Annual performance review tips

Tis the season for the end-of-year performance review. Just as employees are nestling all snug in their cubes, eagerly awaiting holly, jolly times with their friends and families, we people managers swoop in like the ghost of Christmas past, present, and future to wreak havoc on days that should otherwise be merry and bright.

Just as no one likes getting a performance review, not too many of us enjoy giving them either. Even among the Best Companies not all people managers are trained on how to give performance reviews. Here we see a growing trend toward creating values-based scorecards for employees, or moving away from annual reviews toward quarterly or monthly performance “conversations” instead. Both are designed to address problems before they emerge and create a stronger relationship among managers and their reports.

For those of you who, like myself, are spending your year-end delivering performance evaluations, here are a few tips on how to lessen anxiety for you and your employees.

Keep it conversational.

You know how you feel when you are sitting a formal examination, don’t you? It tends to be a very tense experience, with your nerves painfully on edge. Performance evaluations feel like that for lots of employees, even ones who know they perform well. Thus, keep your review conversational, ask employees what they are most proud of this year, and where they most want to grow. Use their self-reflection to launch the conversation.

Keep it casual.

Conversations are most natural in casual environments. Come around from behind your desk to sit side-by-side with your employee. Find a quiet corner in a coffee shop. Go for a walk. Certain environments have an amazing power to disarm. Consider how you can reduce tension by thinking about where you hold your performance review conversation.

Make certain employees know it is coming.

Lots of us cram performance reviews in last minute while budgeting and planning for next year. The last thing an employee needs is an ominous “please come to my office to discuss your performance” email. Prep your teams about what’s coming and ask them to reflect on their performance beforehand.

Be prepared with next steps.

Whether giving good feedback or negative feedback, be prepared to discuss next steps with your employees. If performance needs a boost, be prepared to discuss how you will measure improvement and collaborate on helping the employee get there. If performance is good, be prepared to talk about growth opportunities, training, and long-term career goals.

Be a collaborator.

Performance is a two-way street. Sure, sometimes people are in the wrong roles, have the wrong skills, or the wrong attitude to succeed. But most times, performance is impacted by how resources are allocated, how support is given, how clearly goals and priorities are stated. You, your team, and your company succeed when your employees are successful. Approach performance evaluations with the understanding that you are a collaborator in your employees’ success.

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