When reading the title of this post, as your eyes glanced on the words “performance reviews”, did you shudder? If you did, you’re not alone. Most employees and employers dread these annual or bi-annual events, where they’re expected to evaluate a huge amount of varied work under the pressure of knowing that, more often than not, performance-related pay and the employee's productivity will be decided by how the meeting goes.
But what should performance reviews achieve? Are they simply a box-ticking exercise? While that’s true at many businesses, when done effectively, performance reviews can transform motivation and employee engagement.
Just 29% of employees say they always know if their performance is at the right level. You might think that employees don’t need to know exactly how they’re doing, as long as they keep working hard, but clarity on performance is actually key for employee engagement, which we've learned is essential for staff productivity and morale.
So how can you hold performance reviews that are effective and give employees a clear sense of their level of performance?
Hold performance reviews more frequently
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to fix a process which is so obviously failing I the majority of businesses is to do it more often. Far more often. Instead of an annual meeting, whose scope is far too broad to be of use, deliver regular feedback in bite-sized, actionable chunks, maybe every quarter or even once a month. The more immediate the feedback, the clearer the experience will be in the employee’s mind and the better they’ll be able to put your constructive criticism to good use. Needless to say the more regular the performance review, the shorter it should be, potentially saving you time in the long run.
Ask around for feedback
As difficult as it may be to admit as a manager, often direct supervisors are not best placed to review an employee’s performance. Why? Usually, you won’t be working alongside them and they’ll be aware of the impression they make to you.
Instead, supplement your own assessment with information from their immediate colleagues, clients or customers they’ve interacted with, as well as their own admissions. Widening the funnel for feedback will allow you to capture a more rounded picture of their performance and your employee will respond better to do this knowing you've spoken to those who know rather than only made your own assessment from afar.
Make feedback objective and impersonal
Opinions are easy to argue with, and no one likes name-calling. Back up your evaluation with facts and statistics wherever possible. Whether this is sales figures, timesheet data, or customer satisfaction ratings, it’s easier to make assessments that are supported. Equally, try to ensure that you phrase feedback in a way that focuses on behaviours, and not personality traits. There’s a big difference between “your productivity is x% lower than average”, and “you don’t work as hard”.
Work together to create performance goals
The more collaborative the goal-setting process can be, the better. Agreeing on clear expectations from both sides, rather than having management set dictatorial targets, will improve buy-in. Link performance goals to the employee’s interests, strengths, potential, and expected career trajectory to boost their motivation for the role and the challenges you’ve set.
Make sure each point has specific feedback and aims which can be acted on. Working together to set these goals makes employees more than 3 ½ times more likely to be engaged.
Through a series of frequent, informed, specific and collaborative discussions, managers can make performance reviews meaningful once more. Good luck!