6 Performance Management Tips to Boost Employee Retention

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Since April, millions of American workers have left their jobs, fueling The Great Resignation of 2021. In this installment of our employee retention series, we’ll walk you through how to drive employee retention through effective continuous performance management

Employees leaving? Check out the other pieces in our employee retention series:

What employees need from their employer

When asked what they value most in a work environment, employees report that they most highly prioritize the following:

  • A sense of purpose in their work
  • Feelings of belonging or connectedness
  • Appreciation from their managers and executives
  • Whole person care
  • A thriving company culture
  • The clear possibility of professional growth

But executing those ideas can feel overwhelming at first. Where do you even begin?

We’ve identified four key pillars of a successful employee experience. These are necessary for your employees to be aligned and inspired. We’ll do a quick dive, then explain how to support them with continuous performance management.

The pillars of the employee experience & their effect on retention

Here are four pillars you can build on, proven to boost employee engagement, sharpen employee performance, improve job satisfaction, and ultimately reduce turnover rates

(We’ve covered these in-depth in our past talent retention articles, so we’ll stay pretty brief here. For more explanation, check out these pieces, or our Employee Experience Manifesto.)


Workers want to feel connected to peers, managers, as well as the mission and values of the company. 93% of workers say connection matters to them. The problem is, more than half say it’s not important enough to their employers. 


83% of employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss recognizes them. And the proof is in the quitting. The top two reasons cited for leaving during The Great Resignation are: 1) feeling undervalued by management (52%), and 2) feeling undervalued by an organization (54%). 

Performance icon -- meter image on purple background Perform

Employees can’t thrive without an understanding of what success looks for them. Unfortunately, roughly half of employees surveyed by Gallup report that they’re not clear on what’s expected of them at work. And when that happens, engagement plummets.

Icon for growth -- plant on peach background Grow

A survey by Randstad reveals that many employees leave their jobs due to a lack of access to growth and career advancement. A whopping 58% report that their current company doesn’t offer enough growth opportunities to make them want to stay. 

Brush up on the employee experience. Read:
What is the Employee Experience?

What is the employee experience? image

Zooming in on “perform” and “grow”

No doubt about it: Each pillar has a clear tie to employee retention. And performance management bolsters all four pillars of the employee experience. But just as recognition and rewards has a special impact on connection and appreciation, continuous performance management is particularly necessary for performance and growth.

Performance icon -- meter image on purple background Performance management and the perform pillar

The “perform” pillar is defined as employees knowing what the expectations are for their work, and having the support and resources to fulfill them. This starts with strong, continuous performance management. Regular one-on-ones with managers to clarify questions and strategize around blockers, clearly defined personal goals that are visibly tied to team and company goals, and real-time feedback.

And it works. Regularly reviewing accomplishments and impact with a manager makes employees 3x more likely to stay at their job. And 72% say an awareness of that impact helps them deliver a better customer experience. 

Icon for growth -- plant on peach background Performance management and the grow pillar

Top performers want to grow into the best version of themselves, rather than become stagnant. Continuous performance management helps workers learn from timely feedback, discern their unique strengths, and build new skills quickly. It helps managers keep their finger on the pulse of employees’ interests, competencies, and aspirations.

As a result, managers who collaborate with their team to set challenging professional development goals are more likely to see them stay in their jobs.

And the numbers line up: 93% say they’d be willing to stay longer if their employer invested in development opportunities.

Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily. Here are the 6 continuous performance management techniques your company must employ to drive employee retention.

6 performance management techniques to drive employee retention

1. Regular 1-on-1 conversations

When managers prioritize relationships, their direct reports experience an increased sense of belonging, connection, and psychological safety.

Regularly scheduled 1-on-1s allow for:

  • Catching up on personal life
  • Reviewing individual and team goals
  • Realigning with company values
  • Offering accountability for current project progress
  • Troubleshooting challenges
  • Keeping open communication about career ambitions
  • Extending opportunities for growth

They also critically shift the manager-employee relationship. The manager becomes a partner, not just an enforcer who makes sure the work gets done. 

