Project based work is more popular than ever. With the rise of outsourcing there are more agencies and firms engaging with companies on discrete projects. So how does Human Resources keep track of employee performance when the conventional annual or quarterly check-ins don’t match the natural cycle of an employee’s work?
Enter the project based review. A natural mix of performance management and project management.
Project based reviews are distinct from other types of reviews because they focus on just the last project an employee completed. This allows the questions to be more directly relevant to the work, and it also allows the employee and the whole team to be judged against the objective goals set out for the project.
So in addition to more typical questions like how well the employee works with her teammates, you can also ask questions like did the employee deliver her part of the project on budget and on time.
Here are some more benefits to using project based reviews.
Benefits of Project Based Reviews
- Goals are clearly defined - Because project based work tends to have very clear objectives, scope, deliverables, etc, it is much easier to have objective criteria in project based reviews.
- Feedback is closely tied to work - The immediacy and limited scope of project based reviews tends to eliminate many of the idiosyncratic rater effects found in other types of reviews.
- Fast Feedback cycles - Project based reviews match the cadence of the feedback to the cadence of the work perfectly. Employees have the opportunity to receive and internalize feedback before getting into the next project where they can demonstrate any improvements.
- Meaningful performance records - The frequency and relevancy of the feedback creates a very meaningful performance record for each employee. With annual reviews, if an employee gets a bad rating one year, it can be hard to know how much to read into that. Was the whole year really that bad? Project based reviews quickly surface patterns of excellence or lack thereof.
Who Should Use Them
- Organizations that work on discrete projects - The is obvious, but don’t try to force project based reviews if your teams are not already working on very clear and discrete projects. It also matters that the projects are a bit different each time. If the employees are doing identical work on projects throughout the year, the project cadence is less meaningful.
- Established project management practices - The benefits of project based reviews are most pronounced when your teams already have a quality project management process in place. If your teams are just winging it on projects then you won’t get the benefit of objective criteria when reviewing a project.
- Projects that aren’t too short or too long - The administrative burden of reviews for daily or weekly projects will quickly become overwhelming. On the other hand, multi-year projects could leave employees with very infrequent reviews. The sweet spot can shift depending on the length of the review process and is somewhere between every few weeks and a few times a year.
- Matrixed organizations - When teams are coming together from different functional areas to accomplish something for the organization this is a great time to look at project based reviews. Often the traditional hierarchy approach used in quarterly reviews won’t work as well for employees always working with a new team of coworkers.
Some companies are unmistakably project based such as management consulting firms or branding agencies, but many companies have elements of project based work in addition to ongoing work. In those cases it could make sense to layer a light project based review process on top of a more standard quarterly, semi-annual or annual process.