We all crave reviews. Whether it’s a new movie, a chic hotel, or a restaurant people today rarely make a purchase or take an excursion without first reading reviews. I know I would never make a reservation for a client dinner before first checking the restaurant’s reviews. Not to mention that to any filmmaker, hotel owner, curator, or restaurateur, reviews are treasured gems that represent how the public feels about them. Just like all other types of reviews, talent reviews hold a great value for employers as well as employees.

Typically, the phrase “talent review” incites goose bumps in employees and major anxiety in employers. In fact, there is an old saying in human resources: Talent reviews are like fruitcakes — they come once a year whether you want them or not. I can point out a handful of things wrong with this negative mentality toward talent reviews. This process should not be a dreaded one — talent reviews are an excellent way to stay aware of what is going on in your business and to help cultivate its growth.

The first problem with the fruitcake metaphor is the assumption that talent reviews should only come once a year. As an employer, if you only conduct talent reviews once a year, you are missing out on a great deal of intelligence into how your company is running. Holding off on talent reviews until the end of the year has two more negative consequences. Firstly, if you wait until the end of the year, you risk conflating an important discussion about progress and goals with another necessary end-of-year chat: the compensation and bonus conversation. It’s a good idea to keep these conversations separate so that your employees are open to discussion about their work, rather than defensively negotiating for a raise. Another reason to do talent reviews as often as possible is that they are extremely beneficial, both to employers and employees.

For employers, talent reviews function as a way to identify, reward, develop, and retain top talent. As you know, good people are the most valuable asset of any business. Identifying talented members of your team is a great way to develop your business and make sure you are relegating your most important tasks to the most capable people. This process is an essential one, and not one that should be left to the last minute or considered an afterthought. Supervisors should take their time when conducting these reviews as they have major repercussions on their business.

Talent reviews are not only helpful in identifying top achievers — typically those are already evident before reviews. They can be especially helpful in identifying team members with high potential: those who aren’t yet achieving to their highest capability, but those who are worth the extra effort to help get to that high-achieving point.

On the flipside, talent reviews are beneficial to employers in identifying weak team members. It is equally important to keep an eye on weak performance as it is to identify strong performance. By keeping track of who isn’t performing up to par, you can make necessary cuts and replacements to keep your business running smoothly. When employers only hold talent reviews once a year, they risk letting weak performers with low potential fall under the radar, thereby weakening their business.
As you can see, the main categories an employee review helps evaluate are performance and potential. One way to stay organized in your talent reviews is to utilize the nine-box method: nine boxes, with performance on the X-axis and potential on the Y-axis. After an employee review, it can be helpful to place each team member in one of the nine boxes to determine their strength in the company. (Photo Credit)

Talent reviews are not only helpful for the employer — they can be immensely beneficial to the employee as well. However, in order for the employee to reap the benefits of these conversations, it is essential for the employer to be completely transparent about their thoughts regarding the review. If the employer conducts the review and then gives the employee no feedback on how it went, they are missing out on an excellent opportunity to help a member of their team grow and start achieving to their highest potential. The talent review process should be a two-way street — more of a problem-solving discussion rather than a graded rubric.

Thinking about talent reviews as more of a two-way problem-solving discussion makes the process less like an audition and more like a mutually beneficial conversation, which is what it should be! One technique some supervisors use when conducting talent reviews is to flip the script and start the conversation by asking the employee to answer questions about themselves. Asking the employee to answer questions such as “how have you done,” “what are your goals,” or “what is your greatest accomplishment so far this quarter,” not only gives the supervisor a better idea of where the employee is at but helps the employee assess themselves. Also, talent reviews can serve to help employers understand the strengths and weaknesses in their own businesses. By asking questions like “what problems have you faced and how did you solve them,” you can consider ways for both the employee and the company to grow together.

Self-assessment is an extremely important process for anyone, in both the professional and personal spheres. The only way any individual can improve themselves is by identifying their strengths and weaknesses honestly. It can be hard to gain clarity on your own, so it is helpful to have a supervisor’s outside perspective to help you understand what your strengths and weaknesses really are. Clearly, the talent review process is far preferable to, and much more beneficial than, the average fruitcake.

Talent reviews are an immensely valuable process, both for the reviewer and the reviewee. Employers, don’t be afraid to conduct them as often as possible. And employees, don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and with your employer. The goal of a talent review is to do what’s best for the business and for the employer. Everyone should come out of the process with some wisdom on how to be a better teammate and how to better run your business.