Effective Performance Reviews
Effective Performance Reviews
Many organizations conduct performance reviews. Typically, the reviews are completed by an employee’s immediate supervisor with little or no input from the employee. The employee is then provided with formal “feedback”, normally once every year, at a peformance review meeting.
Sadly, some supervisors view the annual performance review as an opportunity to seek out and provide negative feedback. With these supervisors, the annual review is conducted much the same way as being hauled off to the principal’s office. Communication is one way, with the employee receiving “feedback”, more often than not for the first time, of what he/she has done wrong throughout the year. Often, the “feedback” is non-specific and simply a reflection of the supervisor’s opinions. “Goals” are then set for the next year based on this “feedback” with little or no input from the employee.
On the flip side of the negative review supervisor, is the supervisor who rates all employees as outstanding, regardless of actual performance. These supervisors are uncomfortable with conducting reviews and fear that they will be unpopular with their staff if they provide any kind of constructive feedback. When this approach is adopted, it allows performance issues to go unaddressed for years and permits “problem” employees to flourish at the expense of the organization’s bottom line and the morale of productive employees.
While performance reviews are an invaluable tool for evaluating how employees are doing and for encouraging employees to improve and excel, poorly done reviews are counter productive and harmful to an organization.
The subject of my Masters thesis was effective performance appraisal. However, because it is a complex and voluminous topic, it is not possible to explore it fully in a blog. However, I hope that the following tips will be useful to organizations and supervisors.
Before introducing a formal performance review system, ask why your organization needs it and what the organization hopes to achieve, then tailor the appraisal system accordingly. Don’t conduct performance appraisals just because everyone else is doing it.
Research the different appraisal methodologies carfully and pick one that best suits the goals that the organization hopes to achieve. If no one methodology is suitable, design (or hire an expert to design), a system that will work for your organization.
Train and coach the managers and supervisors who will be conducting the performance reviews so they know what the organization expects out of the appraisal system.
Try to implement a review system that allows for meaningful employee input and two-way communication.
Encourage supervisors and managers to give timely and specific feedback on an ongoing basis without waiting for the formal review. That way, performance issues can be addressed as they arise without an annual laundry list being dumped on an employee at the formal review.
Provide the feedback in a constructive manner. Don’t criticize. Remember that the purpose of giving constructive feedback is to improve performance.
Once legitimate issues are identified, ensure that the employee has the proper tools, training and coaching needed to address the identified issues.
Generalize or give feedback that is vague. Avoid language such as “everyone says”, you “always”, you “never” etc., Be specific and provide examples of any concerns that you have. If you provide specific examples, the employee will be able to see and understand your concerns. Vague feedback is meaningless and confusing and will only result in alienating the employee.
Stint on praise. Give praise where praise is due. Again, provide specific examples. Don’t just say “you are doing a great job”.
Wait for the formal performance review to provide feedback. In order to be effective, feedback must be specific and timely. Telling an employee one year or several months down the road that “everyone is complaining about X” is not only useless, it is counterproductive.
With the Olympics fresh in our minds, a good analogy is for supervisors to think of themselves as coaches and the employees whom they supervise, as athletes. Just as a coach will not wait a year or several months or several days to tell an athlete that he/she is doing something incorrectly or to praise an athlete for something that he/she is doing well, a supervisor should not wait until the annual performance review to provide feedback. Feedback, both positive and constructive, should be provided on an ongoing basis for it to be effective and for an organization to obtain maximum performance from its employees.
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