Conducting Effective Performance Reviews

Like them or loath them, performance reviews are a part of our working lives, with just about every employee having been at the receiving end of feedback – both positive and negative – from their manager in this common situation. 

Whilst the employee’s role in a performance review is relatively straightforward – they just need to show up and perhaps complete a detailed questionnaire beforehand - as a manager, your job is a little more involved.

With the key aim of annual reviews being to assess an employee’s performance against agreed goals whilst identifying strategies to help improve their day-to-day effectiveness, managers must balance this need for direct honesty without discouraging those under their direction.

Thankfully, decades of real-world experience and research combining the brightest minds in HR and Psychology have come up with a few handy tips to follow for conducting effective reviews that will leave both parties in a better situation.

5 Handy Tips for Smooth Performance Reviews

#1 – Hold Reviews Regularly

The first step to conducting effective performance reviews is to hold them regularly, ideally once every quarter (3 months) or at least once every 6 months.

Since an employee’s motivation and on-the-job performance has a direct bearing on the success of their team and organisation in a broader sense, sitting down with them on a regular basis to flag any issues and hear their own feedback is crucial to nipping any issues ‘in the bud’ and improving chances of a good outcome for both parties.

#2 – Reflect & Prepare

Preparation like most things in life, is crucial to conducting effective employee performance reviews.

Having a clear format for your reviews which everyone understands, such as a weighted criteria covering different aspects of the job – I.e. customer service, learning & training, technical skills – is a solid start.

With a clear format in place, you can take time to reflect on your employee’s performance against key criteria by writing notes, whilst requesting they do the same thing.

Giving employee’s time to reflect on their own performance before the meeting can also take out the emotion involved which can get in the way of an effective discussion.

#3 – Discuss Each Criteria One by One

Now for the bread and butter of - the actual meeting itself. With both parties having carefully reflected on the performance criteria and made relevant notes, it’s now time for the manager to discuss each criterion with their employee one by one, raising any issues in the process and using relevant examples to demonstrate their points.

As well as tactfully raising concerns surrounding poor performance or behaviour, it’s important for managers to also highlight any positive results and jobs well done.

#4 – Involve Employee in the Discussion

Arguably the most important tip of all is to involve your employee directly in the discussion during their performance review meeting.

For obvious reasons, getting their feedback on their own performance is crucial to understanding why they’ve behaved the way they have as well as encouraging them to give more general feedback on their job satisfaction and career aspirations.

Engaging in this conversation can not only help you as a manger engender a greater sense of trust and rapport, it also helps you identify practical measures you can put in place to improve their motivation and ultimately job performance. 

#5 – End on a Positive, Practical Note

Finally, it’s always a good idea to end any review meeting on a positive, practical note.

Positive in terms of giving your employee the sense they’ve been listened to and any concerns taken seriously, whilst practical in the sense that you’ve identified specific measures that can be put in place to improve their performance (where necessary) and foster a more positive working environment overall.

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