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Great leaders and organizations keep talented employees motivated and aligned with their strategic business goals. Evaluation, feedback, and continuous adaptation to new circumstances and opportunities are critical to success at every level and function. They are also essential to keeping your star performers, those who constantly strive to extend their career accomplishments and potential.
Yet when it actually comes to conducting annual employee reviews, I frequently hear managers express skepticism, concern or outright distress.
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
* “I know good performance when I see it. I don’t need to write everything down.”
* “They’re either unnecessary because the person is great on- the-job, or difficult and painful because the person isn’t.”
* “I am conscientious about doing them, but I could probably do a better job.”
Evidence, not paperwork, should inform your employee reviews.
In my experience, five tactics in particular can help you go beyond the administrative aspects of performance reviews to supercharge your employees’ motivational drivers, loyalty and productivity.
But first, a brief refresher to set the stage.
Benefits of the Annual Employee Review
*Assess individual employee performance and accomplishments
*Determine motivational rewards such as compensation increase, bonus, and promotion
*Identify high-potential talent for accelerated development
*Address any employee performance issues in need of corrective action
*Inform employee goal-setting for the coming year
*Check that job descriptions and duties remain aligned with business and operational needs* Maintain a performance-based culture and meritocracy
*Document the evaluation and decisions made for management and the organization
The annual review should be a summation, not a standalone, once-yearly activity. Sadly, though, I routinely hear professionals, including middle managers and senior executives, tell me that they have not had a meaningful performance review from their boss in years. Comments such as these suggest that their company or organization is seriously under-managing its portfolio of talent assets.
Here is how you and your organization can avoid a similar fate.
Five Tactics for Conducting Winning Performance Reviews
1. Preparation. Effective reviews are evidence-based reviews. The more prepared you are in terms of relevant data and key message points, the more effective you will be when you meet one-on-one with each of your direct reports. Verify in advance that the employee performance information you have on an employee is current and complete.
Action Step: Prepare and rehearse for best results. Schedule sufficient time for each review session.
2. Clarity. Effective performance appraisals are clear and transparent to all parties concerned. This means that the overall performance appraisal process needs to be well-defined:
* Employees fully under stand how the process works
* Job accountabilities and performance goals are specified in detail
* Employees understand what constitutes Outstanding, Satisfactory, and Unsatisfactory performance levels
Action Step: Begin the review session with a brief overview of the process and its purpose in order to set the context. Be prepared to answer clarifying questions.
3. Accuracy. When performance metrics and expectations are well-defined, your assessment as a manager can be straightforward and objective, not impressionistic and subjective. Attention to detail shows that you have been paying attention.
Accuracy also means that you have weighted – and evaluated – key activities according to previously agreed-upon performance goals and priorities.
Action Step: Ground your assessment in relevant, specific evidence and examples. Where possible, use statistics to capture successes, progress indicators, and any performance deficits.
4. Fairness. Your ability to impact and inspire your direct reports during this milestone review can ultimately succeed or fail based on whether they perceive your appraisal to be fair. Research shows that when feedback involves negative or poor reviews, the recipient is more likely to accept and act on the information if he or she regards the process and rationale as fair. Ask yourself: are you weighing this person’s actual performance or rationalizing your evaluation on the basis of personal bias or office politics?
Fairness also involves consistency. Your evaluation standards should be consistent from person to person. Remember, everyone talks, brags, and complains at work. Your appraisal should not just be fair in fact; it should be perceived as fair.
Action Step: Keep perceived fairness in mind in drafting and delivering your appraisals.
5. Follow-Through. While annual reviews look at past performance, they also bear on the employee’s present and future. Rewards such as bonuses and promotions and promises involving follow-up sessions or resource allocation need to materialize in a timely fashion. Agreements involving behavior change or performance requirements need to be monitored and reviewed.
Action Step: Hold yourself accountable for delivering on rewards and commitments and monitoring any employee change efforts going forward.
Yes, it is a crazy-busy workplace. All the more reason for leaders to remember – and remind all those with supervisory responsibility – just how important employee performance management is to the organization’s vitality and competitive advantage. Of course, the most powerful way to do this is to lead by example. Show by your own attitudes and actions that you take the annual performance review seriously and you model the behavior that your direct reports will heed and seek to emulate.