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The annual employee review doesn’t have to be an event dreaded by the employee and the manager.
Performance reviews are a formal way to assess what each employee contributes to the company and to identify that person’s strengths and weaknesses.
There are several ways a company can conduct reviews.
Deborah Keary, human resources director at the Society for Human Resource Management, said good companies should hold two reviews: an annual review with a rating, and a mid-year review for coaching and career development and improvement.
The Society for Human Resource Management is the world’s largest professional association devoted to human resource management.
Keary said the best format for the review is to start off on a positive note with descriptions of what the employee does well. Then a manager can talk about areas that need improvement, with suggestions on how the manager can help. Employees should be allowed time to respond, make comments and ask for help.
Dawn M. Adams, a member of the association’s employee relations panel and CEO of Wisconsin-based consulting company HResults, said she recommends quarterly reviews.
“Quarterly is best so that expectations are continually shared and informal feedback should be provided to the employee throughout the year,” Adams said.
Having the employee conduct a written self-evaluation beforehand is helpful. It helps the employee explain the value of their contributions as well as remind the manager of them.
The National Federation of Independent Business suggests that managers create a description for each job they supervise and make sure the employee knows the contents of the job description prior to holding the reviews.
Managers should also keep track of records, such as absenteeism and tardiness, and keep notes to document specific examples of work done well or poorly.
The NFIB has many tools and tips for managing employees on its Web site: www.nfib.com.
Some companies may prefer to handle all of their employee reviews during the same time of year over the course of several weeks. Meanwhile, other companies may prefer to review each individual employee on his or her anniversary date.
One of the most challenging rules for bosses in writing and conducting performance reviews is to stay away from anything personal or unrelated to the job. Even though a worker’s personality may influence how they do the job, it’s important for the manager to avoid judgments — “Bob’s a procrastinator” — and to instead document how the trait affects performance — “Bob’s reports missed deadlines in June, July and September.”
“The review is about the work and how well it is being performed,” Keary said. “It is not about the employee’s private life, personality traits or anything else that is not about the job.”
Adams said not to bring up anything that is protected by the law, such as time off related to a disability or absences covered by the Family Medical Leave Act.
Adams also said it is important that the manager not compare the employee to others in the company. The manager should be comparing the individual to the specified job requirements.
Reviews should also be given one-on-one. The process can be especially intimidating if the employee is outnumbered by managers. However, if an employee is known to respond aggressively, and the review is going to be negative, it is a good idea to have a human resources representative in the room.
Keary said reviews are effective management tools if they are done often and done well.
“People should be told often how they’re doing and how they can improve,” Keary said. “It should be a normal part of managing people. If that is done, then the annual review is just a summary without surprises, and it’s a good experience.”
Performance reviews often determine if an employee should get a raise, how much of a raise, as well as if they can handle, or even want, a promotion.
Both Adams and Keary said deserving employees most likely will get raises even in challenging economic times.
“While the economy might negatively affect the merit increase budget, strong performers will still look for financial rewards,” Adams said. “Their reward should be differentiated clearly from the merit increase received by average performers. In the past, this differentiation was often only a percentage point or less.”