9 tips on conducting effective performance reviews

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Most of us feel that we don’t receive enough feedback on our performance from managers and co-workers. In fact, 65% of employees would like more feedback than they currently get. That’s a lot of employees who don’t feel like they have direction!

In addition to feedback, it’s how we perform employee performance reviews that can have the biggest impact on this issue. We need to put aside our excuses of “Not enough time,” or the often mentioned “Candid conversations can be unpleasant and stressful.” As managers, we need to put our best foot forward supporting our teams. Here’s how to succeed with meaningful performance reviews.

1. Know what type of performance reviews you are conducting

It is important to balance the frequency and depth of performance reviews. You need to make sure that employees have an opportunity to provide, as well as receive, feedback on their work. Without either, employees can feel directionless in the direction their work should be going in.

Before you can even start evaluating an employee’s performance, you need to know what type of performance reviews are appropriate for your company and team. You will also need to determine how often you will be conducting them. You may only do performance reviews as often as every month, or only annually. Whatever your company’s policy is  on performance reviews, make sure your employees are getting the feedback they need, as often as they need it.

2. Make performance reviews reciprocal

Don’t review employees without providing them an opportunity to review themselves, as well as you. Constructive feedback is a two-way street. If you are not open to hearing how you can improve in your role, how can you expect employees to be? Being open to review from both sides allows for honest conversations that support everyone’s growth.

3. Get prepared before you meet

If you are asking employees to respect your time and to be prepared for a review – you need to do the same in return. Employee reviews take time, make sure you set aside enough room in your schedule to prepare before your meeting. Evaluate performance and any notes from previous reviews. Look at quantitative measurements (sales report, call records, deadline reports, etc.) as well as qualitative measurements (client feedback, personal observations, co-worker assessments) to get a balanced view for performance reviews.

Whether you are doing quarterly or monthly reviews, prepare a brief agenda. This will help direct your conversation and help employees know in advance what the discuss will look like. Having an agenda before hand will keep you on track, as well as decrease the stress and anxiety employees feel about walking into a review blind.

4. Set goals

Unless you know where you are going, it is impossible to get there. Goals help managers and employees work towards a common destination and help keep them focused. Goals are the benchmarks you review employees against. Without them it is hard to define strategies for improvement.

Budgets and KPI’s should align with company values and business objectives; individual goals and objectives should be based on job roles, and they should work towards that same business criteria. At the end of any review you will want to outline goals, and steps you have discussed to achieve them. This will be the blueprint your employees can work from until their next review.

5. Always complete performance reviews face-to-face

It is important to make sure all performance reviews are done face-to-face to make sure you keep building relationships with employees. An impersonal email detailing all their faults and mistakes will never be welcomed or appreciated.

6. Keep all feedback constructive

Not all performance reviews will be sunshine and roses. They may involve hard conversations. When they do, make sure that you are providing constructive feedback not just pointing out faults. Make sure you are focusing on behaviours. Keep feedback balanced – discuss the good, the bad and the ugly. Keep it clear and to the point.

Think of framing the conversation around what an employee should start, stop, or continue. These 3 areas give very clear direction, especially when there is an explanation as to why you want these things to happen. Keep in mind that direction without explanation won’t prevent a situation from arising again.

Avoid saying a generic “You need to take more initiative.” Without exact details of how you want behaviour to change, it means nothing. Instead say “You need to be more proactive in reaching out to the sales team to get their reports in advance and on a weekly basis”.  It’s a simple, but significant, difference.

7. Take notes, you will need them later

Make notes about what was discussed after performance reviews. These will help you prepare for your next review, as well as show an employees progress when annual reviews come around. If you don’t know what goals were set, or problems discussed, how can you accurately re-evaluate performance?

It is hard to recall a whole year’s worth for wins and losses when annual reviews roll around, without notes through the year. You won’t remember that time they deftly handled a difficult client, comprehensively executed a project, or went above and beyond to make sure their team made a tight deadline. The more detailed notes you have, the easier it will be.

8. Conversation is key – keep open lines of communication

Performance reviews are a 2-way conversation between yourself and employees. Make sure they have a chance to highlight their wins. They may point out items you didn’t know about, or had even forgotten. In most case you are dealing with mature adults and you want to be able to listen to their honest opinions and concerns.

Where possible let employees lead the conversation. This allows employees to feel that they are actively being listened to. It also sets a tone of ease and openness during performance reviews, which can often be tense.

9. Keep bonus and salary conversation separate

Whenever possible schedule a follow up meeting after annual performance reviews to discuss salaries and bonuses. Keeping these conversations separate helps focus performance reviews on behaviours and goals. If an employee knows that the end of the conversation will be around money they will react more emotionally during performance reviews. It is an understandable reaction, as money can be a very hot topic for a lot of people. By separating these conversations, you are allowing each discussions focus to be where it needs to be.

That being said, performance based compensation and promotion decisions have to be made every year. Make sure you circle back and complete a compensation review with employees. Don’t put it off, you want to make sure employees are aware where they stand. Not knowing causes a sense of job insecurity in loyal employees.

Final thoughts

In the interest of good employee relations, we always recommend providing regular feedback and completing quarterly performance reviews. This allows employees to discuss their job, explore career goals, and feel like they are being listened to. The most important thing after any review is completed, is that managers take the information they receive and act on it to better their team and reach the goals set for them.

If you are looking to fill open roles with qualified candidates that are a good fit and will be long term assets in your company connect with one of us today! Let’s work together to make your company the success it should be.

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