Performance reviews are an essential managerial responsibility and crucial to a company’s success, but they can quickly become a futile exercise if not used properly.
When administered successfully, performance evaluations should be collaborative, with an open feedback process that creates a shared responsibility in how employees do their job. Reviews are an opportunity to clarify expectations, and goals and align individual tasks with those goals. Performance review sessions should include the following:
- Recognition for positive contributions.
- Coaching where improvement is needed.
- A committed plan for continuous improvement.
However, it’s common for performance evaluations to become perfunctory exercises that check a box. When a cursory approach to administering performance reviews exists, this valuable tool doesn’t deliver the results it’s capable of.
To help you implement a system for performance management at your company, consider these strategies for performance review prep, administration, and what to do after performance evaluations are completed.
BEFORE THE REVIEW
Select the Right Person to Administer Performance Evaluations
Choosing the right person to conduct a performance review is as important as the review itself. The person leading the evaluation needs to understand all aspects of the employee’s role and possess the ability to assess skillsets, measure the quality of the work, and provide feedback that will foster improvement.
If the person delivering the feedback does not understand the employee’s role or the nature of the work being performed, the feedback will have little value.
Additionally, the administrator needs a clear and realistic image of what a successful performance review looks like from both sides of the table. If it’s to merely check a box and have the employee hear, “keep up the good work,” then the performance evaluation isn’t going to achieve much of anything.
Preparing for Reviews
The traditional method of conducting annual or bi-annual performance reviews has a few intrinsic flaws, including the large chunks of time needed to prepare for evaluations properly. The time spent preparing to conduct an employee’s performance review can cost the business money in lost working hours.
If you’re spending hours of your workday studying an employee’s work, that’s time you aren’t doing other aspects of your job. So the benefits of a review had better offset the loss of preparing for it. Unfortunately, this is where the pervasive performance management system often needs to catch up.
Create a Culture of Feedback at Your Company
The hope of performance evaluations is for employees to gain clear, measurable performance metrics that can track improvement and provide the opportunity to share their career goals.
There needs to be a culture of frequent and quality conversations that deliver real-time feedback at your company. By providing continuous coaching throughout the year, small corrections can be made more quickly and effectively than meeting twice a year with a laundry list of a person’s missteps.
Shape Employee Opinion of Reviews
A performance review has two participants, and for an evaluation to be effective, both sides need to see its value. But, if your team members dread reviews and see them as a court stenographer’s recounting of past mistakes, then they are unlikely to be active participants.
It’s also common for employees to enter their reviews in the dark about the timbre of feedback they’re about to receive. The evaluation is often the first time employees are made aware of areas where they can improve. If no previous communication about measurable performance metrics has been conveyed, the employee was not set up for success.
How Is Performance Measured?
The venerable maxim, “what gets measured, gets done,” applies here. Employees must know how their work is measured to deliver the best results. Set clear, measurable, and attainable performance metrics that outline what success looks like at your company.
- Here’s what’s expected of you.
- Here’s the minimum level of required performance.
- Here’s how you can accel in your role.
If performance is graded on a one-to-five scale, with a five being the best, then a three is the expected level of performance. But how does someone score a four or a five in your organization? You may have superstars on your roster who put their efforts in a bucket you don’t measure as heavily.
In contrast, if someone is delivering subpar performance (a one or a two), what do they need to do to raise their score, and do they know that?
Managers should create and share a document that outlines ways to succeed in a role with performance expectations so everyone is on the same page and progress can be tracked by all parties. This document should include specific metrics, goals, and deadlines discussed in one-on-one meetings and how an employee is currently performing.
This report card can outline where employees are strong, need support, and are meeting their goals. Setting measurable performance metrics and conveying them to your team will generate more fours and fives on your scorecards.
Build a Ladder for Growth in Compensation and Title
Performance reviews are typically a tool for determining pay increases and title bumps or providing documentation that justifies why such requests can’t be granted. With so much riding on these meetings, this practice creates a tense environment with high stakes that may not deliver the intended outcome – to improve an employee’s performance.
DURING THE REVIEW
Set Clear, Measurable, And Attainable Performance Goals
Performance evaluations are an opportunity for goal setting and providing feedback on individual competencies. After you create and share the measurable performance metrics that will lead to more fours and fives, managers and employees should discuss short-term and long-term goals within the employee’s control.
Once these goals have been mutually agreed upon, routine check-ups should be scheduled monthly to course-correct or pivot as needed.
Make Reviews a Conversation
When an employee gives notice, an exit interview is often scheduled before their last day. During this, the employee can provide feedback on their time at the company. Instead of waiting until it’s too late, reviews are an opportunity for employees to share how things are going and for employers to make adjustments when appropriate.
Making evaluations conversational, where feedback is given, and goals are mutually discussed, allows employees to provide input on the role. Along with sharing their experience in their position, they can also ask for any tools, equipment, or resources they need to succeed at their job.
After your company creates and shares a clear ladder for growth and compensation, it exposes employees to what’s possible at your company. There may be other roles in the organization they’d like to try but didn’t know existed or were possible. By inquiring about career aspirations in performance reviews, you can help team members transition into other roles at the company and grow in their careers.
AFTER THE REVIEW
Implement a Continuous Feedback Loop
As we’ve highlighted, the system of giving annual and bi-annual performance reviews must be revised. In the current system, managers often rush through preparation because there needs to be more time to prepare adequately, and preparation time typically requires sacrificing other duties. Harried reviews lack quality feedback, are ineffective, and fail to deliver the intended purpose of the evaluation.
Instead, create a culture of coaching at your company to alleviate the anxiety surrounding performance reviews and provide the real-time support employees need to succeed. You can make minor adjustments by coaching in the moment instead of yanking at the wheel twice a year.
Ultimately, performance evaluations are an opportunity to direct growth going forward. By focusing on plans, career aspirations, and goal setting, you develop your talent, reinvigorate an employee’s motivation, and increase productivity. But to develop your talent, you must develop how you approach and administer reviews at your company.