Conducting performance reviews for your employees, and even your agents, is a vital activity for team owners who are committed to being the best managers and getting the best results.
Feedback from both parties in the review can range from praise to learning opportunities and is extremely valuable for both parties.
As well, a performance review gives employer and employee a great forum in which to discuss what’s working, what’s not and how to make improvements.
A review is more than a pat on the back for a job well done or a checklist of things that need to be improved upon. Sometimes, there are issues that need attention and that need to be explored in more detail so that they are addressed and given a plan of action to be improved upon.
You should look at these reviews as opportunities to inspire your employees to keep growing and do better. To do this, you’ll need to dig deeper than what’s traditionally done in a review.
Here are 5 strategies to conduct great employee reviews.
- Don’t wait just for formal performance reviews to give feedback.
Historically, performance reviews happen quarterly or semi-annually. While this is a reasonable expectation from a business standpoint, it’s better to provide consistent feedback, as necessary, and not limit it to the 30-plus minutes you have during a review.
The goal is twofold.
First, you want consistent improvement and performance, which can only happen with regular, mini-assessments. Second, you don’t want there to be any surprises when the time for reviews come.
Essentially, you don’t want to catch people off guard.
According to Erika Rasure, Assistant Professor of Business and Financial Services as Maryville University: "This should not be the first time that they are hearing from you that they are not performing as expected. Be clear in writing [and] sending calendar invites and setting expectations and the tone for the meetings."
As part of this strategy, you’ll want to balance your ongoing feedback between the positive and negative. That way, your employees don’t grimace and cower in fear every time you walk by their desk.
As well, you don’t want your employees to feel ignored simply because they don’t need as much direction as others in your organization.
"Highly valuable employees who do their job and do it well are often not the priority of concern in performance review cycles, resulting in missed opportunities to communicate how much the organization values the drive and the results of the top performers," said Rasure. "An unexpected 'keep up the great work' email, a quick phone call or text sends a consistent signal to your employee that you are paying attention and value what they do."
Treat everyone as they are important, make the feedback a balance of good and bad, keep the feedback loop open on a regular basis and you’ll have happy, loyal people on your team.
- Honesty is the best policy
There’s no such thing as perfect, even in the most synergistic of business environments.
To that end, there is, and always will be, room for improvement. It’s your job to determine what needs be addressed and take action in dealing with it. If you see an issue that needs your attention, you need to be honest with yourself and your employee and deal with it head on.
Dancing around the topic serves nobody.
It’s important to abide by the platinum rule - treat others the way that they want to be treated - when being truthful in giving feedback in reviews. The conversation is required and unavoidable, so be careful to select an appropriate approach and don’t waiver from it.
If you have a subpar employee and you don’t handle the issue directly, then you’re telling other employees in the office that it’s okay to be a weak performer and still work at the office. In addition to that, it makes you look weak and/or cowardly for not dealing with the issue appropriately.
- Always do reviews and give feedback face to face
Even if you’ve written up a review to give to your employee, you must go over it face to face. Your goal is to encourage a forum for discussion and feedback and minimize any miscommunications or misunderstandings.
Reviews are crucial to the success and growth of your company. You must make ample time to process, listen and respond to what you say. This process is too important to handle with an email or over the telephone.
Doing anything other than a face-to-face meeting is a sign that you don’t care enough about them or their improvement to even make the time to meet.
Be sure to outline any any shortcomings or mistakes, spend an ample enough time to discuss resolutions to those problems, and encourage employees to comment on the issues you raised.
- Finish with something positive
Always be sure to leave the review with a mutual agreement on what happened and what’s expected going forward. It’s important for your employee to feel respected and that they're not in the dark going forward.
As well, use the review process to set realistic goals about how to address the expectations you’ve set forth regarding where the employee is falling short of what’s required of them.
There must be a clear, reasonable, easy-to-follow plan of action that will get them on track and headed in the right direction.
It’s always important for you to encourage your employees and express your gratitude whether or not the review was based on positive or negative news. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in giving workers the confidence and drive they need to perform even better.
- Make careful word choices
The words you choose can and will have a huge impact on how the person being reviewed takes what you say. Yes, you have body language and other nonverbal communication strategies available to you, but the words you use will still mean something during the review.
Here are five words and expressions that you can use to highlight the positive contributions made to the company by the person you are reviewing:
- Achievement: This is best used when saying things like "achieves top levels of performance with/for ... "
- Communication skills: When you say it like this "effectively communicates expectations," or like this "excels in facilitating group discussions" you can have a significant positive impact on your employees.
- Creativity: Showing employees that you recognize and honor their creativity can lead to a happier, more motivated team. In your next review, use something like "seeks creative alternatives," and then give specific examples and outcomes.
- Improvement: Recognizing that an employee has made improvements and is being noticed for it is always a good thing: Try phrases like: "Continues to grow and improve," and "is continuously planning for improvement" to give constructive, meaningful feedback during review.
- Management ability: Having leadership skills and the ability to manage others is key for employee success. Incorporating phrases such as "provides support during periods of organizational change" can carry a lot of weight with your employee.