6 Steps to Great Results from Your Performance Reviews

Success in business is difficult to achieve.  Of course, once achieved, there’s no guarantee that you can hold on to it.  Put another way, business success is not a finish line, it is the race.  Factors both within and outside of your control determine whether your enterprise prospers or perishes.

One of the most factors most critical to your success, if not outright survival, is the performance and productivity of your employees.  Calling them “human resources” accurately describes what they are:  Raw materials to be developed to their maximum potential, their highest and best use.   However, if such development was easy, there would be no such thing as a bad hire, a “lazy” employee, or a worker with a bad attitude and there would, therefore, be no reason for disciplinary action.

No matter what efforts your business puts into sourcing, interviewing and hiring employees, your efforts will prove worthless if you are unable to create an overall environment that motivates your employees to work to the best of their abilities.   The most effective tool for driving employees to do better, to contribute more, to take ownership of the work that they produce, is the performance review.  Yes, we know, no one likes to conduct performance reviews and changing what it’s called (e.g., evaluation, employee assessment, annual review) doesn’t make the experience any more enjoyable for anyone involved.

Performance reviews do not, however, have to be a chore, nor should they be seen by management as simply an unavoidable and unpleasant part of the job.  There are any number of ways to make the exercise not only more manageable for your supervisors, but also more effective at generating better results from those whose performance is being reviewed and a more positive experience in general.   Although there are others, here are 6 keys to conducting employee reviews that will improve work product and create greater loyalty:

  1. Review the job description to ensure it relates to the job being evaluated.  Consider this the baseline.  An evaluation that involves a job that has changed since the prior review date is like comparing apples and orangutans.
  2. Have the supervisor/manager conduct a self-evaluation.  An honest self-evaluation.  Are there any issues that the manager has with the employee that might impact his or her objectivity?  When it comes to reviewing the performance of another, ego is no one’s amigo.
  3. Separate the job-specific components from factors that aren’t relevant.  Attribute a higher score to those areas that involve performance and conduct, both important to a company’s success, than those that aren’t.  Quantify the important, qualify that which isn’t.  Is a messy desk really something you want someone whose work is stellar to worry about?
  4. Rather than solely use the traditional standards of measure such as a 1-5 scoring system, include substantial narrative sections.  Use specific examples, identify strengths and weaknesses demonstrated in each situation, and make recommendations for improvement where appropriate.   Have the employee also provide specific examples of strengths, accomplishments, ability to work with others, etc.  Employees involved in their own evaluations, especially when required to provide detailed self-analysis of their work, are more likely to take any criticism levied during the review process as constructive.
  5. Coach.  One reason that employee reviews are so disliked is because they are viewed as a harbinger of bad news.  This view does the process, the employee and the manager involved a huge disservice.   Criticism is easy.  Coaching is not.  Coaching employees creates an environment more conducive to improvement  than criticism does.  As well, coaching is an ongoing management style, whereas an annual review is just that:  annual.  With ongoing coaching based on both quantitative and qualitative standards identified during the course of the review, you give both management and employees a year’s worth of opportunities to make recommendations, to implement changes if necessary and generally improve things for the employee, the supervisor and your company at large.
  6. Speak with, don’t talk to.  All evaluation meetings should be collaborative and conversational (and not confrontational). Employees dread these meetings every bit as much as managers/supervisors do.  An honest evaluation that is absent of any emotion enables both the worker and the supervisor to address specific items, express their respective opinions and then respond, rather than react,as needed.   There is no suitable substitute for sincere and honest discussion in an evaluation process.

An effective performance evaluations is the best way to get greater results from your employees and gain maximum benefits from your human resources, increasing productivity and strengthening your bottom line.  It’s a no-lose proposition.