Business schools and management courses are chock full of lessons on strategy, analysis and production calculations, but the one area they regularly fail to teach is how a manager should review and rate the performance of an employee in a way that notes achievements and encourages improvement.
Chances are the omission often has to do with the fact that people don’t like to talk about uncomfortable issues. However, the truth is a good manager works with people and motivates them daily to perform. So, communication, praise, and correction are necessary bread and butter for any working manager.
Performance Review Tips for Employer
Here are the tips you need to know about performance reviews that you will never find in a college class:
Plan Your Message
You might want to make the mistake of confusing honesty with full-blown, no-holds-barred feedback. That’s a big mistake. Performance reviews are high-risk events that drive up most people’s anxieties because they immediately assume it has a direct impact on their job stability. So as soon as the meeting is set, the stress-o-meter starts running. Your open honesty could be the spark that sets off significant emotional reactions that can take weeks to dilute and simmer down.
Instead, give the review a good amount of thought, plan precisely the points you want to get across and make sure the review is both objective and encompasses all aspects of the employee’s work, not just one aspect. Managers are notorious for pointing out what is wrong and not saying enough about what is right. This is your chance to provide good portions of praise on what works as well as corrections on what needs improvement. Also, use the employee review period as an occasion to set goals for the next year or cycle. Don’t just end the meeting on what has happened. Give the person targets to aim for going forward.
Be Clear About Your Expectations
Don’t say something cheesy, like “Keep doing good work.” That doesn’t say anything to an employee, and it doesn’t help you any later when you come back to review the employee’s performance again against your expectations. Clarity matters tremendously here because it defines your goals, and it tells the employee where the benchmark is for satisfactory performance. That will help later if there is an issue needing correction.
Being upfront about a goal removes any confusion later as both parties agree on the understanding of the target in the first place. So, then it’s a matter of either achieving the target or missing it. Further, as you write and communicate your goals, make sure they can be measured. Use objective metrics such as projects completed accounts created, and cases resolved to quantify performance. Again, this will help your case tremendously if someone is falling short in carrying their workload.
Follow Up in Writing
Don’t allow the conversation to end up in the dustbin of verbal memory. Detail out the performance review meeting in writing and send a copy by email to the employee. This process becomes both your record and the employee’s for reference, and it provides an excellent basis for the next review to compare performance to what was defined as the original goals.
Are we starting to see a pattern here?
- Define Goals
- Specify Details
- Communicate Expectations
- Follow Up on Achievements
Don’t let the performance review meeting be the one time in the year that you communicate with an employee about performance. There is nothing wrong with having connection moments or touchpoints throughout the cycle to keep things on track. If this is done right, every performance review is probably going to end up being a positive experience. That’s because touchpoints and frequent communication reinforce expectations, provide additional clarity, and give priority to tasks if you respond correctly.
That is the key. Communication is a two-way street. Don’t assume that because you listened and said hello that you “engaged.” As a supervisor, your job is to purposefully engage, see where your folks are regularly, stay in tune with their concerns, and provide help and support and even training when necessary.
Give the Employee a Chance to Talk Proactively
It is not recommended to give an employee an open-ended response opportunity; that’s just a recipe for defensive-posturing and reaction to hearing something the person doesn’t like. Instead, let an employee go through the performance review by identifying what he or she thinks might a positive step forward closer to the goals desired. That could be training, new responsibilities, different communication method, and adjustments to their work environment.
Happy people make happy workers because the job becomes more than just a task. So, take time to figure out what makes an employee motivated to come to work, but do it in a manner that achieves your goal, not an open-ended complaint session.
Performance reviews often get a bad rap because of stories in the office or how Hollywood portrays them. Your reviews don’t have to resemble either of these. Plan, communicate clearly, set goals, and follow-up regularly. Also, you will find your performance reviews produce a positive effect on staff.