Performance Reviews – They’re not Rocket Science!

Over the last few years it would seem that the traditional performance review has fallen out of favour with both employers and employees. The process of reviewing performance formally has been widely criticised for its apparent lack of effectiveness in actually measuring an employee’s contribution, but is also blamed for an erosion of trust and engagement. I think this criticism is misplaced – the process of reviewing performance is appropriate however most employers go about it the wrong way. The following principles should make for a more effective, and dare I say it, enjoyable review process.

  1. Set Clear Expectations - At the beginning of a review period, a Manager must clearly articulate the expectations of the role with the employee. This means appropriate and realistic Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). Use SMART guidelines to ensure the KPI’s are able to be measured, and that they actually measure what they are intended to.
  2. No Surprises - The most important principle. A formal performance review might take place once or twice a year but these conversations really should be a formality because there have been many regular performance conversation between the Manager and employee throughout the year. Any Manager who is not having one-on-one meetings with their people on a regular basis is simply not doing their job.
  3. Evidence Based – the achievement of KPI’s should be evidentiary based. How has the employee achieved or not achieved the KPI’s and what examples demonstrate this? The Manager should have this information prepared well before the review and based on earlier conversations with the employee, they should come as no surprise.
  4. A Conversation, Not a Lecture – the review should be a two-way discussion between the Manager and employee. The Manager should engage the employee in a discussion about their performance including any impediments to achievement. The Manager should also seek feedback about their own performance – not enough Managers ask this question.
  5. Development Focus – The performance review is all about providing feedback to assist an employee to improve their performance or develop in their role. This should be a positive conversation and future focussed. Where does the employee want to go in their career? Use this as a basis for the conversation and provide constructive feedback to assist.

That’s all there is to it really. The review should be an empowering process that facilitates engagement rather than erroding it. For me, all other criticisms of the process are simply a reflection of a Manager’s reluctance to put the work in to ensure the conversations are effective and productive. If the regular conversations with employees are taking place, the performance review will be an absolute doddle.

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