If you’re like most employees, you dislike the performance review process. Whether you come at it from the perspective of a leader, a worker, or both, you likely dread the very thought of it. Turns out there are multiple valid reasons for that feeling.
Consider W. Edwards Deming’s blunt assessment of the typical performance review:
[It] nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, nourishes rivalry and politics. . . . It leaves people bitter, crushed, bruised, battered, desolate, despondent, dejected, feeling inferior, some even depressed, unfit for work for weeks after receipt of rating, unable to comprehend why they are inferior. It is unfair, as it ascribes to people in a group differences that may be caused totally by the system they work in.
Fortunately, there are ways to make the performance management process positive, supportive, and useful and less soul-crushing for everyone involved. In fact, you may even be able to do away with the annual review entirely!
Provide every employee with performance objectives at the beginning of the review cycle and make sure those objectives are:
· Clear to the person doing the work
· Achievable (even if you include a stretch goal or two)
· Explained in a way that ties back to your company’s mission
· Updated as priorities change
The mission tie-in is important because no matter what role your employee has at your company, it is in some way related to your mission. And when an employee sees how what they do supports the bigger picture, engagement and productivity increase. In a similar fashion, as you go through the objectives with the employee, solicit their input. That will increase their sense of ownership of the work to be completed.
Set up weekly check-ins with your employees. They don’t have to be long—just five or 10 minutes to find out what they’re doing, how the work is going, and what help they might need. This is a powerful leadership tool because 1) It tells employees that you care about them and 2) You’re finding out on a weekly basis what kind of progress they’re making and how they might be struggling. Make and keep notes on these interactions. Then, when formal review time comes around, you will have all the information you need to make a fair performance assessment.
HR technology exists to automate check-ins, which makes it very easy to capture and retain the week-to-week information you are exchanging with employees; however, you can accomplish much the same thing in a 5- or 10-minute in-person check-in.
Consider holding formal performance reviews once a quarter. This way, the review is broken down into shorter time spans, which is easier on you and them. Your weekly notes will tell you all the progress that’s been made to date, and you can adjust objectives, if needed, at this time. Bear in mind that there should be no big surprises in the quarterly review. You’ve been talking to every employee every week for three months. Don’t hold onto criticisms (or praise!) until the quarterly sit-down.
The fourth quarter review is just that—a quarterly review. But then you can review the previous quarterly assessments and decide what the performance has been overall for the year.
Frame negative performance feedback in such a way that you are sharing your perceptions instead of making the employee “wrong.” That will not only trigger a defensive response; it will render the rest of the review useless because that’s all the employee will be thinking about. For example, suppose an office worker sends a convoluted email message to clients on behalf of your company. Instead of saying, “That email was poorly written”, you could say, “I found your email very difficult to understand.” The second statement is simply you offering your observation and makes it impossible for the employee to disagree with you because you stated your perception, not some universal “truth.” All you can do in any interaction with your employees is share your reaction and your perception because that’s what it is.
By making performance management an ongoing process versus an annual event, you’ll boost morale, improve the quality of your performance management and the actual work performance of your employees, and make W. Edwards Deming’s bleak characterization a thing of the past.
If it has been a while since you’ve taken a look at your performance management process, or if you’d just like to rest easy knowing that it is well aligned with your company’s current strategies, reach out to our HR specialist Kim Mazur for a complimentary consultation. Whether your process needs minor tweaking, or a complete overhaul, Core Growth Strategies is here to help!
There are ways to make the performance management process positive, supportive, and useful and less soul crushing for everyone involved. In fact, you may even be able to do away with the annual review entirely!
Set up weekly check-ins with your Employees
These don’t have to be long—just five or 10 minutes to find out what they’re doing, how the work is going, and what help they might need.Have an HR Question?