Let’s see if this scenario is familiar.
You call your employee into your office. You review their strengths and weaknesses, assess their performance, and set goals. You may even use a rating scale to show the employee if they met, exceeded, or failed to meet expectations.
You’ve just conducted a formal performance review, and when it comes to this process, organizations lose anywhere from $2.4 million to $35 million a year in working hours for employees to participate in reviews. Yet 72% of companies still conduct annual performance reviews.
So maybe it’s the process of conducting performance reviews and not the reviews themselves that need to be changed.
What should be included in a performance review?
You may hear performance review and professional development used interchangeably. But they are two different things. A performance review measures past performance and how well an employee performed in their expected role; professional development looks forward and inspires employees to improve.
Both have their place, but a performance review is geared toward just that: Performance. Consider these things as you’re conducting reviews:
To ensure there are no surprises, send the review agenda to your team member beforehand, so they’ll know what will be discussed. Ask them to provide feedback about the agenda; doing so gives them co-ownership of the conversation.
During the review, ask open-ended questions to gain the best responses. Close-ended questions that only allow a yes or no answer won’t allow opportunity for insight and make the review unnecessarily formal.
Here are some questions you can ask:
- What accomplishments are you the proudest of?
- What goals did you meet?
- What skills do you have that we can use more effectively?
- What about your role helps the company succeed?
You can also allow employees to do regular self-evaluation. While there are myths surrounding self-evaluations like “Employees only want to explain away their bad performance,” reflecting helps make employees happier and less likely to burn out. When coupled with an open and honest culture, self-evaluations will also be open and honest.
Consider doing a weekly check-in with self-reflection questions that look back at performance and how well team members feel they did over the past week:
- Did you complete your ONE THING item from last week?
- What was your greatest success over the past week?
- What was your biggest challenge over the past week?
- What did you learn this week through training and insight?
- What is the ONE THING you must accomplish over this coming week?
You can use/revise this template or any number of templates you can find on the web by searching the term “employee self-evaluation template.” Choose whatever fits your company culture.
Treat performance reviews like conversations
Think of a review like a conversation, and it will remove any stress or burdens on you and your team members. But keep in mind exactly how you word things. Even things you meant as praise could be misconstrued as negative feedback if not worded correctly. Avoid:
- Definitive terms like always and never
- Subjective terms like rude, polite, and enthusiastic
- Vague terms like good and poor
Instead, go further and use phrases like:
- “I encourage you to continue [doing this action]. It provides good results for the team.”
- “When you contact a customer after a sale is closed to ask them if they need anything, that shows you go above and beyond.”
- “I advise you to stop [doing this action]. It results in [this consequence].”
You can also keep the review language and tone conversational by:
- Not using a formal rating system
- Making clear what factors of the review are tied to employee raises
- Assuring employees this is a check-in as opposed to a performance judgment
- Focusing on creating a culture of listening and growth
- Having open conversations as opposed to formal discussions
Consider your cadence
Having a performance review once a year is a traditional approach. But that may not work for your organization. Think about what would be the best: Quarterly reviews? Monthly? Weekly? Consider your current framework and process and adjust accordingly.
Also, couple reviews with open feedback. When leaders provide their team with frequent and honest feedback, your team is more likely to be motivated and engaged at work.
Show your appreciation
No matter what kinds of questions you ask and how often you conduct reviews, they aren’t just about formality, ratings, and numbers. They are a way to show your employees appreciation for their work and help both you and them develop a better future. And that is a good thing.
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Photo by Somsak Sudthangtum