One of the best tools to boost productivity, increase morale and get better business outcomes is an employee performance evaluation … if they are done correctly. Get them wrong and you risk losing your best staff – Get them right and the sky is the limit.
What are employee performance reviews all about?
Many people feel about Employee performance reviews the same way they feel about the dentist – fear, avoidance and running in the other direction as fast as they can. But, done properly employee performance reviews are all about gaining a shared understanding of:
- What has to be done;
- How is it to be done (which includes information, resources or riding instructions);
- How you know that it has been done successfully
- The strengths, challenges and interests of the team member.
- Areas for performance improvement
- Any rewards and incentives for great performance.
The emphasis is on shared understanding.
Performance reviews are not a one way street. It should not be about sitting in a darkened room with a harsh light shining on an employee while you tell them for hours everything that is wrong with them. Performance reviews or performance appraisals are a two way street. You need to listen, accept feedback about yourself as well as provide feedback.
The 4 stages of performance appraisal
All performance management systems in business (no matter the type) are made up of just four basic stages – everything else is just window dressing.
These 4 stages are:
- Setting clear goals or targets
- Doing the work
- Reviewing and reflecting on how the work went against the goals or targets
- Setting new goals or targets
It is just that most performance review systems focus on step 3 and forget the rest of the stages. Each stage is important if you want to get the best out of your employees. But … there is one step that underpins all of these stages. You need to form strong relationships with your employees. Reviews will only be as deep and as productive as your relationship with your employee. If your relationship is shallow or strained the performance review will also be shallow and strained.
So before you leap into any performance review processes take the time to get to know your team (unless of course you don’t want to get the best out of the review, in which case go in cold).
Its not about the forms!
Performance reviews are not about the forms. They are about the discussion and the shared understanding. Too many processes focus on filling in forms, clicking on websites and filing paper. They totally miss the point! Forms are essentially irrelevant – they just summarise the discussion and the outcomes. They are not an outcome in themselves. It is really hard to listen and engage in conversation if you are focussed on writing things down! Focus on the person, the observable behaviours and the future goals and targets. If you have to – lose the paper until the end of the review if that makes it easier to focus on the person.
No Surprises! If your employee is surprised by your feedback during the review – you are the one who stuffed up!
If the employee is surprised you have failed!
My motto is there should be no surprises during a review. If you have done your job right during the year and had regular feedback sessions with your employee they should know exactly what you think of their performance. If you get to review time and they are totally “gobsmacked” by your feedback you may want to book into some communication training.
Remember the “no surprises” rule during the year and the reviews will be much more productive.
Focus on observable behaviours
When giving feedback focus only on directly observable behaviours. By that I mean comments such as “You were late back from lunch for the past 3 Fridays” compared to “I think you are out getting plastered every Friday”. By focusing on the behaviours you will be better placed to correct the issue. The second you drop into hearsay, assumption or generalisations – the power of your performance review sinks into the ground.
Keep it specific, detailed and observed.
Get your process understood & documented
Whatever process you use to do performance reviews with your employees, you need to have it documented, shared and understood by your employees. They need to know exactly what the process will be, what to expect, how to participate to the best of their ability, how you will assess their performance, what outcomes will come from the review and what sort of things will go on their personnel file.
The more open you are about the process, the better the review will be as the employee will be less stressed.