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What is the best interval for giving employee reviews?

When I worked in the corporate world, the large organizations I worked for always did reviews annually. I tend to think this isn't frequent enough. I don't think it gives employees enough input throughout the year and I also think it is hard for mangers to remember some of the work and progress or lack thereof. That said, I assume there is some logical reasoning since these organizations have a lot of experience and HR experts working there. I have a small company now, but want to get started off on the right foot. Appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

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You can tell yourself quarterly reviews are best and sure, more can be better, but any business I know managing a more than a few poeple who set out to do more than annual formal reviews never lasts at it because it is time consuming for manager and staff and as often as not little changes between quarters and the conversation becomes unproductive. It is worse to under-deliver on formal commitments.

I think that a formal annual review is absolutely best as a process and it should coincide with a strategy around goals and how your employees contribute to that delivery. That said, just like you don't want goals to be done once a year and not discussed as activity happens, performance management should be organic and whether you have a 4x or 1x formal review you should be talking to staff about performance ALL THE TIME directly and/or through your management chain! If you have metrics, be they weekly, quarterly or semi-annually you can attach performance conversations to measured results so there is objectivity as well as the soft skill discussions.

Remember too that some employees need more attention and reinforcement, encouragement or correction and some are better with a map and a schedule and left to it. Formal plans make sure that minimum activities happen with time and purpose. Effective leadership makes sure those meetings are more perfunctory and without surprise.


Hi there Jeff, kudos to you for taking this step as many small businesses do not engage in this very important activity. It's important to know what sort of management structure you have. If for example you alone will be doing reviews it's different than when done by managers and/or supervisors. The frequency is really up to you as is the technique you use (these topics are too large to discuss here). Most important of all is this- you must first establish what you intend to get from these reviews and what you will do with the information provided. I'm quite happy to chat with you off-line if you like.

Hear, Hear, well said again ED

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Hi Jeff
I agree with Alison frequent shorter two way conversations are the most effective, if you draw up a record sheet with a few main headings, i.e Review of last month, targets for the next month, training needs .. you will always have a record of the meetings and will be able to refer back to them.
Drawing up a record sheet ensures all employees are reviewed in the same way. An Annual review should be about an hour and include targets for the coming year as well as a review of the past year.

Great comments. I always tried to "round" with each of my team members once a month, to get updates and understand their challenges, and also to give them the opportunity to let me know what I can do to make their job easier and them more effective in their role. Annual reviews, in my opinion, especially in large organizations, have become nothing more than a way to cross the t's and dot the i's and to justify small mass pay increases. In one of my past roles, we operated in a shared services environment and our "customers" at one division used them to punish corporate support departments for personal grievances.

Managers with more than a handful of direct reports, though, never have the time to provide any kind of thorough review, even annually. I am a fan of ongoing communication for the everyday work, and bi-annual meetings to review goals and objectives and to adjust those as needed.


I agree with Robert. Quarterly reviews seem to make a lot of sense to me. Also when something significant, positive or negative happens, it would seem a great time to sit down and review. If things have gone right, what did they do that you can celebrate and reinforce? If things have not gone well, what can be changed?

In addition, to your point about remembering specific behavior and events, I suggest keeping a journal for each employee. Jot down a short description of what the situation was, what tasks and actions they undertook, and what results they accomplished. While this appears to be a lot of work, when you are preparing for and having a review, this information will not only be invaluable, it will make your reviews much more effective and productive.


Annually is too long, quarterly reviews may be OK, daily or weekly feedback is the best. When you can catch someone doing something you want or don't want, you can immediately provide specific feedback. People come to work with a desire to do a good job. At times, we are just not as precise as the person wants or needs. This way immediate specific feedback is extremely helpful.

Overall objectives should be reviewed on monthly bases as things happen, that were not anticipated, and goals need to reflect those adjustments.

Management would be easy if it weren't for the people. :)


Honestly you already answered--annual reviews don't work! Large corporations have to have some type of across-the-board measurements and processes to equally apply merit increases and such. As a small business owner the evaluation annually is a thing of the past, and never proven a successful tool. Giving feedback daily is the best measure--talk to your staff and engage with them often-good and bad, and an annual review is meaningless, and not necessary. Staff want to be a part of something and recognized for their efforts. Giving feedback regularly is the best method to ensure staff are aware of the expectations and how they are contributing. It works and avoids any year end surprises, or disappointments.


Hi Jeff,
Annual reviews are only good if they are attached to performance and salary.
Also it's much outdated in this fast paced world.
I also tend to think that reviews themself are not the most productive tools.
In itself it speaks of the past, rather than the future or the here and now.
It also seems to be a non team building exercise, between the manager and the worker.

May I suggest that you may like to consider "Updates" and progress reviews.
This is when the manager sits with the worked and discussed the progress, towards pre set goals / targets.
They encourage, two way discussions, including aspects like hurdles, planning, Strategy, what do you need?, How can I help you to achieve your goals.
The timing of them depends on the project, and development.
There are many aspects, and ways that you can score the worker.

One company I work for many years ago, had a rating out of lets say 10. when it came to reviews, (annual) a score of 6 was a good score, a score of say 8 would have the management thinking why has this person still doing this job. which them posses a whole lot of other questions.

The point is that things change, with each new day there are new opportunities. Today it's more about how that person is able to see them, respond to them, overcome them, take advantage of them. Win or lose, there is always something to take away from the opportunity.
Asking about it a month / Qtr / Year later, maybe too late.


There is so much great thought out now on this topic. This is one of many things that is rapidly changing in the HR space right now. Not only is there thinking now that annual reviews are ineffective, but in the context of changing employee expectations we can really see that change is needed. Millenials expect 50% more feedback than other employee groups and they now makeup the largest percentage of the workforce.
More frequent dialogue would be my recommendation. Notice I said dialogue and not "feedback". It must be a conversation. In the new world of work there is increased transparency and a flattening of hierarchies which means the old command and control models just don't work. So focus on developing your employees every day, not reviewing their performance once a year and not only will it be more effective in developing your workforce but the employees will be more engaged.
Here is one mainstream article fior further reading, but there are many out there to discover!


The larger the corporate structure the more politically motivated these reviews become regardless of how great the performance.
A small company now I would try something new and different stepping away from the old school politics of organizational culture doing one way reviews that has little merit and only recalls the most recent events.
Be a leader and strike out on a new vision that all team members can share. If your team is having more fun at work they will pass the rewards on to you.


Your intuition is correct; annually is too long for both the manager and the employee. We did employee reviews every six months against their personal goals and objectives agreed to at the beginning of the year. This helps to keep the employee on track and the manager defends to remember how the employee does against their personal goals and objectives.

One thing to think about is you have is in some cases (sales for example) where there are specific performance measures. If the sales don’t occur, you can work on a remediation plan to get the employee’s sales successes to increase.

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