Performance Reviews play a critical role in creating a constructive feedback culture within an organization. They’re a key tool for managers to evaluate their people’s progress, identify areas for improvement, and provide holistic feedback over time. But they’re often used incorrectly, and therefore, can do more harm than good.
The success of Performance Reviews largely depends on how they’re implemented. To ensure your Performance Reviews benefit the entire organization, here are four important dos and don’ts to consider:
The do’s of working with Performance Reviews
Tailor Performance Reviews to the needs of your company and team(s).
You’ll find many Performance Review templates online. However, it’s crucial not to just copy-paste a questionnaire you think may work. Instead, take the time to reflect on what works best for your organization before establishing a review framework and questionnaire. Take into consideration your company’s unique needs, strategy, goals, and values in order to create a template that truly reflects your organization’s culture and objectives.
To do so, ask yourself the following questions:
- What topics do we want our Performance Review questions to focus on?
- Ie. Do we want to evaluate company culture, job performance, relationships, or other areas?
- Do we want to use Performance Review questions that are applicable to:
- Everyone in the company?
- Specific to each department?
- Or, based on seniority levels?
- Do we want questions to be linked to our company values?
- Ie. Evaluate how well employees embody and live out those values.
- Do we want to include competencies in Performance Review questions?
- Ie. Establish either company-wide competencies that align with company objectives, team-specific competencies, or role-specific competencies.
- Do we want to include:
- Quantitative questions (ie. a rating system) to evaluate employees consistently and track their progress over time.
- Qualitative questions (ie. open-ended questions ) to get a deeper insight on specific matters?
- Or, both: qualitative and quantitative questions?
- And lastly, should questions be the same for both the manager and the employee?
Once you’ve defined a tailored process, make sure to communicate it with your people to ensure they understand the goals and expectations of the review process.
Give constructive feedback
To achieve value from Performance Reviews, it’s critical for managers and their direct reports to provide constructive feedback. Doing so enables open communication, sets expectations, and encourages a two-way conversation that can help improve individual and organizational performance.
Keep in mind that feedback given inaccurately can not only be ineffective but also hurtful. Therefore, to ensure feedback is effective and is helping drive continuous improvement and growth, undergoing training may be necessary. Additionally, it’s important to:
- Be specific by providing examples so that the employee understands what you’re trying to convey. Vague or general feedback can leave the person feeling unsure about what they need to do or improve, which can further hamper their progress.
- Be clear by making use of feedback models, for example, the Situation-Behavior-Impact method. With this method you outline the situation you’re referring to, then describe the observed behavior, and finally make the employee understand the impact the behavior had — whether on their own career progress, the team, or the organization.
Explaining how the employee’s achievements or performance has impacted the organization can help the employee understand the broader context of their work and how it contributes to the company’s goals. It can also help build a sense of ownership and pride in their work.
- Ask follow-up questions to ensure that feedback is understood correctly. This helps to clarify any misunderstandings or misinterpretations and can help establish a constructive dialogue between the manager and the employee.
- Involve your direct report in solutions and actions for the way forward in order to help build a sense of ownership and responsibility. It can also make them feel supported and motivated to take action and improve their performance.
- Express gratitude and recognition for the employee’s efforts and contributions. Doing so can help build a positive and supportive workplace culture. It also reinforces good performance and motivates employees to continue to strive for excellence.
Communicate expectations clearly
For effective performance management, clear and measurable goals need to be set. Doing so helps the employee better understand what is expected of them and work towards achieving their objectives with greater focus and clarity.
Surface these expectations during the review, discuss them, and take note of the agreed deliverables. Leverage the Performance Review process as a reference point and regularly revisit employee goals and expectations throughout the year in 1:1 meetings. Managers can help employees stay on track and contribute to the overall success of the organization.
Incorporate peer feedback
Effective Performance Reviews require managers to have a comprehensive understanding of their direct reports’ strengths, weaknesses, and overall performance. And a great way to gain that additional insight is by incorporating feedback from peers.
Peer feedback can come from a variety of sources, including stakeholders, colleagues, or team members. By considering feedback from a variety of sources managers get a well-rounded perspective on their direct reports’ performance. They get a multidimensional understanding of where the employee excels or helps them identify areas of improvement.
Ideally, peer feedback should be integrated into the Performance Review process. This can be done by nominating one or more colleagues or external reviewers, and your manager may need to approve these selections. Peers should be provided with a standardized form with questions in order for it to be easy to compare responses during your meeting.
The don’ts of working with Performance Reviews
Don’t only give feedback in Performance Reviews
Performance Reviews are an important component of evaluating employee performance and development, but they only make up one part of the larger picture. In order to cultivate an effective feedback culture and to ensure action is being taken on agreed deliverables, it’s essential to have regular check-ins for recognition and feedback to be given consistently throughout the year.
Additionally, what truly matters is taking action on agreed deliverables following the review. To achieve this, it’s essential to revisit previous performance reviews and feedback meetings to ensure that nothing is forgotten and that development goals are aligned with past discussions. Moreover, it’s important that managers create an environment for their direct reports, where they feel comfortable bringing up relevant topics outside of scheduled performance reviews. Therefore, use weekly or bi-weekly 1:1 meetings to discuss goals, learning and development opportunities, share Kudos, as well as to maintain a healthy workplace relationship.
Don’t combine performance with salary reviews
Performance and salary reviews should be conducted separately, as it keeps the focus of the review on the performance and behaviors of the employee. By decoupling performance and salary reviews, employers can reduce potential biases and ensure that each evaluation is conducted with the appropriate level of focus and attention on the performance.
Don’t lack commitment and dedication to Performance Reviews
It’s the manager’s responsibility to take ownership of Performance Reviews with their employees and not rely on employees to remind them or request reviews. This proactive approach demonstrates a commitment to the performance management process and shows employees that their manager values their development and growth.
In addition to initiating reviews, it’s crucial to come prepared with thorough and well-thought out feedback and to avoid rescheduling the meetings. Moreover, Performance Review meetings should never be rushed — instead, managers should ensure they take the time to thoroughly review and discuss all points raised.
Don’t forget to agree on the next steps
When concluding a review, it’s highly recommended to take the time to recap the meeting, identify relevant action items, and ensure that both parties are in agreement regarding all the discussed points before concluding a Performance Review. A Performance Review should serve as a springboard for future improvement, therefore, both the manager and the direct report should have a clear understanding of what they need to work on going forward.
- The manager may need to provide more constructive feedback or offer additional resources for training and development.
- The direct report should also have a clear idea of what areas they need to work on to improve their performance.
- Identifying personal development areas for the direct report can be highly beneficial.
Conducting effective Performance Reviews
Performance reviews can be conducted in a variety of ways, depending on the needs and culture of your company. It’s important to find an approach that works for you and your team. However, implementing a well-defined system and framework, as well as ensuring that managers have the skills to conduct Performance Review meetings and give feedback constructively can significantly enhance the Performance Review process.