Down to Business: Seven tips for effective performance reviews

Andy Singer - SpeakingPerformance reviews are one of the most effective tools a manager has for motivating employees, aligning goals and achieving peak performance. Sadly, many companies do not conduct perform reviews effectively and in some cases they don’t conduct them at all.

Here are seven tips for effective performance reviews:

1. Prepare them in advance: Performance reviews are only as effective as what goes into them. If you sit down the day before the review meeting is set and spend an hour writing the review, nobody wins. You should start working on the reviews weeks in advance and be sure you use facts and observations. The managers conducting the review should be trained on how to conduct performance reviews properly and effectively. The return on this investment is well worth the effort.

2. Conduct reviews in a timely fashion: It’s important to send the right message about reviews. In addition to assuring that managers spend enough time developing each review, the senior executive should assure they are completed on time.

3. Use facts, not subjective views: We are all human and this means we may have employees we favor. That’s fine, but when it comes to reviews, be sure you are using facts and metrics and not your subjective opinion. The goal is not only to measure performance, but more importantly to improve performance and help each team member grow.

4. Set up goals, objectives and an action plan: You need to assure each employee is given challenging, but achievable targets corresponding to their role. Goals should also be specific and measurable. Areas requiring improvement should be noted. There should also be objectives for learning over the coming year. This may be training, courses toward a college degree, or reading. This should all be rolled into an action plan with completion dates. Make it clear to the employee that you are there to help them, but they must take responsibility to complete the action plan. Most importantly, make sure this is a two-way conversation where the employee helps to develop the plan.

5. Goals should be aligned with company strategy: The goals that are set in the performance review should be aligned with the company strategy and mission. Another strong tool can be to set “cross-goals” to assure support across departmental lines. Lack of support across departments is often a choke point at many organizations. We spend time on this key tool in our effective supervision training sessions.

6. Avoid the “halo effect”: You will find that certain employees “up their game” a few weeks prior to when reviews will be given. While the hard work is appreciated, these employees have missed the point that the review is about the last year, not the last few weeks. You will need to have a friendly discussion with “halo effect” employees and remind them of that fact.

7. Provide performance coaching throughout the year: It’s good to keep in mind that an employee should never be surprised by what they hear in a performance review. If the process is an annual process at your company, the managers should be providing feedback and coaching throughout the year. I have often insisted managers sit down with each employee and conduct an informal review at six months as well. Performance coaching should happen throughout the year and used to drive employee performance and results.

Most workers will be solid and the performance review is the ideal tool to motivate and align. Some workers will be marginal and the performance review is a chance to document and demand improvement. Ignore this tool at your own peril. Singer Executive Development offers an “Effective Supervision” training class that teaches about supervisory skills and the effective use of tools like the performance review.

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