December/January is time of year when many companies conduct their formal performance reviews. For many employees performance reviews are one of the most stressful things at work (and sometimes for managers too). Additionally, the workforce sometimes struggles to see the value of performance reviews, especially if the agreed steps for development are not acted upon. Fortunately, there are certain things a manager can do to make the most out employee performance reviews:
Employee performance reviews should not be treated as an annual, bureaucratic task. Employees and managers should have performance discussions on a regular basis - ideally at least once a month. That way the manager will be able to set employee and team expectations early and keep track of their progress rather than at the end of the review period when it is too late. When your employees and team members know what's expected of them and can set goals, they know exactly what to prioritize and their overall performance will improve. To help them, you should consider integrating OKRs or SMART goals into your performance management process, to align individual performance with the overall company strategy and allow your employees to best direct their efforts.
The isolation and separation of teams caused by the move to remote work has taken a toll on many individuals. For those that have the option to meet in-person for their performance reviews, this is highly recommended. Interactions and discussions held over the phone or on a video call can often lack a natural flow. For both participants, it is difficult to read body language and remain absolutely confident that the message has been properly received. For a performance review, it is especially important for both parties to be able to communicate in an uninhibited and open manner. As a result, should the opportunity arise to physically meet for the performance review, it will be far more effective than meeting digitally. Should you have no choice but to meet online, then check out our guide on supporting your workforce whilst working remotely.
Understand what your employees want from their careers. This is a key that will unlock many of the common performance barriers. When you know what employees want from their careers you know how to motivate and engage them. What learning and training opportunities can you provide to them to encourage their professional development? What actually motiviates them to get their work done and feel engaged in their job role? You'll need to dig deep, and to do that you need regular check-ins and face to face discussions, not just annual reviews.
Notify your employees of the upcoming performance review. That way they will be able to prepare, gather feedback and finish any outstanding deliverables. Once you have written your performance evaluation share it with them prior to your meeting and create an agenda with talking points. That way they will have time to think about your discussion and share their thoughts with you. These templates will help you keep it simple and effective. If you write your evaluation without the employee seeing it or having a say, it becomes a checklist task that takes place once a year and no one will see the benefits of an effective performance review. Make sure to devote time to development planning for your employee during the performance review meeting.
Give it to them raw. Tell your employees what they did well, where they could have performed better and how to improve in the next performance cycle. Being honest is always helpful and will allow you to build a better relationship with your employees. Keep in mind that providing positive feedback is also an essential part of motivating employees, so don't be overly critical where it's not necessary.
Become a mentor to your direct reports rather than just their manager. Try to coach them throughout the performance cycle and help them build and enhance their own skills. If you have done this from the beginning of the performance cycle, especially in helping them to set up their goals, then you are going to have very effective performance appraisals at the end of the performance cycle.
One of the most important tips: be clear to employees at the beginning of the performance cycle as to how they are being rated - e.g. a 1-10 or 1-5 scale with HR calibration. That way you manage expectations and its easier to justify your performance evaluation. Make sure to communicate how the ratings will be used and what their context is. Nobody likes to think they're just a number, and ratings given in a silo with no comments for context are unlikely to help develop great performance.
The purpose of the performance review is to ensure there is better alignment between both the reviewee and the reviewer. Consequently, it is important for the reviewer to reassure the employee about the positive aspects of their work. Even if there is not much good news to share, do not leave the employee in the dark going forwards. Be sure to present them with clear guidance on how to give their best level of performance and to demonstrate an appreciation for all of their efforts in this period of review. Leaving the review on a positive note will be doubly effective after a good review. Meanwhile, following a negative review - a positive finish will lift their confidence as they look to improve in this next period of work.
All of the above will help you to achieve more effective performance reviews. Remember that employees are the most important asset in a company and effective performance reviews will help you get the most out of the potential in your organization! To find out more about the importance of performance reviews, and how to effectively develop a review process in your company, check our Essential Guide to Performance Reviews.
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