Effective Employee Performance Reviews: Preparation, Honesty and Collaboration Are Key

Whether running a Fortune 500 Company or a small business, motivated, focused, and happy employees drive the success or failure of the business. While no manager looks forward to exposing an employee’s shortcomings or weaknesses during a performance review, the review process allows you to highlight the employee’s strengths and skills and utilize those skills to correct those very same shortcomings and weaknesses. An employee performance review offers an opportunity to connect with your employee, review past and current job performances, and truly collaborate with them with regard to strategies to maximize their potential. The goal is for the employee to feel accomplished, productive, and ultimately…happy in their job, which equals success for you and your business.

Key #1 – Preparation:
While informal check-ins and employee barometer reads should be routine for managers and employees, the annual or semi-annual written performance review affords the opportunity to document the year’s accomplishments and challenges, understand expectations, and celebrate progress. The performance review provides a comprehensive summary of your employee’s job performance developing communication between you and the employee. It allows you a dedicated opportunity to praise the employee’s successes, correct their shortcomings, and discuss your vision for their growth and future at the company. This process is vital for the employee, the company, and you as a manager…so BE PREPARED.

Some tips on preparation for the employee performance review:

  1. Review the employee’s job description and responsibilities: this serves as a checklist to highlight the employee’s accomplishments and areas for improvement. Where appropriate, ask the employee to review his or her job description and update it prior to your meeting.
  2. Recap regular, informal feedback: Make notes of the routine issues or employee behavior issues (positive or negative) that arise during the normal course of business as a point of reference for the formal review. Since these topics have already been addressed, there should be no surprises when employees read their formal reviews.
  3. Positive-Negative-Positive: Be mindful of your pace and tone prior to writing and conducting the review. Begin with something positive, segue into the more sensitive/challenging topics, and then end on a positive note with attainable goals, so that both you and your employee have a renewed sense of enthusiasm and direction for the future.
  4. Ask employee to complete self-review prior to his or her performance review: this allows you a glimpse into how the employee evaluates him or herself with regard to their job performance prior to the review.

Key #2 – Honesty, Goal-Setting and Specificity:
It is important to be thorough and honest with your employee during their performance review. It is of no service to your employee, your business, or you as a manager to gloss over problem areas or performance issues. Just as it is imperative to praise an employee for their accomplishments and strengths, you must also provide honest, constructive feedback regarding areas that need improvement. That said, the majority of good, effective employees want to work hard and perform well, and will be motivated if you give them specific goals and tools to improve their performance.
Some tips on goal setting for performance improvement:

  1. Give the employee specific goals/tasks that are realistic and attainable.
  2. Follow-up with employee to review the employee’s progress regarding these goals/tasks.
  3. Be sure to have an open dialogue with the employee regarding their ability to implement these goals/tasks and ask them for feedback if anything needs to be changed or altered.
  4. Always provide positive feedback when an employee makes progress towards goals set and improves their performance.
  5. Likewise, do gently remind an employee when a mistake is repeated.

Key #3 – Collaboration:
The employee/manager relationship and review process is not a one way street. Communication flow between both parties during the performance review is critical. Ask your employee open-ended questions, which would allow him or her to express their point of view and allow you to see their perspective regarding both accomplishments and challenges. By asking questions such as “How did you feel about that outcome?”, “Did you get the result you wanted?” or “What would you suggest?”, you are offering the employee an opportunity to engage in the process participate in their own goal-setting, and ultimately help shape their future with the company. Collaboration will yield amazing results, as it fosters teamwork and camaraderie amongst manager and employee to ensure the employee’s future success….as well as that of the manager and the company.

A performance review provides a unique opportunity to reflect on an employee’s performance, to engage in open honest dialogue about their work, and to collaborate on setting goals to optimize their future performance. Yes, it may be uncomfortable to discuss an employee’s shortcomings or weaknesses, but that is only a small element of the review process. Performance reviews allow you to develop and grow your relationship with your employee and foster a positive working environment where your employee can shine, grow, and thrive….so that your business will do the same.

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