Give Your Annual Reviews a Facelift

facelift

I had an amazingly refreshing performance evaluation this year. Yep, you read that right – performance evaluation. Although 90% of performance appraisal processes are inadequate (Salary.com), they can actually be very constructive if executed well.

Nonetheless, performance discussions are dreaded by workers around the world. Many managers find them awkward and would list it as one of their Top 3 most despised tasks.

Well, below are steps you can take as a manager to move the annual performance review onto your list of Top 3 most useful tasks in leading a high-performance team!

Make sure the infrastructure is in place.

smart goalsReviews should be solidly grounded on two critical components – objectives and competencies. Think of this as the framework for your performance discussions. It is very important to note that both need to be recognized and understood by the manager and the employee at the very onset of your relationship.

1.    SMART Objectives

One of the reasons my performance review went so well was because I had Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound objective statements that were produced in partnership with my manager at the beginning of the fiscal year (and that were tweaked throughout the year to meet evolving needs). We were both on the same page early on about what I was expected to contribute to the business.

2.    Competencies

These are the behaviors I am expected to emulate while achieving my objectives, and are things like Innovation, Drive & Accountability, and Customer-Focus. I’m held accountable to deliver on these, just as I am my objectives. Both are important. It shouldn’t just be about what your employees are achieving, but how they go about achieving them.

You should tailor competencies to the values and overall culture of your company, as well as specific roles within the organization. Try to avoid using a canned set that may come with your performance management system, as well as using the same list for every employee.

Drive the process well.

If the infrastructure is in place, it’s now up to you as a manager to make sure you’re delivering the process effectively. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Never – EVER – wait for just one time a year to talk performance.

Although performance reviews need to be documented in most organizations on an annual basis, you should be having these discussions all throughout the year. There should be no surprises during the more formal review. Coach and celebrate “in the moment” at each peak and valley.

Build a relationship filled with trust and demonstrate a sincere interest in your employees’ growth.

My boss said this statement to me during my review, “I open some of your emails and honestly just sigh and then close it for later.” She went on to encourage me to be more concise with my communications. One might think I would have taken offense to this, but I actually very much appreciated her honesty. Why? Two reasons:

  • She cares enough about my development and future success to offer up constructive feedback.
  • It was delivered to me from a person who I trust, respect, and look up to. I may have had a completely different reaction if it came from a boss who had not spent the time developing this type of genuine relationship with me.

No one is perfect – not even you!

If it happens to fit into the conversation, share some areas that you are going to focus on for your own development over the next year. You both could help hold each other accountable.

Seek out multiple perspectives.

Several stakeholders weighed in on my performance evaluation – myself through a self-evaluation; my colleagues through anonymous peer input; and my manager.  Don’t feel like you need to do it all by yourself in a bubble.

Learn from the past, but don’t dwell on the past.

Set aside a large chunk of time to talk about the future. A performance evaluation should not just focus on the past year, but rather should look forward toward the future.

Ask open-ended questions.

Performance discussions need to be two-way communication. You should want to hear from them just as much as they will want to hear from you. Use questions like, “Tell me how you feel about the recent collaboration with such and such team on such and such project.” Or “In what ways would you like to grow both personally and professionally over the next year and how can I support you?”


Do you have some tips to add to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below. Let’s bury the dreaded performance review and start using them as a tool to add value to your business!

photo credit (surgeon): bitzcelt via photopin cc

photo credit (SMART): plnaugle via photopin cc

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