Ideally, your managers should be having 1-on-1 conversations with their reports weekly. If this is new for your company or to a particular manager, check out our Ultimate Guide to Effective 1-on-1s for Managers. This guide walks managers through what to do before, during, and after the 1-on-1, including key steps and sample questions.

Make 1-on-1s a snap:
The Ultimate Guide to Effective 1-on-1s for Managers

Article image for the Ultimate Guide to Effective 1-on-1s for Managers -- two speech bubbles on a purple background

2. Check-ins (aka performance reviews)

Gone are the days of annual performance reviews. The old system actively harmed the bond between managers and direct reports by failing to provide timely, actionable insights. As a result, it often crushed morale. Instead, quarterly check-ins build on the foundation established through more frequent 1-on-1s

With check-ins, managers deepen the conversation about good performance markers, new skill development, productivity, personal reflection, well-being, team dynamics, future options, and more. Rather than waiting until the end of the year, direct reports engage in a conversation that mirrors their recent experiences, and problems can be addressed while they’re still small. That’s why shifting to a continuous performance review process is tied to a 40% drop in employee turnover.

Still skeptical? Check out the case in the article Annual Performance Reviews Don’t Work: Here’s What to Do Instead.

3. Feedback

When employees receive real-time feedback, there’s a 400% increase in work quality. The key here is real-time. It’s simple, but delivering guidance while the employee can still do something about it transforms constructive feedback from a belated blame game and into an actionable, and inspiring, growth opportunity.

It’s also best for feedback to be:

  • as specific as possible
  • constructive, particularly regarding the impact of the behavior (i.e. “When you did X, Y was the result”)
  • well-intentioned (never treat feedback like a blame game or dumping ground)
  • multidirectional (including peer-to-peer, employee-to-manager, and so on)

Let’s be real: Giving feedback can be intimidating. If you or your managers aren’t sure where to start, check out our round-ups of constructive feedback examples and positive feedback examples.

4. Recognition and rewards

Feedback matters. But when it’s all constructive, you’re missing the point. After all, the #1 reason people leave their jobs is a lack of recognition. Real-time positive feedback, or recognition, builds morale, connection, and the sense of meaningful impact. Which is to say, recognition is worth its weight in gold.

The options are endless for honoring high performance. Think a simple thank-you in the hallway, a high-five on the shared recognition feed, a shout-out on social media. What’s important is that praise is timely, genuine, specific, and offered in a way that’s most meaningful to your employees. Some workers love their praise broadcasted, while others would prefer a hand-written note. Building a great employee experience includes options for everybody.

Learn more about the link between employee retention and recognition in our article, Need to Keep Employees From Quitting? Start Recognizing Them.

Read the article:
Need to Keep Employees From Quitting? Start Recognizing Them

Feat image for Need to keep employees_ Start recognizing them -- a megaphone with icons of people on a yellow background

5. Goals

Nearly 3 out of 4 of employees whose managers help them set goals report that they’re actively engaged at work. That’s almost double the national average of engaged employees. 

Goals should be visible company-wideclearly aligned from top-to-bottom, and set collaboratively with clear indicators for success. Regular check-ins and 1-on 1s support the goal-setting process by providing accountability and affirmation.

If your company doesn’t already have a strong, consistent goals program, we’ve put together a free, 7-part e-course that can help you out. Register for Creating a Company Goals Course.

6. Incentives and gamification

Incentives (previously known as Behavior Bonuses) are what bring everything together. The premise? Employees can earn rewards points in your performance management platform for behaviors that drive your company’s goals forward. This includes completing safety trainings, acting as an onboarding buddy for a new hire, completing employee surveys, or even exercising.

More integrally, you can use Incentives and other gamification tactics to support your existing performance management initiatives. Incentivize employees setting and meeting goals, requesting 1-on-1s, completing self-evaluations, and more.

Need an example? Check out our story on how Kazoo customer Elderwood incentivized its eldercare employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Continuous performance management with Kazoo

While “The Great Resignation” continues, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t have to be a losing game. It also gives us an opportunity. The companies who invest in employee experience initiatives today will be those that attract and retain top talent tomorrow. And if you’d like our help, let’s talk.

Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

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