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What are the stages of a performance management cycle?

How is a performance management cycle different from a performance management system?

What are common challenges in implementing a performance management cycle?

What are some best practices for implementing a performance management cycle?

How do you ensure employee buy-in for the performance management cycle?

Manage performance with Deel Engage, the all-in-one talent management suite

What is a performance management cycle?

A performance management cycle is a continuous process organizations use to manage and improve employee performance over time. It aims to align individual performance with the organization’s goals and objectives, promoting overall growth and productivity. The cycle involves regular interactions between managers and employees to set goals, monitor progress, provide feedback, and support development.

What are the stages of a performance management cycle?

The performance management cycle typically includes five stages:

  • Planning: Establish clear, measurable goals and objectives for employees and define performance expectations and standards
  • Monitoring: Monitor performance against goals and objectives and provide regular feedback on performance, progress, and areas for improvement
  • Reviewing: Conduct formal evaluations of employee performance, typically annually or semi-annually, and assess achievements, strengths, and areas for improvement
  • Rewarding: Acknowledge and reward employees for their performance and contributions and make salary and bonus adjustments based on performance evaluations
  • Developing: Identify and address skill gaps through training and development programs and provide support and guidance to help employees improve their performance

How does goal setting impact the performance management cycle?

Goal setting is crucial in the planning stage of the performance management cycle. Clear, specific, and achievable goals align individual efforts with the organization’s strategic objectives. They provide direction, motivation, and a standard for measuring performance. Using the SMART criteria (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) ensures that goals are well-defined and attainable, enhancing the effectiveness of the performance management cycle.

What role does feedback play in the performance management cycle?

Feedback is integral to the monitoring stage of the performance management cycle. Regular, constructive feedback helps employees understand their performance relative to expectations, identify areas for improvement, and stay motivated. It fosters open communication between managers and employees, promoting continuous learning and development. Effective feedback should be timely, specific, and focused on behaviors rather than personal attributes.

How does a performance management cycle support employee development?

The performance management cycle supports employee development by identifying strengths and areas for improvement through continuous feedback and performance reviews. It encourages setting development goals and provides opportunities for training and skill enhancement.

The cycle ensures that employees grow in ways that contribute to their career aspirations and the company’s success by aligning individual development plans with organizational needs.

What are the benefits of linking rewards to the performance management cycle?

Linking rewards to the performance management cycle reinforces desired behaviors and outcomes. It provides tangible recognition for employees’ contributions, enhancing motivation and job satisfaction.

Rewards can be monetary, such as bonuses or salary increases, or non-monetary, such as promotions, professional development opportunities, or public recognition. This alignment ensures workers perceive rewards as fair and merit-based, fostering a culture of performance excellence.

How is a performance management cycle different from a performance management system?

A performance management system is a comprehensive set of tools, practices, and software. It includes software platforms, performance appraisal tools, feedback mechanisms, goal-setting frameworks, and analytics. Its purpose is to facilitate the implementation of the performance management cycle, ensuring consistency, efficiency, and alignment with organizational goals.

Here are the main differences between the two:


  • A performance management cycle involves practical steps and interactions between managers and employees
  • A performance management system provides the infrastructure for executing the performance management cycle effectively


  • A performance management cycle focuses on continuously improving employee performance through regular feedback and development
  • A performance management system focuses on the systematic and consistent application of performance management practices using technology and tools

Tools and technology

  • A performance management cycle may not necessarily involve technology—it is about the process
  • Performance management system often involves software solutions and tools to facilitate goal setting, feedback, appraisals, and analytics

While the performance management cycle represents the ongoing process of managing and improving employee performance, the performance management system provides the necessary tools and infrastructure to support and streamline this process.

Performance management cycle vs. performance management system: Examples

Let’s consider two simple examples to illustrate the differences between the two better:

Performance management cycle

  • Goal setting: Establishing yearly sales targets for the sales team
  • Monitoring: Monthly check-ins between sales reps and their team leaders to discuss progress and address challenges
  • Reviewing: Conducting mid-year and end-of-year performance reviews to assess performance against goals, identify strengths and areas for improvement
  • Development: Providing sales training and coaching
  • Rewarding: Offering bonuses and promotions based on performance

Performance management system

  • Tools: Implementing tools for 360-degree feedback, performance appraisals, employee development, and recognition programs
  • Integration: Integrating performance data with HR systems to ensure alignment with compensation and career development plans
  • Software: Using a platform like Deel Engage to set goals, track performance, assess skill and competencies, and generate competency profiles

Watch the webinar: Connecting Performance, Learning, and Career Development with Deel Engage

What are common challenges in implementing a performance management cycle?

Common challenges in implementing a performance management cycle include:

  • Lack of clarity in goal setting—Ensure goals are clear, specific, and aligned with organizational objectives to avoid confusion and misalignment
  • Inconsistent feedback—Establish regular check-ins use, standardized feedback forms, and provide regular and constructive feedback to maintain continuous improvement and motivation
  • Inadequate training for managers—Offer ongoing training and resources to equip managers with the skills needed to conduct effective performance reviews and provide meaningful feedback
  • Insufficient time allocated to performance management activities—Schedule dedicated time for performance reviews and feedback sessions to ensure thorough and thoughtful evaluations
  • Resistance to change—Communicate the benefits of the performance management cycle and involve employees in the process to reduce resistance
  • Biases in performance evaluations—Implement training and tools and use objective criteria and multiple sources of feedback to mitigate biases in performance evaluations and ensure fairness

What are some best practices for implementing a performance management cycle?

