What Makes A Great Annual Performance Review?
The Annual Performance Review. We all know it’s coming, we wait all year long. We all know how this goes. The email comes out that the manager wants to see us and we start to go over the last year in our minds. What were my goals for this year? Did I reach those goals? Do the reports show that I even tried? It is the same every year. We’ll walk into the office and sit next to the manager’s desk and the reports will come out. We’ll review the goals from last year and set new ones, all the while hoping we did enough to get a raise. We’ve all been there. Let’s face it, the process is the same year after year.
As a manager, the annual performance review is just as stressful. Managers spend hours and hours pulling the data. They look at last year’s review and painstakingly plan out the goals for the coming year to stay in line with the company focus. Through all the prep they are left wondering if they did everything they could to help the employee succeed. They rely on the data to tell us, the data is accurate. Did we hit the team goals? Are my team members engaged? Did I evaluate each team member fairly? We gather all the data and wait for each employee to come in hoping that they accept the criticism. They take a deep breath and look at the clock. The door opens and the process begins.
This is not how it has to be.
No one benefits from repeating the same thing year after year. The annual performance review is an opportunity for both the employee and the manager, to be real with each other. As a manager, the review is where we build upon the foundation of the working relationship. There are several key things to remember that can help to make the process less stressful.
Trust is the key
The key to a good annual performance review starts with building trust. Trust needs to be built from the start of a working relationship and continues to evolve. Setting the expectations for the employee in a clear concise way in the beginning sets the relationship off on the right foot. Following through on solutions as problems arise will maintain that trust. If a manager says that they will do something, it is important that the manager follows through in a timely manner. Susan Tardanico a contributor to Forbes says “it’s better to say nothing or delay your communication until you’re certain that your actions will ring true.” If the manager builds trust than the employee will be more willing to accept criticism and provide the manger with equally fair and honest feedback.
Be real.Be authentic.Be human
The fact is that good communication is key for a good leader. Terry Bacon who wrote What People Want published a survey of 500 U.S. employees finding that 76% of employees want their manager to be genuine. Communication in today’s world comes constantly and employees look to their manager to help them digest all of it. Emails can be cold but packed with information. Employees trust the manager to keep the information simple. It is important that you don’t use the impersonal “boss” voice. Bottom line, be yourself. Open lines of communication are beneficial for both the manager and the employee. It is for the manager to get feedback from the employee. It’s review to. Be open to feedback and ideas. A review is a street. Employees will value the review more if they are given the opportunity to give equal honest feedback.
Find their currency
Each employee values something different in their employer. Perhaps it is fair, honest feedback from a supervisor or the flexible schedule. It’s in the manager’s best interest to find out what the employee values in their position and to build value in the areas where there is less value of the employee. What better time than at the Annual Performance review? Have an honest conversation about the employee’s goals. Just like company focus, the employees goals can change on a daily basis. The change in goals can also change what they value out of the company.
Allow employees to access company wide goals and information at the touch of a button, giving then more time to spend on meeting personal goals.
Apps have the power to be limitless. Everything from emails to employee recognition can be done right from the app. This will allow the employee to buy in to the company goal and stay focused on their part as the time for review approaches.
It is not enough to put a gold star on the wall and say good job. Employees want to know what they did well so that they can repeat the result. Specific feedback will lead to consistency in performance and growth. Whenever possible tie feedback to specific data or behaviors. Documenting specific feedback through the review process is like a road map for a career, documenting success and accomplishments as well as struggles.
The more than just Annual Performance Review
As employees goals and company focus changes, it is even more important to maintain the open line of communication that has been built. Having a biannual or even quarterly performance review can keep both the employee and the manager on track for the long term. It is important for the manager to show their availability. A manager could easily spend every hour of their day sitting in the office behind a computer screen staring at results. It’s unavoidable, however more frequent performance reviews can also stream line the process. Instead of pulling a full year of reports and pouring over them, a manager only needs to be tied down to a few months’ worth of data converting the annual performance review into an ongoing conversation.
A conversation has less of a negative connotation than a formal review. Frequency will help to take away the anxiety around the meeting, making both the manager and the employee more relaxed.
Embed SMART goals
One of the tried and true methods of any review is the setting of measurable SMART goals. Employees expect this. What employees need is an understanding of how to track their own goals. Often times companies will become lost in their way of doing things and new employees may not understand how to access the data that can keep them on track between reviews. Employees want to be empowered. Giving the employee access the data also allows them to make adjustments in their behavior. It is the managers obligation to see that an employee understands how to read the data. Access and understanding is the key to the acceptance of criticism.
Part of the stress of any review is the knowledge that at some point a manager has to tell the employee that there are things they don’t do well. Don’t shrink away from it. This is things they don’t do well. Don’t shy away from it. This is the Key Element of a Better Performance Review the hardest part of the review but it can also be the most rewarding. Outside the comfort zone is the growing zone.
The annual performance review should never be something to be dreaded or avoided. Sitting down at the computer and typing up a review on a form, waiting for the employee to walk through the door is the way of the past. Consistent, specific feedback with tools that keep an employee connected with the part they play in the overall company goal will ensure the employee buy in and improvement for many years to come. Pushing an employee out of their comfort zone will allow for grow in areas that were previously unexplored. Being open and real will lead to valuable and reliable feedback and better performance for both the manager and employee.