Author: Jackie Holbrook
Being the boss comes with many important responsibilities. One of those is managing employees. Performance reviews can get a bad rap. They can be nerve-wracking for employees and uncomfortable for employers. But when done correctly, they’re a powerful tool to empower everyone. They also help employers gain valuable insight into the company culture. Here are some tips for making the most out of performance reviews.
Offer positive feedback in addition to areas for improvement during the review. Photo Credit: ATA
What to Include in a Performance Review
An employee performance review is a formal assessment of the employee. During the process, a manager should assess the employee’s overall on-the-job performance. It should include:
- Identifying strengths and weaknesses.
- Providing constructive feedback.
- Offering positive feedback.
- Tips for improvement.
- A review of previous goals and how the employee met or did not meet goals.
- Setting new goals.
- A chance for the employee to ask questions and offer feedback.
“We’re looking at it as performance management, and the reviews are a tool that helps to drive employee behavior,” said Kenya Spann, a principal consultant at Gallagher.
It’s important to prepare for the review. Never wing it. Have bullet points and notes about what to address.
“The review should tie back to the job responsibilities and making sure that it’s clear as it relates to what are the expectations of the job,” Spann said. “You’re assessing the person’s performance based on the duties they’re assigned.”
Come up with some specific examples. Examples provide teachable moments. It also shows the employee that you’re paying attention, which will give more weight to your review. Address both examples of positive performance and areas that need improvement. Evaluate their work based on the employee’s attitude, willingness to help other personnel and customers, and the ability to get along with others.
Employee reviews should be handled in person. In-person communication is best because people can pick up on tone, body language and other subtle communication cues. And while video conferences are the next best thing, these important conversations can be frustrating or stressful if there are technical challenges like poor internet connections.
If in-person isn’t possible, be sure to conduct the meeting on camera. Set aside enough time so the meeting doesn’t feel rushed. Everyone should be relaxed. Schedule the meeting in a comfortable location. Never do performance reviews through written communication. Always remember to lead and end with the positive.
Ask the employee what goals they'd like to achieve and work with them to decide the best ways to achieve them. Photo Credit: ATA
Set Achievable Goals
Performance reviews aren’t meant to keep employees in line through criticism. They’re meant to focus on the future by reviewing past performance. The best performance reviews will inspire employees to make positive changes. This constructive feedback helps employees become more efficient and productive.
“Goals are different than what employees do on a day-to-day basis,” Spann said.
Setting achievable goals is an important part of focusing on the future. Ask the employee what they’d like to achieve. Help them craft some SMART goals — that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.
Specific: What exactly will you accomplish?
Measurable: How will you know when you have reached this goal?
Achievable: Is achieving this goal realistic with effort and commitment? Do you have the resources to achieve this goal? If not, how will you get them?
Relevant: Why is this goal significant to your role?
Timely: When will you achieve this goal?
Examples of goals might be achieving a new position, focusing on an area of performance or learning a new skill. Be sure to discuss the next steps at the end. A set of defined next steps is the first step toward making changes and achieving goals. For examples of goal-setting, Spann suggests reading “Here’s How Managers Can Help Employees Set Meaningful Goals.”
Take quality notes from the review. Put them in the employee file. Having notes and goals in writing is the best way to track progress. Over time you can measure the change. If you’re not seeing growth or forward momentum, try a different approach or a different set of goals.
Take Time to Listen
Performance reviews are a two-way conversation, not a lecture. How an employee conducts themselves in the workplace is based on many factors, which can include company culture and management style. Allow the employee to provide you and the company with feedback. Doing this with every employee will give you valuable insight into the company. You can look for trends and see where changes need to be implemented.
Spann suggests using questions that can apply to both employees and managers. For example, if you ask the employee which of the company’s values they feel they most exemplify, you could then ask them which of the values your management style exemplifies. For more ideas read “Best Questions to Ask in Performance Reviews.”
Hold Regular Performance Reviews
Performance reviews shouldn’t be a surprise, and they shouldn’t happen infrequently. Get on a schedule. Having regular reviews shows employees that you’re serious about improvement. Don’t wait a year to check back in. Even if you don’t do an official review, ask employees how they’re working toward their goals. If you’re seeing positive changes, be sure to let employees know.
“Sometimes goals need to be adjusted throughout the year,” Spann said. “Managers should set up some kind of cadence to see what kind of progress is being made and hold employees accountable for this progress.”
The ATA has resources designed to help businesses flourish. The MyATA Learning Center has on-demand education videos covering business operations, marketing and more. You can also contact Nicole Nash, senior manager of outreach, at (507) 233-8146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.