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To be a successful company you need to have a system for evaluating employee performance. There also needs to be a process for providing feedback to an employee. At most companies, a performance review serves these purposes.

We don’t do performance reviews here at Stryve. They’re old school. We have career conversations instead. And no, it’s not a sugar-coated version of the same thing.

Here’s the main difference between a performance review and a career conversation:

A performance review helps the employee be successful at their current place of employment. It usually happens once a year.

A career conversation helps the employee be successful whether it’s at their current place of employment or somewhere else. It happens twice a year.

A performance review is about putting the company’s interest first. A career conversation is about putting the employee’s interest first. When you lead with the employee’s career goals in mind, many things fall into place. Employees feel valued and supported which ultimately makes them more engaged and committed to your company.

Get started with these discussion questions

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but add in a few questions that go beyond performance. Here are some to get you going:

  1. Tell us how you’ve met or exceeded client expectations
  2. If something fell short, let us know what you learned and what can be done differently
  3. What does the employee do well?
  4. What can the employee improve on?
  5. What motivates you? What do you appreciate about working here?
  6. Is there anything we can do to help you do an even better job?
  7. Salary and compensation
  8. Set goals and expectations for the next six months

Some of the questions mirror the content that you’d see in a performance review. But it’s the bolded questions (5 and 6) that make the difference. It’s important to understand what motivates a team to come into work every day. Leaders need to focus on helping them do even more amazing work.

Managers do the baseline

Traditional companies tend to shy away from these open-ended questions. Managers will often jot something down but won’t make any changes. Perhaps it’s a lack of power. Maybe it’s a lack of concern and ultimately it’s the employee’s responsibility to take control of their own career success.

You’d be surprised though. The answers we’ve heard have not been about money or large organizational changes.

Leaders go one inch deeper

Team members mention software upgrades. They talk about techniques for making meetings more productive. Often, they mention things that can help the company and not just themselves.

Not everything mentioned will always be actionable. But it’s important that leaders are opening up a dialogue, listening, and understanding. Where do you want to take your career? Why? How can I help get you there?

Take our word for it: it works pretty well. We haven’t had a full-time employee leave in the 9 years we’ve been in business. That’s a 100% retention rate for our full-time employees. It’s something we’re really proud of. Hopefully this approach can bring similar results to other companies.