Foster a culture of continuous improvement with your team via quarterly conversations to maintain motivation

The annual review is one of the most anticipated and dreaded events on the human resources management calendar. Typically involving a yearly review of employee job performance, pay and benefits, it is often rescheduled, postponed, delayed and skipped entirely. Some managers dodge this valuable feedback-delivering event, hoping that if they don’t do it, employees won’t notice and won’t expect a raise. Another alternative is quarterly conversations.

Quarterly conversations

Consider taking the pressure off your managers and your employees by replacing your annual reviews with quarterly conversations. Management consultants agree that employees are more motivated to remain in a job that is providing them with the opportunity to grow personally and professionally than one that pays a higher rate.

Implementing a quarterly system of offering feedback provides employees with a roadmap to improve their performance and grow in their roles throughout the year. When your employees can count on your honest feedback on a quarterly basis, it strengthens the bonds of trust between you and your team members and increases employee satisfaction and retention.

Performance improvement plans

Quarterly conversations involve 15-20-minute meetings between manager and employees in a relaxed, casual setting. Pay rate and benefits are not discussed (these items are handled during a separate, annual pay and benefits review).

Rather, the focus is on measuring alignment with your practice mission and values, and an assessment of job-specific skills performance. The result is an employee Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), also known as a Performance Action Plan. A PIP is a tool designed to give employees with performance deficiencies the opportunity to succeed. You can also use it as an opportunity to address shortcomings, meet specific job-related goals, or to ameliorate behavior-related concerns.

quarterly report card

A simple grading scale of A-B-C allows you to provide your employees with a quarterly report card.

The grade of A means that the employee achieves the desired target all the time. The grade of B means that sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. The grade of C means that most of the time they don’t achieve the desired target. The goal is to achieve across-the-board As with the occasional B. Persistent Cs may indicate that the employee may not be the right fit for the role that they are in.

Core values alignment

The first component of the quarterly conversation includes an evaluation of the employee’s alignment with your practice core values. Your core values are the 3-5 guiding principles that dictate the appropriate behavior of your employees.

Examples of core values include: Passion for Quality, Go the Extra Mile, No Drama, Be Innovative and Do the RightThing. Employees should be made aware of how these core values are interpreted by the practice team members. Employees and managers should independently perform this alignment check, with the employee self-scoring his or her perceived level of alignment.

Discrepancies between scores should be addressed by the manager, and a PIP to improve alignment by the employee should be created and documented in the employee’s file.

Quarterly conversations and skill set performance review

The second component of the quarterly conversation is a skill set performance review. Skills performance is graded on the same A-B-C scale as used with assessing core values alignment, with manager and employee performing independent assessments.

Review the employee’s performance in the following areas:

Is the employee in the right role?Does the employee understand their role?Does the employee want to be in their role?Does the employee have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their role?Does the employee have the time needed to perform their role?Achievement of any job-specific performance metrics.

Create a SMART improvement plan

Grades of B or C require the creation of a specific plan to address the deficiencies and improve performance. Specifics regarding the unacceptable performance should be documented.

Set specific and measurable performance improvement objectives that are achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). PIPs are typically set for 30, 60 or 90 days, depending upon how long it would reasonably take the employee to improve the specific issues.

An example might be: “During the last three months, Sally Smith arrived late to work eight times. During this 90-day performance evaluation, she must have perfect on-time attendance. This means she must clock in and be ready for work by the start of each scheduled shift.”

Provide the employee with guidance on what the manager will do to assist the employee in achieving these targets and details on how often you will meet to discuss progress. This is typically done on a weekly basis. Clearly state the consequences for not meeting the objectives of the plan. Options may include a pay cut, transfer to a different role, or termination depending upon the lack of improvement. Unethical or criminal behavior should result in immediate termination with referral to the appropriate legal authorities when necessary.

Document your plan and results

Verbal communication can be one of the most ineffective ways to communicate. What one party says is often not heard by the other party in the same way.

You can assure that your message doesn’t get lost in translation by having the employee document what they think took place during the quarterly conversation in a brief email back to you. This process ensures that both employee and manager are on the same page in terms of expectations and consequences.

Consistency is key

No employee should be surprised when their job is terminated. Surprise is the result of poor communication and alignment of expectations.

Implementing a program of quarterly conversations, and documenting their results, provides employers with a paper trail that can serve as documentation of your process should you be accused of wrongful termination. In the absence of good documentation, you could be in the uncomfortable position of disputing one person’s word against the other.

Consistently perform quarterly conversations and you’ll foster a culture of continuous growth and improvement of your practice team and the results they create.

MARK SANNA, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC, is a member of the Chiropractic Summit and a board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching and can be contacted at or 800-723-8423.

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By: Mark Sanna, DC
Title: Replace employee annual reviews with quarterly conversations
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Published Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 15:38:00 +0000