Bankers are slowing catching on to a better way of conducting performance reviews.

Traditionally, supervisors often met just once a year with an employee to critique that worker's performance. That puts a lot of needless pressure on the employee, according to consultants.

But over time, corporate America has opted for an more effective and anxiety-free way of conducting reviews: make them continual.

Under this approach, the employee meets with the supervisor at the beginning of the year and establishes targets and objectives for the remainder of the year. Then, the two meet regularly throughout the year, even weekly in some cases, to make sure the employee is on track.

The end-of-the-year meeting then, far from being the anxiety-filled confrontation with the boss, is often quick and painless-simply an update of what the employee should be doing the next year.

Mitch Potter, a consultant at Hewitt Associates, a Lincolnshire, Ill.- based human resources consulting firm, said that this more relaxed approach to conducting performance reviews goes a long way toward erasing the stodgy images of corporate American lampooned in "Dilbert," the popular comic strip.

"These reviews enable employees to know what they need to accomplish," he said. "Managers can help move obstacles out of the way, rather than being obstacles, like in 'Dilbert,' which is still the rule in some places."

The approach, which has been accepted by parts of corporate America for at least a decade, seems to be only slowly gaining adherents in the banking industry, consultants said.

Barnett Banks Inc., the $41 billion-asset Jacksonville, Fla-based bank, has been evaluating its employees in this fashion for at least 10 years, said one of its human resources executives, Glenn R. Gross.

One of the primary benefits is that it "stacks the deck" in favor of the employee, helping the employee to stay current in today's changing workplace, he said. "No one is secure today, so we want to provide a way for you to understand what is needed, so you can continually retool yourself to keep yourself competitive," Mr. Gross said.

The process also makes it clear, to both the manager and the managed, if the employee is not up to snuff and should consider a job change.

A recent survey by Hewitt Associates suggests that there is a correlation between the more comprehensive reviews and success.

The survey, based on answers from 437 publicly traded companies in varied industries, showed that the stock of those that used the program rose 60% relative to the market within two years of implementing it, versus just 7% for those who did not.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.