Consistent and robust employee communications are the key to the internal harmony of your organization. Performance reviews are an ideal time to clear the air, clarifying company goals, and getting everyone on the same page. It hinges on trustworthiness and honest feedback through a structured performance review conversation.
The fundamental characteristics that drive a performance review have been tried and tested for years. Every company should insert them into their performance review methods from end-to-end.
Both informal interactions and organized meetings (with a set agenda and protocol) fit the overall performance review thinking. You want employees to emerge from these interactions feeling encouraged and at one with the company culture. The tips below are worth their weight in gold in helping you to achieve that.
1. Make performance review a continuation
“Continuation” means re-emphasis or buildup of feedback content that employees regularly receive as they go through their tasks. In other words, a formal performance review’s message shouldn’t jolt the employee. A gaping mouth or wide-eyed look on hearing the interviewer’s impressions signals there’s a disconnect. Indeed, it should feel like another conversation in a chain dialogue, without a severe veering off in an unexpected direction.
2. Formalize a performance review agenda
A performance review is not a one-shoe-fits all type of thing. Every company has a unique style and organizational footprint. Notwithstanding, they should all conduct performance reviews on a fixed agenda that fits their specific goals. Once-a-year doesn’t work here — not if you want the team to accept genuinely useful employee evaluation. I recommend at least four performance reviews annually on a two-way formal basis. For every one of the latter, there should be multiple informal review touchpoints to make continuity meaningful.
3. Set expectations
Employees should leave the session knowing what management expects them to do and by when. Goal-setting is the crux of the methodology and management should ensure that the employees’ objectives align with the company’s. Otherwise, an uncoordinated process in the future will likely take hold. Goals are the glue that keeps everyone on the straight and narrow, even though performance review conversations sometimes jump off the beaten track. I suggest that the interviewer reiterate them when it looks like the wheels are coming off during emotionally intense junctures in the conversation (should they occur).
4. Use a template that works for your team
The performance review is a strategic management tool with the power to energize employee commitment. HR professionals or outside recognized recruitment entities can assist with employee review performance programs using templates and customized structuring. Sogolytics — a reputable consultant in the field — is a strong candidate that can short-circuit this part of the process with valuable input. A step-by-step approach should be documented, including self-evaluation and peer feedback protocols (see below), as vital components of the bigger picture.
5. Make the performance review methodology an open-book
Make the performance preview methods transparent to new recruits and seasoned members of the company team alike. Everyone should appreciate the crucial role performance reviews play in promoting growth in the business and opportunities to rise as far as career channels will allow. Moreover, consequences of periodic formal reviews will help to keep expectations on a realistic plane and give a perspective of how informal and formal performance reviews tie in with one another.
6. Document performance throughout the year
You don’t want reviews to go off track by focusing only on recent employee actions, forgetting all those earlier in the review period. A constructive performance review must be balanced and take an overview that reflects employee impact on the organization for the full period. Try to document all positive achievements and negativities (e.g., uncompleted assignments) relating to the employee review in session. The right term for this is “critical incident reporting,” and it’s not a one-way street. You should urge employees to keep their own notes on their experiences during the review period.
7. Include and monitor peer and management feedback
This can easily transition into the most volatile aspect of the performance review process. It’s not easy to swallow what your teammates and managers are saying about you. However, if it’s in the methodology, employees know it’s coming. We frequently refer to this as a 360 degree feedback survey because it throws light on all the people’s thoughts in the reviewee’s work circle. Interestingly, while it can ignite emotional reactions, it removes the human tendency to be over-defensive. Peer and management feedback work both formally and informally, as long as notes are maintained to avoid comments becoming confused with rumor and hearsay.
8. Prepare and anticipate
Winging it on the fly isn’t anything you should try here. There should be a flow to the discussion that keeps the employee engaged and vesting trust in the process. Conversations that jump around with jumbled thoughts destroy employee expectations and miss opportunities to uplift motivation. My recommendation is to prepare and anticipate reactions, especially if there are contentious issues you intend to address.
9. Practice approaches with HR
If you have HR specialists in-house, practice interviewing them. They can point out common errors managers often make. A valuable component of HR practicing is the ability to draw on their experience in similar situations. Performance Review Examples that arise in these practice sessions create insight into how people behave differently in the same circumstances. If you can connect employees to real-world situations close to their job description, then moving the motivation needle in the right direction should work for you.
10. Create balance
Interviewed employees are contributing at some significant level; otherwise, you shouldn’t be employing them. The performance review methodology should follow the following guidelines:
- Fifty percent of the time, at least, should be about recognizing employee attributes.
- Above-average-performing employees warrant interview feedback that injects something to go home and tell one’s spouse about.
- A spirit of collaboration should color the discussions, where both parties are there to develop personal and company growth.
- Don’t allow anything into the arena where the other can say you were “two-faced.” It only generates distrust that can be corrosive.
- No matter what, convey that the underlying theme is to tighten cooperation, develop mutual trust, and leave employees feeling confident that the company has their interests at heart.
There’s a place for negativity and adverse comments in a performance interview, as long as it’s to the point, not overly aggressive, and in context with everything else. At the same time, be direct. Avoid vagueness that can confuse and lead to employee misinterpretation.
Another thing — don’t hog the conversation in any employee review. The keyword here is “conversation.” It’s a two-way thing. While peer and management feedback has its place, nothing is more groundbreaking than when employees speak their minds unrestrictedly.
Here are some great question examples to energize the dialogue:
- What do you expect to challenge you the most until we talk like this again?
- Who can give you the best support and how?
- Where do you see yourself going in this company?
- Are you getting too much feedback, too little, or is it just right?
Great EX and strong employee retention are critical ROI movers. Negative EX and employee churn are the archenemies of profitability and company growth. I highly recommend calling in a company like Sogolytics with its resource pool containing templates and customization skills that can speed you along the process. They can help you uplift employee motivation, trust, and commitment to levels you can’t imagine. If you are thinking employee review, think Sogolytics.