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How to improve your performance review process

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Performance reviews get a bad rap these days. Employees do dread them for they view them as a tool used by their superiors in pointing out their negatives. On the other hand managers see them as an obligation to plough through before they can mark one more task off their endless to-do lists. However, performance reviews themselves aren’t the problem but it’s the way organisations handle the review process that’s flawed.

Performance reviews are necessary. When they are done properly, employees actually like them for they definitely want to know how they’re doing. They are very keen to connect with their managers. Thus, reviews give leaders an opportunity to measure performance results, reward great employees and assist those that have problems the best way they can.

So then, what can be done to make performance reviews really count? The following are some useful tips that can assist in making performance reviews meaningful and exciting.

Think of them as a process, not an event
Leaders should lay groundwork for performance reviews all year long. Leaders should practice having weekly or even daily rounding for outcomes. In the same way that a doctor makes rounds to check on patients, a leader makes rounds to check on subordinates. The technique allows for being in touch regularly with subordinates, making personal connections, recognising success, finding out what’s going well and determining where improvements are needed.

This approach is not about a casual “How are you?” and then walking off without waiting for an answer. It means asking specific questions in the right sequence. This could be in the form of questions such as: “Do you have the tools and equipment you need to do the job? What is going well? What isn’t going well? Is there anyone who’s been particularly helpful to you that I should recognise?” It is important to be a good listener and write down your answers and then follow up.

Hold them four times a year.
The annual performance review should become a quarterly performance review. It might sound like a lot of work for you as a manager but it is also far more effective than the annual review, which too often reflects an employee’s performance during the previous month leading up to the meeting.
What if that month turns out to be an employee’s one bad month in an otherwise good year?

Quarterly reviews are a far more accurate reflection of the employee’s overall performance. They force leaders to pay close attention all year long than waiting for the last month of the appraisal period to try and have an objective review of the whole year.

Link reviews to organisational goals.
It may seem an obvious strategy, but surprisingly few leaders structure employee evaluations around concrete, companywide goals. When employees know they are going to be evaluated on the progress they made toward goals the entire company shares, they will alter their behaviour accordingly.

However, there is need not to impose these goals. A caring leader will endeavour to ask for employee input up front. This helps employees “connect the dots” regarding the impact they have in the organisation and makes them feel like an important part of the whole.

It has been observed that when employees are involved in crafting organisational goals, they are far more likely to understand them, buy into them, and work toward them. When leaders bring up these goals again and again in performance reviews, it reinforces employee efforts.

Make review criteria as objective as possible.
One of the major criticisms levelled at performance reviews is that they are based on subjective criteria. What do words like communication, organisation, and professionalism really mean?

And what does it say that manager A gives Rebecca a two in “Communication” while manager B, who supervised her last year, gave her a four? Clearly, it says that perceptions — of the criteria measured, of employee behaviour, and maybe of both — vary wildly. This means that the review criteria should be based on variables that can be objectively measured and not merely awarding a score that has bee plucked from the moon.

Strive to make performance reviews conversations not confrontations.
The words “performance review” call up an image of a stern judge pronouncing a sentence on the nervous employee. This doesn’t inspire anyone. The best leaders draw employees out, solicit their ideas for improvement and offer concrete suggestions on how to better pursue the goals you’ve set together.

So this calls for the manager to be a very good listener who is accommodative of their subordinates so as to have the performance review produce the desired results.

l Use reviews as a springboard to move low performers up or out.

The whole idea behind performance reviews is to improve employee performance. So what do you do when certain low-performing employees refuse to budge? What you don’t do is let them hang around year after year. It’s essential to get rid of low performers which is not optional.

When they are tolerated in an organisation, they tend to pull middle performers down to their level. Worse, your high performers will get disgusted and leave. Get rid of your “bad apples,” and your middle performers will naturally start to emulate the behaviour of your star employees.

About the Author
Paul Nyausaru is a training and development practitioner. Views contained in this article are personal. You can contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk or pnyausaru@gmail.com

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