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What is the performance management cycle? Stages and examples

The performance management cycle is a systematic approach to improving employee performance and organizational outcomes. It consists of four main stages. This cycle aims to align individual goals with organizational objectives, offering continuous feedback and development opportunities.

Alexandros Pantelakis
Alexandros Pantelakis

HR content specialist at Workable, delivering in-depth, data-driven articles to offer insights into industry and tech trends.

Performance management is a crucial aspect of any organization’s HR strategy. It’s not just about annual reviews but involves a holistic approach to employee development. Consequently, It’s important to have a tool to assess the performance of employees in a way that aligns with the organization’s goals and this is called performance management cycle.

What is the performance management cycle

The Performance Management Cycle is a continuous loop that begins with planning and ends with rewarding, only to start again.

It is designed to be a structured process for the ongoing management of employee performance.

The cycle involves setting clear objectives, monitoring performance against these objectives, offering opportunities for skill development, and finally, evaluating and rewarding performance.

This approach ensures that employees are aware of what is expected of them, receive regular feedback, and are fairly assessed and rewarded.

The four stages of the performance management cycle

The Performance Management Cycle is generally divided into four key stages that guide the process from start to finish.
These stages are not isolated events but are interconnected, each feeding into the next. They are designed to be flexible and adaptable to the needs of both the organization and the individual employee.

Here are the four main stages:


This is the foundational stage where the groundwork for the entire cycle is laid. Managers and employees collaborate to set achievable yet challenging goals.

At this initial stage, the focus is on setting clear, measurable objectives that align with the organization’s broader goals.

For example, a manager and a marketing executive might use the SMART goals framework to set an objective like “Increase website traffic by 20% over the next quarter.”

Monitoring and developing

This stage is all about tracking progress and making adjustments as necessary. It’s a dynamic phase that involves ongoing communication between the manager and the employee.

This is an ongoing stage that requires regular check-ins and adjustments.

For instance, if a project is falling behind schedule, the manager and employee can discuss strategies to get it back on track during their weekly one-on-one meetings.

Reviewing and rating

This is the evaluative stage where the focus is on assessing performance against the goals set during the planning phase.

The aim is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the employee’s performance.

For example, a 360-degree feedback system might be used to collect input from peers, subordinates, and supervisors, in addition to self-assessment.


This final stage is about recognizing and rewarding achievements, thereby closing the loop and setting the stage for the next cycle.

For instance, an employee who has consistently exceeded targets might be given a performance bonus or even a promotion.

Related: Top employee engagement ideas to achieve success

Why performance management cycle is essential for your company

The Performance Management Cycle is essential for companies as it aligns individual goals with organizational objectives, fosters employee development, and enhances accountability.

Through continuous feedback and structured evaluations, it helps in timely identification of performance gaps and facilitates data-driven decision-making.

This not only boosts employee engagement and retention but also drives overall business success by ensuring that human resources are effectively utilized.

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