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Why Talent Review is Key for Unbiased Performance Reviews

Are your company’s performance reviews actually reflecting employee performance? With a whopping 88% of business leaders saying the time they put into performance management serves no real purpose, it’s clear that something needs to change. The missing link? The talent review.

Today, a new wave of innovative HR leaders is reinventing the performance review by embracing a model of continuous performance management. This allows them to collect insights about employees’ performance in new ways — transforming the dangerously outdated annual performance review into a process that truly reflects and champions employee potential.

Sound like a mouthful? Let’s break it down.


What is a talent review?

Talent review is the conversation that happens between management, leadership, and HR about the employee, their performance, and their potential, before the manager’s conversation with the employee.

In a talent review, leadership teams and HR leaders come together to assess ​high performers, employees with high potential, and talent gaps. By painting a comprehensive picture of performance and potential, evaluators can see clearly whether an employee is plugging along steadily as a solid contributor, is ready for a promotion, in need of development opportunities, or is a poor fit for the role they’re in.

(p.s. We break this down further in our article on using the 9-box framework for talent reviews. 📄)

Talent reviews allow senior leaders and human resources staff to continually evaluate the state of their talent pool and the bench strength of the company before the facilitation of reviews with employees. The end result? A better-calibrated, higher-functioning team that achieves best-in-class business performance

A successful talent review process is:

  • data-driven
  • conducted collaboratively among HR professionals and senior executives
  • takes place consistently
  • provides a structured, fact-based format for productive conversations that lead to development plans.

Talent reviews hold managers accountable for answering the question: “How well do your know your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, and dreams for the future?” (Because they should.)


Need tips? Read:
How to Have a Talent Review, in 4 Steps

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How talent review fits into continuous performance management

Talent reviews may take place among leaders, but they fall under the umbrella of continuous performance management along with employee-facing goal-setting, regular feedback, plenty of recognition and rewards, and formal performance evaluations.

At its most effective, continuous performance management looks like this:

Continuous performance management model -- linear view, showing recognition and feedback feeding into sync-ups, feeding into check-insCalendar view of continuous performance management, demonstrating frequency of check-ins, sync-ups and feedback

The breakdown?

  • Daily recognition and frequent feedback (whether it be top-down or peer-to-peer) informs
  • Weekly 1-on-1 sync-ups between managers and direct reports, which inform
  • Quarterly performance review check-ins between managers and direct reports

…which are supported by talent reviews that objectively and proactively recalibrate teams. Those talent reviews future performance conversations through sync-ups and check-ins, and the cycle continues.


How talent review transforms performance reviews

Here are 3 ways that incorporating talent reviews into your continuous performance management cycle can mitigate inherent biases too often found in conventional practices:

1. Talent reviews require multiple data sources

A manager’s “gut feeling” about an employee isn’t a reliable metric. Hard data is. 

When done well, talent reviews provide multiple points of feedback from multiple evaluators, documented progress on goals, and insights from previous performance conversations. Those multiple points of feedback help provide objective data points. And that protects the two types of bias most prevalent in traditional performance reviews proximity bias (favoring someone because we see them more often than others, or their work is more visible) and similarity bias (favoring someone because they remind us of ourselves).

2. Talent reviews standardize evaluations

Not all managers approach employee evaluations in the same way. Some are naturally more critical. Others generously offer glowing praise. A well executed talent review process brings multiple voices together in an effort to calibrate standards company-wide. This equips all managers with a balanced, documented gameplan before heading into performance conversations. 

3. Talent reviews drive accountability

A well-run talent review generates extensive conversation around the evaluation. Managers can’t just give employees a rating or ranking with no supporting reasons why (also known as “blank box bias”). Instead, the conversations and questions of the talent review encourage managers to justify and examine all employee ratings.


New to the 9-box? Read:
How to Do Employee Talent Review Using the 9-Box

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Talent reviews accomplish:

  • Less-biased feedback. Feedback should be both given and received in both spontaneous and systematic ways until a feedback culture is built. Talent reviews are a fantastic tool for extracting feedback about employees laterally between managers and senior leadership. Performance conversations provide a place for feedback between business leaders and their direct reports that supports future leadership development.
  • Goals alignment. Whether you’re using OKRs or SMART goals, tracking KPIs, or another favorite goal-setting system, talent reviews can help managers keep employee goals aligned with overall organizational goals. Then, performance management keeps everyone accountable to those predetermined business goals, as well as the competencies required to set and meet new goals.
  • Opportunities for recognition. Talent reviews offer a great opportunity to recognize employees who are progressing within the organization. That may include a social shout out, an experiential reward, or even a promotion. Ultimately, regular recognition fuels employee engagement and retention, making it much more likely that new talent will stick around long enough to turn into top talent.

It’s all about alignment. When talent reviews and performance reviews work in tandem, using multiple perspectives and an emphasis on data, leaders are able to arrive at objective evaluations that result in individual, team, and organizational growth.


Facilitate talent reviews with Kazoo

We hope this article helps center talent reviews at the heart of your performance management strategy. And if you want to learn more about running a successful talent review, 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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