Employee reviews have earned negative ratings over the years. Feared by employees and bosses alike, they conjure up feelings of ugly conversations, conflict or worse, damage to the supervisor/ employee relationship. Unless policies exist that mandate performance reviews or the boss has already decided to replace the employee, these often undervalued discussions get avoided like the plague!
The element that makes these meetings so uncomfortable is the very thing that is focused on- the employee! What these potentially high value discussions should focus on is the future potential and performance from the employee. Think of them not as an accounting of what has passed but a commitment to what your employee will do in the future. I can hear laughing for every seasoned HR professional and manager of people who has ever experienced a problem employee!
Here's the real problem. When you focus solely on past performance (with an eye on all that was not done) you tend to get more of it. Change the focus about why you are having the review and the behavior that drives participation between the employee and you will change. When you focus on better outcomes, you get better outcomes.
So how do you change course if your company has fallen prey to negative, stressful performance reviews that get conducted only as a means of delivering formal warnings to poorly performing employees? Here's the interesting thing about this kind of review methodology. Your good employees probably don't value these sessions either and to prevent them from becoming unhappy, you forgo the review because they know what they are doing anyway, right?
Here's one major reason to change how you conduct performance reviews. Employees want to do well on their jobs and they want to be recognized for it. They also want to know how they can do better; what things to focus on and what training might help them get there. Lastly, they want to know that the company values performance excellence over simply documenting everything.
If you find that scheduling and conducting performance reviews is like having teeth pulled without novocaine, here's how to change the process so both manager and employee will be more fully engaged to reviewing and improving job performance.
1. Establish a positive value for review meeting right up front. Tell employees that the purpose of this type of meeting is for them to present their accomplishments and identify areas where they want to improve.
2. Make sure they have they job profile and list of goals and duties. Most companies I work with put little or no emphasis on this information so its no surprise that many employees put no genuine focus on these details. Every employee in every role should understand the value of their position and what they are expected to perform on. Expecting them to be accountable for their own performance is the first step to having more proactive review sessions.
3. Have a clear reason for the review meeting. As elementary as this sounds, without a clear reason for what will be discussed, the mind can conjure up all sorts of reasons that aren't positive. Resist the temptation to create of minimal daily infractions in favor of the major areas that drive performance.
4. Have these meeting more than once a year. No one gets comfortable with something that happens once a year (except Christmas) and few employees would ever equate a performance review with Christmas! Depending on the employee (how long they have been with you, how good they are or how much guidance they need) reviews could be brief monthly sessions or more in-depth quarterly sessions. Having a review meeting every 6-12 months simply does not convey any real meaning about the value of the employees performance to the company. Furthermore, if it needs to improve, talking about it at such lengthy intervals suggests the company is less interested in helping the employee and more interested in creating a paper trail.
5. Once the reason and time for the meeting has been established, give the employee the opportunity to walk you (the manager) through their performance. Use your participation to ask questions that get to the core of performance results good and bad. Balance your focus between finding and encouraging more good performance as well as understanding and recommending ways to turn around poor performance.
6. Have the employee come prepared to establish goals or action steps for the next meeting. Once you and they agree on the most important areas for them to work on, insure these new or revised goals get written down for review at the next meeting.
7. Lastly, convey to the employee that they are in control of their performance. You are there to support them but they must initiate any requests for help. They will be responsible for carrying out all job duties and reporting their results to you.
Now, developing new behaviors takes time to become gain true confidence so don't be surprised if this approach does not go smoothly the first time around. Any meaningful behavior change needs time to become the new method of operating. Your employees will buy into the new approach to managing their performance once they see you consistently administer the process. If you give up and go back to the old way of conducting reviews, they will lose faith and go back to dreading these meetings.
Here's the bottom line on high value performance reviews. If they are consistently managed, pro-actively scheduled and discussed in a positive manner, you will not only reduce the reluctance to talk about performance but the employee's performance will rise to your level of expectation. Most employees will embrace feedback if they believe it is sincere and will help them be better performers in their chosen profession.
Not happy with the level of work being produced in your company? Take a look at how you discuss performance with your employees.
Steve Smith is a seasoned business professional and successful coaching who works with companies on a variety of personal and operational challenges. If you have performance challenges that you'd like some guidance with, take advantage of Steve free business advice service 'Ask Steve' or contact him directly for a complimentary consultation at 949-951-9163.
about the Author
After a stellar 29 year career in the consumer products manufacturing industry, Steve Smith converted his knowledge and experience into a successful business and executive coaching company. In 2008, he opened GrowthSource Coaching in Orange County, CA