A better method for employee performance reviews

By Jim Annis, CEO


Traditional performance reviews can be a source of conflict. A slightly negative review can break an employee’s morale and be a precursor for their exit. If they are a “keeper,” taking a risk is not an option, especially in this competitive market for talent.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article entitled, “Is It Time to Put the Performance Review on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan)?”, the number of employers that are either ditching the numerical ranking of employees or tossing out the entire performance review process has grown from 4 percent in 2012 to 12 percent in 2014, as referenced in a CEB survey of Fortune 1000 companies. Does ditching the traditional 1-5 performance ranking and “expected” raises work for your company or against it? We believe it encourages avoidance and is uncomfortable for everyone, and most people don’t leave feeling empowered or positive.

HR executives need to be adaptable and flexible to match the rapidly changing work environment. Communication – not one-way but true dialogue – in real time via technology, less formality in our work and home life, and increased mobility have made the traditional performance reviews into dinosaurs. Innovative companies are flattening operations, including giving line employees the power to change floor production in real time using APIs. HR can learn from that kind of forward thinking.

One alternative to explore is the “coaching” conversation, or a naturally occurring dialogue that happens at a “natural” break in workflow. For example, managers can initiate it with employees on completion of a project and seek feedback. This method removes “human error” because – I don’t know about you – but remembering what I had for lunch can be challenging, let alone detailing last year with perfect recall. Coaching conversations are more authentic, consistent and accurate. They also bolster on “great place to work” characteristics, fundamentally build and reinforce trust and move from a one-way info dump to a more actionable and collaborative effort. To be fair, the employee should have an option to imitate a formal review if they prefer.

Coaching conversations ditch the old ranking system for open-ended questions (Think this sounds like a good salesperson’s technique? You’re correct, but only when paired with great listening skills). We suggest a quarterly conversation, yet there is no hard and fast requirement. Create a section in your employee handbook so that you have 1) clear expectations; 2) frequent check-ins; and 3) clear feedback mechanisms. Now of course not everything is “kumbayah.” You still need to manage the employee. Disciplinary issue? Document it. If you are engaged as a manager, you know who deserves a raise and who doesn’t so be sure to link your HR strategic compensation strategy to the new review format in order to remain competitive.

Implementing the coaching philosophy appeals to millennials, the largest generation represented in the workforce. They want to feel valued and taken seriously and classic reviews are too paternalistic and top down. If you casually say, “Let’s chat now that the project is done about how things went,” versus “Your performance review is scheduled for x date and y time,” I would choose the first option any day. They would too. Will they be able to choose that option at your company?

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

Millennials in the Workplace: What We Really Need To Talk About

By Anastasia Warren, Marketing Manager


I’ve recently noticed the amount of people in the world pointing out problems.

Yes, this is needed.

We need to understand the root of the problems we as a society face. We need to identify pain points and different issues.

What I wish I saw more of, are solutions. Discussions about solutions, ideas for solutions.

We often get so bogged down in the problems themselves, that we forget to work together to find an answer — to solve them.

This applies to many things going on in the world right now, but today, I want to talk about the simple topic of millennials in the workplace.

Say “ay” if you have seen an article this week about millennials changing the workplace.


There is a constant struggle between: are millennials doing good things for the workplace? Or are they entitled and, well, too progressive?

Here’s the thing. There is no answer. Millennials are people. Some people are entitled and some people do good things. Some people like Oreos, and some people like Chips Ahoy.

That’s how the world works.

That’s how people work.

Millennials are bringing new, radical ideas into different businesses. Gen X-ers are resisting change.

These are the problems we hear about.

Well, here’s a solution.


Listen to each other, and work with each other.

The problem, like with most conflicts in life, is that each side thinks they are 100 percent correct (you’re hardly ever 100 percent correct in these types of situations — just by the way).

As CEO of The Applied Companies Jim Annis says, “there can be more than one answer to a question and it does not have to be yours.”

There is almost always room for improvement and growth. Almost always.

And we, every generation, needs to not be naive in thinking that we know it all.

I am lucky enough to be 23 and employed in a management position at a company that has been alive and well for over ten years.

Did I come in and start changing things? Yes I did.

And did I also come in respecting the foundation, the knowledge, and the processes of the already existing business (the Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers)? Absolutely I did.

I am lucky enough to work side by side with a CEO, COO, and management team that are willing to hear my ideas and make changes for the better.

And more importantly, I am lucky enough to work with these same people that have so much knowledge and wisdom in the business world, that I am I able to learn each and every day.

It has to be a give and take. Millennials need to respect the foundation and experience of Gen X-ers, and Gen X-ers need to be open to new ideas.

Change needs to happen slowly, and people need to smile over coffee at work more.

Collaboration needs to happen.

That’s my solution.

Breaking up with vendors is hard to do

By Jim Annis


Ah, Valentine’s Day is in the air. Romance, proposals, new flirtations and sometimes … the inevitable big breakup. Well, nothing lasts forever, so that’s why it’s good to have some guidance on how to manage situations when they go south. Aside from a longtime personal love, breaking up with a long-term business vendor is often of the most painful and uncomfortable breakups you can experience. There are many “types” of vendor relationships: love at first sight, those you trust enough to “marry,” and the ones you divorce; and then there are the ones who are “married” to your business family so you would feel horribly guilty about letting them go. So why is breaking up so hard to do?

You’re comfortable

The “how do we work with each other?” phase is over, things are easy … maybe too easy. Perhaps you have been lax about keeping track of your vendor performance and accountability. Remember, any long-term relationship takes work. Comfortable is OK, but there is a slippery slope that occurs when complacency takes the guise of comfort. Each year my wife makes me meatloaf with ketchup and mashed potatoes for Valentine’s Day. She has done this for each year together for 35 years. It is her way of saying “I love you,” and I simply adore it and her for the effort. How has your vendor pool said “I love you” lately? Do they provide great operational performance? Do they anticipate your needs? Do they listen to your concerns? Do they approach your relationship as a true partnership? If they have not, it might be time to look for someone new with stars in their eyes and common values.

Starting over

Just like any new relationship, you might be feeling a combination of being hopeful, nervous, scared and vulnerable. Remember, as the customer you are in control. Set expectations and ensure that they are in your contractual, formal documents. Watch for the “ick factor” (you know, that feeling that you have when you meet with someone for the first time who has selfish intentions). Look instead for the “X-factor” where the vendor’s main goal is to provide you with true value.

Breaking the vicious cycle

If being too close was a weakness contributing to the unhealthy nature of your last vendor, then choose avoiding getting close with the next one. There is no better sucker for a sales person than another sales person. Remain neutral and then keep your eyes open for signs of trouble from the start. If you think this objectivity is not in your nature, then you may consider hiring an intermediary to manage the relationship and perform annual vendor reviews. Vendors who know they are underperforming may sense a breakup coming and may send chocolates so you feel bad. They may also ask you to go out to dinner. These are all signs that you are repeating the same toxic relationships and need to learn from your past errors in judgment.

It’s time

How do you know when it is time to break up? The annual vendor review process can be a lifesaver. It’s the perfect time to change it up. Perhaps your current vendor does not initiate service reviews and then you should be scheduling them proactively.

Bottom line: People do business with people they like AND trust. Your vendors should have that winning combination in order to have the privilege of retaining your business. Give yourself permission to pull the trigger on any vendor relationship that is not helping achieve your overall goals.


Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.


Read article in the Reno Gazette-Journal here.