Employees and firms can’t improve on their own; they need guidance and feedback – and the best firms are making sure it flows both ways as often as possible.

The annual performance review is a common ritual, and is certainly worth doing, particularly if it’s the kind of comprehensive affair that the 33 employees of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Best Firm to Work For Ennis, Pellum & Associates go through, with an employee self-review, management team discussion/review, consolidated firm feedback documented and e-mailed to each team member, and a one-on-one meeting with their supervisor for every team member. And for certain levels of staff, they go through the even-more-comprehensive “360-Degree” type of review, where the feedback goes in all directions.

Many of our 2015 Best Firms to Work For use annual 360-Degree Reviews, either for management personnel or for all staff – but a small subset of firms go beyond the annual review entirely.

At 23-person Saratoga, Calif.’s LMGW CPAs, for instance, the firm does semi-annual reviews with the managing partner to discuss employees’ achievements and their expectations to advance. And at Vicksburg, Miss.-based May & Co., not only is there a twice-a-year review process for employees and their counseling partner – “The partners are also evaluated by the staff during this process,” the firm reported.

Camp Hill, Pa.’s Boyer & Ritter has semi-annual evaluations for its 82 employees, but it goes beyond that: “Employees complete engagement evaluations for all jobs they work on,” the firm said. “These are designed to offer our staff immediate feedback on performance.”

And at  Ft. Wright, Ky.-based Best Firm Rudler PSC, engagement teams conduct exit conferences of all jobs over 40 hours, as well as annual tax season surveys of all employees to help make improvements in staff assignments, review standardization and assembly processes.

A focus on feedback – and getting it moving in both directions – will help both firm and employees improve, and bind the two more closely together.

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