5 Tips To Conducting Better Performance Reviews

By Sara Pollock

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Performance reviews are can be a challenging and delicate aspect of performance management. In fact, only 24% of managers feel they are good at having conversations about performance. However, these discussions are valuable for strengthening bonds between managers, team leaders, and employees, as well as developing A-Players who are invested, engaged, and satisfied in their roles within the organization. Performance review time is also a good opportunity to gauge energy levels on an individual basis, and develop plans to get engagement scores and productivity higher all around — it’s a perfect time for leaders to check in with their employees and get a feel for how they view their own engagement levels and how employees feel they are performing.

37% of employees cited recognition as the most important method of support a company could do to help their employees be successful, but many workplaces still have infrequent conversations about achieving goals. Highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week, so the conversation that happens during performance reviews is a critical one in establishing trust, motivation, and job satisfaction.

So how can managers provide better performance reviews? Here are 5 performance appraisal tips for managers that will build better relationships and develop more A Players:


Performance Review Tip #1:

Hold more frequent, less formal performance reviews.

The old way of doing performance appraisals no longer works the same way. Now, traditional performance reviews and approaches to feedback are sometimes counterproductive and roughly 33% of performance conversations negatively impact work performance afterward. Even so, employers often don’t hold discussions about performance more than a couple of times a year.

That’s not to say that formal performance reviews are obsolete, but more frequent conversations that are open, solicit employee feedback and address things in real-time leave employees almost 3x as likely to feel engaged and be motivated to do outstanding work.

Performance Review Tip #2:

Make plenty of time and slow down the conversation.

Allocate enough time to reflect on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and factor in their input. As managers know, it’s easy to overlook, forget, or not have time to address an individual’s accomplishments made early on in a review period. You can avoid this pitfall and make evaluations easier by creating a record of performance-related events as they occur or by using a performance management system that allows you to easily give frequent and consistent feedback.

It’s important to carve out the time to speak to employees—organizations that adopt continuous performance management programs outperform their competitors by 24%. Investing in your employees is investing in your business. After all, employees are an organization’s greatest asset and performance conversations should function as a regular tune-up. Don’t skip check-ins, reviews, appraisals, or conversations for the sake of time. It’s a critical step in performance management that can’t be missed just because things are busy. Performance reviews should be scheduled, consistent, and thorough.

Performance Review Tip #3:

Bring specific examples to the table.

When performance reviews get to more delicate matters, it’s important to use specific examples. Instead of saying something like, “Your attitude seems negative at work,” use a specific scenario to illuminate the issue. For example, you could instead say: “A customer you dealt with on August 25th reported that you were dismissive on the phone when they needed help.” Keep the focus on actual facts and details that can help employees improve specific aspects of their performance. These examples will ensure any performance appraisal is clearly understood and will give employees clear goals for the future. Keep track of any notes or feedback for individuals through performance management tools like manager journals, 360-degree feedback, and other ways to solicit peer reviews.

Only 14% of employees say that performance reviews inspire them to do better. As such, it’s critical that any constructive feedback is rooted in fact and presented in a helpful, positive light. These are opportunities for improvements, not moments for reprimand. Additionally, involve the individual in the conversation—when you provide specific examples, slow down, and ask for feedback. Performance reviews should be a space that is productive, fair and creates an engaging two-way conversation.

Performance Review Tip #4:

Provide feedback that is unique and tailored to the individual.

Not everyone communicates the same way. Adapt your evaluation style to the personalities of each employee. For example, highly confident A Players may be more motivated with an important new task or assignment. On the other hand, a new hire or jr staff member could be energized by praise and reassurance. Don’t avoid offering constructive criticism, but balance negative feedback with positive comments. The more you tailor your reviews to the individual, the more understood the team as a whole feels.

Performance Review Tip #5:

Find and offer concrete solutions.

Performance appraisals are intended to reward strong performance and address problems as they arise. With this in mind, be receptive to doing whatever’s necessary to help employees improve. For example, if a salesperson needs to strengthen their soft selling skills, explore the internal mentoring options or additional training opportunities available to them. Simply telling an employee that an improvement needs to be made does not necessarily mean performance will get better, especially if no path to improvement is illuminated for them.

In such situations, speak with team members to facilitate any training, development, or mentorship that’s necessary so that everyone involved is clear on the expectations and no one feels stretched thin or out of their element. Remember that performance reviews are more than a manager talking and an employee listening, it’s an opportunity to find real and relevant opportunities and pathways to growth. Really tap into the needs, concerns, and aspirations of your team and take these findings as opportunities to develop and retain A-Players within your organization.

Although employee evaluations can often seem daunting, the amount of time and effort invested in the process will pay off in the form of improved performance, stronger relationships with team members, and a clearer view of your company.

This article was originally published on the ClearCompany blog.

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