivity.

The most common complaints Mr. Murray hears from workers are the “lack of promotion, lack of transparency, lack of career development and money.”

He says leading organizations have turned performance reviews into career-development reviews, where managers help employees work on achieving their professional and personal goals.

“They want to get an idea … [of] what the goals of their employees are and what they can do to give the employee the feeling that staying at their company is going to be the most rewarding thing,” Mr. Murray says.

A shift in how employees were assessed started before the pandemic but then accelerated as people started to examine their relationship with work over the past couple of years, says Tom Philpott, chief operating officer at Vancouver’s Circle Innovation, an innovation hub.

“What has been steadily picking up speed is the idea of looking at the person beyond the objectives,” says Mr. Philpott, whose leadership experience is largely in health care and research.

He says reviews and regular check-ins give managers a chance to understand remote workers better and, if done properly, will keep them motivated and prevent any feelings of isolation.

The increase in remote work has brought on new challenges for some workers, Mr. Philpott says, while removing the opportunity for more casual face-to-face chats where a manager might learn more about someone’s home life or get a sense for how they’re coping. He believes it’s important to schedule time to make sure those conversations still happen.

Mr. Philpott is a fan of weekly one-on-one meetings between managers and each of their team members, viewing them as an opportunity to stay on top of their work and what might be affecting it. It’s also a chance for the manager to find out how they might be able to support staff to do their best work.

“Annual reviews are okay for certain things like salary adjustments,” Mr. Philpott says. “But an annual review is not going to be very effective on its own. The most fundamental shift I’m seeing is there needs to be more connected contact with the employee” throughout the year.

PolicyMe, a digital insurance provider with a remote work force of about 50 people,

went from a twice-annual review process to more frequent one-on-ones during the pandemic.

Vanesa Cotlar, PolicyMe’s vice-president of people and culture, says the updated review process includes a more robust gathering of employee feedback, quarterly engagement surveys and “career pathing,” which helps workers put together a long-term plan and identifies the steps to get there.

“Being remote first … one of the things that you have to account for is that people may not necessarily be giving each other continuous feedback organically in the same way they would in person,” Ms. Cotlar says.

“If someone is hearing for the first time that they’re not doing well at the performance review, that’s not good. It’s like saying, ‘This thing you did four months ago wasn’t effective.’ To [the employee], maybe it didn’t even register at the time.”