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6 Steps to structuring performance reviews


We all know that constructive feedback is essential to helping employees reach their goals and progress in their career. Yet we still hang on the antiquated idea that relying on annual performance reviews will achieve that goal. We need to realise that if feedback and reviews are not a regular occurrence, we allow bad behaviour to flourish, excellent performance to go unnoticed, and run the risk of losing great employees.

Reviews should be structured through the year. Here’s how to break them down into manageable steps.

Establish structure and stick to it

Before you can start structuring reviews and evaluating an employee’s performance, you need to know what type of structure is appropriate for your company and team. Reviews for a remote team will look very different to those of a team that are all in the same office. Decide if annual reviews are held on a yearly calendar basis, or yearly on an employee’s start date. As a leader, it is up to you to set the structure for reviews.

Step 1: Weekly touch-base reviews

Weekly reviews help you keep abreast of what your team is working on, and problems they are facing. The insight gained during this time will help you fix the root cause of any performance, engagement or cultural fit issues. Weekly touch bases also allow for true conversation to happen between both parties, resulting in a relationship build on trust between leaders and their teams.

Weekly reviews can be one-on-one or together with the whole team. They are done to monitor general trends and have a better idea of the daily work being done, so keep it short and sweet.

Step 2: Monthly reviews

These reviews are a little more structured than a weekly touch base would be. Monthly check-ins are specifically focused on goals and metrics, while touching on trends that have been noticed. You still talk about the same items as in weekly reviews, but with a focus on aligning tasks with goals that have been set for that quarter. Keep any distractions to a minimum during these reviews – they are about you and your employee and nothing else.

Monthly reviews should still be short and to-the-point unless there is a problem or an area needs a little more focus. Make sure they are done one-on-one (not in a group) and make sure they are partnered with corrective coaching to make sure the person being reviewed is on the right path.

Step 3: Quarterly reviews

Quarterly reviews make sense because of how many businesses break up their year into quarters; it makes sense to reassess employee performance at the same time.

All employee goals should be aligned with quarterly business goals so that employees know what they are working towards. Normally an employee will provide feedback on their own progress, which will then be compared with their manager’s feedback. Based on these reviews, a new plan, new learning opportunities, and new goals will be set in place for the following quarter.

Step 4: 360-reviews

360-reviews should always be conducted before annual reviews. This lets coworkers and managers provide feedback on how an employee is performing. Only involve people who have a direct working relationship with this employee; keep it focused on personal goals and business objectives.

The feedback from 360-reviews will help you structure a full, annual, performance review. They help provide more balanced reviews that aren’t swayed by unconscious bias.

Step 5: Annual reviews

Annual reviews are an amalgamation of all the reviews done through the year. Employees may be asked to evaluate their performance based on KPI’s, goal setting, budgets, or quarterly reviews plans. You will evaluate their performance in the same areas. Depending on the company, if 360-reviews have been done they will be included in annual reviews.

These conversations always need to be face-to-face. Once you have booked time for annual performance reviews, barring natural disasters, do not reschedule. Annual reviews are stressful for everyone involved, and moving them around adds to that stress.

Step 6: Separate compensation reviews

Whenever possible schedule a follow up meeting after annual performance reviews to discuss salaries and bonuses. Keeping these conversations separate helps focus annual reviews on behaviours and goals. 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 compensation reviews 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 and may cause attrition.

Know what works for your team

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.

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