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How to conduct effective performance reviews

January 15, 2018

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

A recent report by Fast Company shows that 74% of younger workers leave a performance review unsure about what their managers actually think of them.  And in a 2017 report by TINYpulse, they found that 79% of employees don’t think their organization’s review process is effective.  With the new year upon us, this is the time most organizations do some kind of performance reviews and evaluations, or at least compile reviews from throughout the year and give a year-end synopsis.

Whether you are doing an annual review or quarterly, it’s still important to utilize best practices in how you speak to your employees about their performance.  In order to keep the conversation positive and motivating, the following tips are helpful:

  1. The employee should never be hearing anything for the first time, whether positive or negative, unless it literally just happened.  With agile performance management becoming the primary method for performance management, employees should be receiving daily, weekly, or monthly feedback.  At the minimum meetings should occur quarterly.  Don’t wait until a year-end review to bring up a concerning issue or praise an employee.
  2. The first step should always be goal setting.  Goal setting is imperative to an employee’s performance.  Goals should be clearly stated along with job expectations.  It’s also important to make it very clear how the employee will be evaluated on those goals and objectives throughout the year.
  3. In an annual review, be sure to include discussion on events throughout the year, not just recent events.  This is the most common mistake managers make.  They use what is fresh in their mind and forget about things that happened the prior 9-12 months.  This is where more regular performance/feedback meetings have an advantage.
  4. Utilize 360-degree feedback.  There are varying opinions on the value of a 360-degree survey, but proponents say it broadens the feedback you can give an employee. They not only receive feedback from their manger, but also senior leadership, colleagues, and subordinates.
  5. Give the employee a copy of any forms that are used in the review.  Share with the employee any forms that will be used during the evaluation.  This will help the employee be more prepared for the discussion and know what to expect.
  6. Prepare for the meeting.  Don’t go into a performance management meeting unprepared, especially if any negative performance issues will be addressed.  Practice with HR if needed.
  7. Be sure to focus on the positive.  In general, the positive aspects of the performance review should outweigh the negative.  For the above average performing employee, focus should be placed on growth opportunities and talent development.  When you do need to address negative performance issues, don’t mince words or sugar coat it, or the employee might not understand the gravity of the situation.  Set clear expectations moving forward.
  8. It should be a conversation…not a lecture.  The manager should not be doing all the talking.  The employee should talk more than half the time.  Encourage a conversation by asking questions such as:
  • What do you expect to be the most challenging about your goals for this quarter?
  • What support can the department provide for you that will help you reach these goals?
  • How can I be a better manager for you?
  • How often would you like to receive feedback?
  • What kind of schedule can we set up so that you don’t feel micromanaged, but I receive the feedback that I need as to your progress on your goals?

Performance reviews should be used to enhance the relationship between manager and employee and should result in the employee feeling motivated to excel in his or her job.  It’s something that should be looked forward to – not dreaded.

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