The Anatomy of an Effective Performance Review
Would you like to get the best out of your team? If so, providing an effective performance review, also known as end-of-year, to each of your team members is essential to your manager's toolbox.
In an ideal management world, your team would be clear on their day-to-day tasks and how they are evaluated. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for the majority of teams because the manager hasn't implemented an effective performance review process.
In my career, I have sat on both sides of the table. First, as a team member, receiving poorly delivered performance reviews leaving me clueless on what is expected of me and how to improve. Then as the manager, confused about how to deliver an efficient performance review.
I am happy to report to you that I made plenty of progress. I recognised as a manager early that effective performance reviews are an ongoing process. It needs effort but eventually is very much worth.
Therefore this blog post is all about effective performance review tips for managers.
3 Effective Performance Review Tips for Managers
1. No surprises for the Employee
Often employees are unclear on their annual goals and don’t know how to influence their performance. This can lead to nasty surprises at the end of the year and very difficult feedback discussions. I certainly have been there as an employee. Sitting on the other side of the table now I have to say that a situation like this is the manager’s failure.
An effective performance review starts one year before the HR set end-of-year review deadline and then lasts for the whole year.
#1The first step is to set smart and achievable targets with the employee. I write targets for the team as a whole that support my department’s targets. I share them with the team before the individual goal and target sessions. Additionally, I explain how I will evaluate the performance in the HR end-of-year review.
#2I have quarterly performance catch up sessions with each team member individually. I block at least one hour in my calendar for each. This will help the employee to understand their current performance and give ample opportunity for them to make adjustments.
#3I have weekly 1:1 with my direct reports to discuss current operational topics and allow space for questions.
2. Let the Employee Take Ownership
The manager needs to provide the team with a performance set up as above for the employees to succeed. Apart from that employees need to assume ownership of their performance. For example, it would be unacceptable to me if the employee takes a passive role in the process. Examples are not participating in goal and target setting and being unprepared in the performance check-ins.
Unfortunately, many employees assume this passive role and see the reviews as something that is just given to them.
I share my expectations of an effective performance review process with my team by:
• Sharing the timeframe and format of the discussion.
• Asking them to acquire 360deg feedback.
• Reminding them of HR resources available to them.
• Making them responsible for providing evidence of their performance.
• Letting them do the majority of the talking.
• Adopting a coaching style myself to help them along.
All of this coupled with the ongoing performance monitoring described earlier should lead to an honest and constructive discussion. Once this is done, I review the company’s performance descriptions together with the employee and let them score themselves. Following all these most employees will provide a realistic assessment of themselves.
3. Be Frank and Focus on the Future
I found using the above tips makes performance reviews effective and the employee satisfaction and realism is pretty good. Nonetheless, you can still find yourself in a difficult discussion even with the best level of preparation. This is the case when the employee rates his performance better than viewed by management.
If you find yourself in a difficult discussion, your preparation is crucial. The below pointers will help you to hold your ground:
• Refer back to the agreed targets and goals, and how these will be evaluated,
• Summaries of the catch-up discussions,
• Specific examples of the employee’s poor behaviour, its severity and impact on the team and the department,
• Feedback from other teams and members of the leadership on the employee’s performance,
• Specific examples on how behaviour would have looked like for different ratings.
It is important, to be frank with the employee to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. While sugar-coating should be avoided, feedback always needs to be constructive and non-personal. You give feedback on behaviours, not on the person!
You should close a performance discussion with an outlook on the future which includes: adjustments of performance and the impact of not making the adjustments. I like to talk about things (1) to continue doing, (2) to start doing and (3) to stop doing.
Also, not everyone has to and wants to be a top performer. That’s okay if the employee’s performance is good and has no negative impact on the team.
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