Blog & Company News

Oct 8, 2012

5 Steps to Conducting a Killer Performance Review

All too often, employee performance reviews are dreaded equally by boss and employee alike. But without them, how can a business function? Employees need to know if they’re doing a good job and where their performance shows room for improvement. Employers need to have productive, motivated staff to keep the company going strong. Handled properly, a performance review can play a critical role in the well-being of a business.   Here are five important components of an effective performance review:   Be fully prepared. Consider the review part of an ongoing process, which includes careful and consistent documentation throughout the year. Observe employees in different situations over a lengthy period of time. See how well they work on their own and in collaboration with others. Keep a file in which you track the highs and lows of their work, documenting notable achievements as well as shortcomings in performance. This provides the material to discuss during the performance review.   Let employees know in advance the format you plan to follow and how their performance will be evaluated. If you fill out a form as part of the review, share its contents with the team member prior to the actual conversation, so she has time to absorb your evaluation and, if she wants, to draw up an informal evaluation of her own. This eliminates much of the dread and emotion that seem built into the performance review.   Get input from others. Hearing from co-workers can expand the range of the performance discussion—particularly those who work closely with the employee every day. Ask for feedback on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas where they’ve seen improvement over time. Get additional information about how well the employee handles obstacles and the contributions made to team-related projects.  It’s helpful to compare this input with what you’ve observed yourself.   Make it a conversation, not a lecture. Nothing discussed in a performance review should come as a surprise. It’s important to have frequent conversations about what’s working and where there’s room for improvement. A review is no place for a surprise attack. Start with the positive. Point out examples of the employee’s hard work, success on individual and team projects, etc. Rather than veer into “negative” territory, frame your feedback as constructive criticism, stated directly and not in general terms. The employee needs to know you believe in his ability to learn from past mistakes and improve his productivity.   At the same time, don’t control the conversation. Imagine how it feels to sit passively in a room while the other person goes on uninterrupted about your performance. It’s far more effective to engage in a two-way conversation that focuses on what the employee has contributed thus far to the business and where she can develop and grow in the future. Be prepared to listen closely when asking questions like:  
  • What do you hope to achieve in the next quarter? How does this align with our business objectives?
  • Can I provide more support to help you reach these goals?
  • What schedule can we arrange so that you feel you’re getting the feedback you need and I’m able to stay updated on your progress?
  Focus on goals. Employees need to clearly understand what’s expected of them. How have their tasks and responsibilities changed since the last performance review? What changes are likely coming soon? Assemble the goals you’d like the employee to focus on ahead of time, so they can be discussed during the review session. For employees, knowing what is expected of them within the next six to 12 months—and how those expectations fit in with the goals of the business—is immensely helpful.   Keep the conversation going. Following the performance review, the employee may have some questions or concerns. Invite her to express share them with you. Suggest that you both focus on continuing what’s been discussed, rather than wait for another year to past. Your goal for the performance review is to energize employees and leave them feeling more attuned to the business’s vision. There’s no greater motivator than feeling recognized for one’s achievements and supported in the quest for improvement.   For more information:   “How to Conduct an Employee Performance Appraisal” – My Small Business