Make Performance Reviews Effective Again

By Sirmara Campbell Twohill

Performance reviews are a way to evaluate an employee’s performance over a specified period of time. They are also often used to determine year-end bonuses, raises and promotions. Because of this, they can be tricky to do correctly and efficiently, but here are six tips that human resources professionals can use to help guide the review process at their organization and help make this year’s performance reviews the most effective ones yet.

Structure employee reviews to be as effective as possible at your organization.

  • Get rid of “annual.” When a manager waits to give feedback to an employee annually they are jeopardizing both the business and employee’s growth. While a meeting to reflect on the year at a high level can help pinpoint overarching areas for improvement, performance reviews shouldn’t be the only time employees hear direct feedback on their work. Human resources professionals should ensure managers meet with their direct reports at least twice a month for the strongest employee-manager relationships. That way feedback is given regularly and the employee is less likely to be shocked or get defensive when hearing it during a review.
  • Get personal. The way someone feels personally oftentimes determines their performance. If someone is going through something in their personal life, their work performance may suffer, but managers and human resources professionals won’t know when someone is dealing with something outside of work unless they ask…but they have to invest time in building that personal rapport before doing so. An easy way to build a personal relationship with employees is to ensure managers have frequent one on one meetings with them.

The same is true for performance reviews, start on a personal note to help them feel comfortable before diving into the review. Many employees dread performance reviews, so asking questions about their family, friends, or what they did over the weekend, will help put them at ease so the rest of the review can go as smoothly as possible. Also, getting a perspective on their personal life can provide context and an understanding about any performance gaps.

  • Role play with managers so they feel comfortable delivering feedback and are prepared for handling various employee reactions. Part of the reason performance reviews are tricky is because they can be emotional; employees may get defensive when they feel they are being attacked or criticized (even though this is never the intent). This is why making sure feedback is delivered in a way that is encouraging and not attacking is key, so it’s important human resources professionals practice delivering feedback with managers beforehand.
  • Ask the right questions. Some performance review questions are better than others. For example, asking an employee what they want to accomplish in the coming year is a fine question, but what makes it even more powerful and effective is asking employees to provide concrete steps they will take to reach future goals. Or, instead of just asking an employee where they think their biggest areas for improvement are, ask them why they think those areas are important and why improving will help their team or the company. The point is to get employees to think critically about their goals and professional development, and have actionable takeaways and steps they can use once they leave their review.
  • Put the onus on the employee. Managers and human resource professionals should not be doing all the preparation and follow-up for a review. Employees should come with specific examples of successes and failures. Send employees a high-level agenda of what you’d like to discuss and have them prepare the documents and materials for it. Then, have employees write a recap of the meeting so that managers and human resources can see if there are any discrepancies between what the employee took away and what the manager wanted them to take away from the meeting.
  • Keep good records of past employee reviews and revisit them throughout the year. Keeping detailed notes of employee performance can help managers and human resources spot any trends and make more informed decisions regarding talent management. Follow-up on the areas that were talked about during the review to see what steps have been taken to improve and get a pulse on how the employee is feeling about their career and position at the company.

Performance reviews have taken many different forms lately, with some companies doing away with them entirely and others doing them more informally. What works for one company doesn’t necessarily work for all, but these six tips will help structure reviews so they can be as effective as possible at your organization.


AUTHOR: Sirmara Campbell Twohill is the chief human resources officer at Chicago-based LaSalle Network.


Reprinted from WORKFORCE




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