When the topic is employee performance, it's all too common to use annual reviews as the straw man in the discussion. 

The discussion usually goes like this: Studies repeatedly show that annual reviews hamper employee-manager relationships. That's why all sorts of companies--including Accenture, Microsoft, GE, and The Gap--have ditched annual reviews and commenced to conduct their evaluations more frequently. 

You've read it before. We've written it a zillion times. So what's new and exciting? Mainly this: Frequency does not help matters. At all. According to a recent survey commissioned by TINYpulse, a Seattle maker of employee-engagement software, the top complaint among both employees and managers about performance reviews of all types--not just annual--is that they take too much time. 

Approximately 40 percent of the survey sample--100 employees and 100 managers--had annual performance reviews. But the majority--some 60 percent--had reviews more frequently, on a quarterly, monthly, bi-weekly or even weekly basis. 

Here are the top complaints, according to the survey:  

  • Too time-consuming: Managers (31 percent), Employees (17 percent)
  • One-way conversation: Managers (12 percent), Employees (9 percent)
  • Manager can be biased: Managers (9 percent), Employees (11 percent)
  • Objectives are mismatched: Managers (9 percent), Employees (5 percent)
  • Only focus on the negative: Managers (8 percent), Employees (9 percent)
  • No follow-up given: Managers (8 percent), Employees (9 percent)
  • No feedback given: Managers (7 percent), Employees (8 percent)
  • Blindsided by results: Managers (4 percent), Employees (5 percent)
  • Issues are discussed too late: Managers (4 percent), Employees (8 percent)
  • Only discuss recent topics: Managers (4 percent), Employees (9 percent)
  • Based on anecdotal memory: Managers (4 percent), Employees (8 percent)

What's intriguing about these responses is that--generally speaking--managers and employees are on the same page about their complaints. The darn reviews take too much time.

If you take a closer look at the numbers, you can see that they begin to diverge, ever slightly, around what's known as "recency bias" or the recency effect: giving too much weight to what happened lately or the flip side of that coin--not discussing salient topics until it's too late. While employees indicated that several manifestations of recency bias was their top complaint, managers were less likely to point it out. 

Results like these beg a classic philosophical question: What is to be done? After all, it's clear that merely switching from annual reviews to more frequent ones, while helpful, is not a panacea. 

TINYpulse, for its part, is hoping to address the problem by launching its own performance-review app (called Perform), devoted to addressing these manifold manager and employee complaints. (Pricing starts at $5 per month per user, or $3 per month per user for existing TINYpulse customers.) 

While performance-review apps are nothing new, TINYpulse believes its product will be superior from an ease-of-use perspective, like consumer apps like Tinder or Fitbit. The app has a dashboard and a Tinder-like feature called "swipe to rate goals."

The idea, in fact, was to make the evaluation process fun--even addictive. "It was so employees would have, dare I say, a delightful experience," says Matt Hulett, TINYpulse's Chief Product Officer. "We did not want them to feel like this was something their managers were cramming down on them and mandating them to use."