Some of the biggest tech companies in the world are struggling to work out the best way to give feedback to their employees and find a balance between time-consuming feedback sessions and better communication with workers.

Last year saw Big Tech firms Google and Meta cut the number of performance reviews managers conduct with their employees from two to one in response to complaints the bi-annual reviews were too time-consuming.

But these changes haven’t gone to plan, according to The Information, with managers no longer effectively giving feedback and employees asking for better communication.

These issues have seen Meta switch back to a two-performance reviews per year structure.

Last year, Facebook parent company Meta reduced the number of formal evaluations its employees received each year from two to one, in part due to the amount of time these take up.

But as The Information reported, Meta has recently moved to reverse this decision because its employees were asking for better communication on how they were going in the workplace.

Under Meta’s twice-yearly review system, company managers rate employees across seven grades, ranging from “meets some expectations” to “redefines expectations”.

Following this, managers hold meetings with their peers to justify how they rated the employees – known as “calibration”.

Meta employees’ bonuses were directly linked to these performance reviews.

The downside

Under the new system introduced recently, Meta managers will return to conducting two reviews each year, but the mid-review will become far less onerous, with managers rating employees across three possible ratings and discussing these with fewer peers under calibration.

The mid-year review will also not have an impact on a potential bonus.

“The change reflects the challenges of getting managers to provide consistent feedback without the structure of a formal performance review,” The Information reported, highlighting a downside: “The twice-yearly system also fuelled a tendency among employees to focus on short-term goals and projects because they wanted to show evidence of successes every six months, current and former employees said.”

Last year Google also reduced its annual performance reviews from two to one, instead ordering its managers to talk more casually and more often with their employees, as The Information reported.

Under this format, managers were required to conduct these casual feedback sessions once per quarter.

But according to the report, these reviews were often delivered late and were very brief, sometimes one-sentence recaps of the conversation.

The Information reported the case of a manager labelling a calendar invite with one of their subordinates as a performance discussion but instead using the time to assign and receive updates on various tasks.

“Google has also pushed its managers to toughen how they evaluate employees,” the report said.

“Last fall, at least one Google executive told managers they were not flagging enough of their subordinates as underperformers, according to the current and one of the former employees.”

Both Meta and Google have announced significant job cuts in recent months. Meta announced 11,000 jobs would be slashed in November, and revealed earlier this year there would be a further 10,000 layoffs as part of a “year of efficiency”.

Google announced 12,000 jobs would be cut in January, equating to six per cent of its workforce.

Tech firms have traditionally led the way in how performance reviews are conducted, with many other companies following in their footsteps.

More than a decade ago, Adobe moved away from annual performance reviews, instead encouraging managers to give feedback at least once per quarter.

As of last year, nearly 60 per cent of companies had performance review systems in place that included check-ins at least quarterly.

This was up from just over 40 per cent six years earlier.

How often do you have performance reviews and do you feel it is time well spent? We'd love to read your views in the comments below.