Performance reviews have gotten a bad rap, most likely because the process is subject to mishandling and misinterpretation. If proper guidelines aren’t set in place, managers and employees “wing it” and end up frustrated by the results. From then on, no one looks forward to this annual (or semi-annual) exercise with great anticipation.
But, experts say, when done right, performance reviews offer a great opportunity to enhance communication, clarify company goals and objectives, boost productivity and strengthen morale. The key is getting in the right mind-set.
All too often, these reviews concentrate on past performance, when the focus should really be on employee development. Yes, a certain amount of time has to be spent looking at what a staff member has achieved (based on a previously agreed-upon set of goals), but more emphasis should be placed on what lies ahead.
Here are guidelines to keep in mind when getting ready for your next performance view process:
Keep the purpose clear. Confusion over process and objectives often cloud the actual review session. It’s vitally important for the manager to clarify performance rating criteria and expectations before the meeting takes place, so everyone knows what’s “on the table”.
Make it a conversation, not an interrogation. Introducing elements of informality can do a lot toward reducing your employee’s anxiety over a performance review. Rather than meeting in your office, choose a neutral setting (Starbuck’s, local diner, etc.). If it must take place in the office, try sitting next to each other rather than across the desk. Avoid interruptions. Keep your focus on the person you’re talking to. Take notes during the discussion and allow time for your employee to ask questions.
Provide feedback, goals and follow-up. There should always be a place on the performance review document for employee feedback. Providing a space to agree or disagree with an evaluation helps employees feel they have more of a stake in the process. When discussing objectives, be sure to explore what he or she sees ahead for their own development and how these align with business objectives. Once these goals are established, follow-up in the weeks ahead so that it’s understood you intend to keep on track with the performance review discussion.
There are several well-documented pitfalls to watch out for:
- Be mindful of any personal likes or dislikes when evaluating an employee. Whether you like this person as an individual really has little to do with his or her job performance.
- Avoid the “halo effect” (allowing one trait or factor to influence all categories of job performance). Instead, move systematically through the review checklist with a focus on where strengths and weaknesses actually exist.
- Don’t let your first impressions of an employee (good or bad) dictate the results of the performance review process. Focus on the job description and stated objectives instead.
Some experts advise conducting a performance appraisal each quarter. It’s a useful way to track employee performance with changing business objectives. Of course, this will only work if everyone involved sees the process as a positive experience (recognizing achievements, encouraging further growth) rather than an exercise in assigning blame.
Learn more about how High Profile can help you with all aspects of the hiring and evaluation process.