Six Tips to Help You Approach Performance Reviews
Feedback is a Gift. Be Generous.
It’s the end of the another performance cycle and if you’re like me, you are spending a large amount of time evaluating your employees for last year’s work. Did they deliver on their commitments? Have they spent time trying to self-improve? Were they reliable? Did they go above and beyond? If you are new to management, employee performance evaluations can be daunting and intimidating. If you are more seasoned, performance reviews are just part of the job. Regardless, reviews are among the most critical aspects of managing people because they help shape and align your organization to improve its effectiveness. Here are a few tips to help you sit down with your employees this year.
1. Block Out Your Calendar
With everything that goes on day-to-day, many managers carve out just a brief few minutes for the performance reviews. They toss over a piece of paper and say “Good job, Jenny, keep it up.” And that’s the end of the review. Instead of doing this, deliberately block out an hour of time on your calendar, if not more. Part of employee performance can be directly linked to their engagement and overall job satisfaction. What kind of message are you sending your employee when you have to squeeze them in between other meetings, or have to reschedule three times? Indirectly, you’re telling them they’re not important. Reviews have a ‘pay it forward’ impact – if the employee feels like you’re really investing your energy into them, they are far more likely to leave feeling valued and eager to do a better job in the next 12 months.
2. Be Prepared
Review your notes on the employees performance ahead of time. If your firm requires the individual write a self-evaluation, read it and highlight any comments you have. Have specific examples prepared for both the positive feedback and constructive feedback. It’s important to use both – example of behavior you liked, and examples where they need to improve. Concrete examples clearly show the individual what you are looking for. Take a moment to collect your thought thoughts and summarize the message you want or need to deliver. Similarly, don’t walk into a review with an employee and ignore problems that clearly exist. Say what needs to be said.
3. Start with an Interview
While going into a performance review as the manager is not always enjoyable, it can be far more intimidating or uncomfortable for the employee. It’s always best to start off informally to encourage a discussion. Once the conversation begins to shift to the actual performance appraisal, I still like to keep it light. I often begin by asking the employee how they think their year went, and what they thought they did better. What do they see as the highlights of their year? Getting the employee to speak early on helps lay the foundation for a conversation and not a lecture.
4. Share Your Vision
Everyone wants to be successful. Everyone wants to feel valued. I’ve found that many employees go to their performance reviews and walk away with little or no change in inspiration or energy. “Same story as last year.” One way to reach employees more effectively is to share your vision of their career and where you see them going. For example, if someone really enjoys being a number cruncher, do you see them progressing to the role of a chief scientist or financial specialist? Do you see them taking on bigger projects, or becoming a manager themselves? Expressing how you see his or her career advancing signifies to them that you have their career interests in mind. It also offers them something to hold on to throughout the year as they think about their future. Annual employee reviews are a great time to talk about career growth.
5. Make Eye Contact
Although it is a more mechanical part of conducting a performance review, making eye contact is crucial. All of the information and discussion you have with your employee is meaningless if the employee doesn’t feel you stand behind it. Eye contact shows sincerity and trust with your high performers. It also sends a strong message to under-performers who will see you mean business.
6. Reinforce The Message
The review of employees is not a once a year activity. Rather, over the course of the year, reinforce your feedback through follow-up coaching meetings. Schedule monthly sessions with each of your employees to discuss issues or concerns. Highlight recent examples of good things they did. This approach helps gradually steer performance in the direction you need. If you only talk employee performance once a year, how well do you expect them to get to where you need 12 months later? Reinforcement over the course of the year also makes next year’s review easier for you since nothing discussed at that time should be of surprise to either party.
Bonus: As For Feedback… on You
There is no better time to calibrate expectations between you and your employees as during evaluation time. At the end of the conversation with each employee, take a few minutes to ask for their feedback on your evaluation. Was it fair, did they think it was accurate? Additionally, ask the employee if you there is anything different they’d like to see from you, or ways you can improve. Topics you may want to ask about include your communication style, the level of interaction they have with you, and your approachability. In the spirit of open communication and sharing feedback, be sure to ask employees how they think you are doing.
Keep in mind that as awkward as employee evaluations can be, they should be approached in earnest. The best way to get your team to fire on all cylinders is to manage the individual performance. By managing the individuals with sincere and constructive feedback, you can align their behavior and contributions to the team’s goals.