1. Provide clear guidelines and regular training

Develop comprehensive documentation: Create detailed guidelines that outline the steps and expectations at each stage of the performance management cycle. This documentation should cover goal setting, monitoring, reviewing, rewarding, and development processes.

Example: Create a handbook or online resource employees and managers can reference throughout the year.

Conduct regular training sessions: Conduct training sessions for both managers and employees to ensure they understand the performance management process, how to set SMART goals, provide constructive feedback, and use the tools and systems in place.

Example: Conduct monthly or quarterly workshops/webinars to refresh and update knowledge.

Use real-life scenarios: Include practical examples and case studies in the training to illustrate how the performance management cycle works in real situations.

Example: Include role-playing exercises to practice giving and receiving feedback during training sessions.

2. Embed performance management in the organizational culture

Ensure leadership commitment: Ensure top management demonstrates a commitment to performance management by actively participating and setting an example.

Example: Leaders share their performance goals and progress during all-hands meetings.

Communicate regularly: Consistently communicate the importance of performance management and its benefits through internal newsletters, meetings, and other communication channels.

Example: Share monthly updates on performance management initiatives and success stories.

Align with core values: Ensure performance management practices align with the organization’s core values and mission.

Example: If teamwork is a core value, emphasize collaboration in goal-setting and performance reviews.

3. Use technology to streamline the process

Adopt performance management software: Implement software that can facilitate goal setting, feedback, performance appraisals, and development tracking.

Example: Use Deel Engage to integrate with existing HR systems.

Automate routine tasks: Use technology to automate reminders, data collection, and report generation, reducing the administrative burden on managers and HR.

Example: Deel Engage supports automated reminders for monthly check-ins and automated generation of performance review reports and competency profiles.

Provide accessible resources: Ensure that training materials, guidelines, and other resources are accessible to all employees through an online portal or intranet.

Example: A dedicated performance management section on the company intranet with all necessary resources and FAQs.

How do you ensure employee buy-in for the performance management cycle?

By following these best practices and ensuring employee buy-in, organizations can implement an effective performance management cycle that enhances individual performance, aligns with organizational goals, and fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

1. Communicate the benefits clearly

Highlight individual Benefits: Explain how the performance management cycle helps employees develop their skills, advance their careers, and receive recognition and rewards for their efforts.

Example: Send emails or hold town hall meetings that share success stories of employees who have benefited from the performance management process.

Link to organizational success: Show how individual performance improvements contribute to organizational success, creating a sense of shared purpose.

Example: Create presentations that link company milestones and achievements to effective performance management practices.

Transparent communication: Maintain open and transparent communication about how the performance management cycle works and its importance.

Example: Conduct Q&A sessions where employees can ask questions and receive honest answers about the process. Create an FAQ based on the most frequently asked questions during the sessions and send it to the organization.

2. Involve employees in goal-setting and feedback processes

Make goal setting a collaborative process: Encourage employees to actively participate in setting their performance goals to ensure they are relevant and motivating.

Example: Conduct goal-setting workshops where employees and managers work together to define objectives.

Create regular feedback loops: Foster a culture of continuous feedback in which employees regularly receive and provide feedback rather than waiting for annual reviews.

Example: Conduct monthly one-on-one meetings focused on progress and development rather than performance issues.

Empower employee input: Allow employees to share their perspectives on their performance and the performance management process.

Example: Implement employee surveys or suggestion boxes for performance management feedback.

3. Provide opportunities for employee development

Create tailored development plans: Use the performance appraisal results to create personalized development plans addressing individual skill gaps and career aspirations.

Example: Use 360-degree feedback results to identify specific areas for improvement and create corresponding training programs.

Learn how to implement a 360-degree feedback system with our guides:

Provide access to training resources: Offer a variety of training resources, including workshops, e-learning modules, and mentoring programs, to help employees grow and develop.

Example: Share Deel Engage’s library of online courses with all employees so they can select topics that match their development goals, such as leadership or technical skills.

Support career advancement: Ensure that the performance management cycle includes career growth and advancement opportunities.

Example: Use Deel Engage’s career pathways to communicate opportunities for promotion and internal mobility, with specific competencies and achievements required for each level.

Free resources:

Manage performance with Deel Engage, the all-in-one talent management suite

A sound performance management system combines the right processes with the right software to boost employee performance and achieve business objectives.

Deel Engage’s automated workflows can help you implement a modern performance management cycle in record time:

  • Planning: Use Deel Engage’s performance management software to set performance goals
  • Monitoring: Monitor performance against goals and objectives and use check-ins to provide regular feedback on performance, progress, and areas for improvement
  • Reviewing: Conduct formal evaluations of employee performance—customize your reviews to include multiple raters, competencies, goals, and more
  • Rewarding: Make promotions unbiased and transparent by creating a meaningful pathway for career progression with the effective career management software
  • Developing: Identify existing skills gaps with the skills matrix functionality, create targeted training programs, and develop an effective L&D program to strengthen your workforce

Learn more about Deel Engage and how to use it for seamless performance management.

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