If you Google ‘performance review’, a few thousand results will be returned on advice for how employees should prepare for their review, however it’s vital for employers to do their preparation as well.
No matter what industry or type of business, staff members want to have a formal review so they know if they are doing their job to the employer’s satisfaction. The majority of employees can see when managers have put an effort into reviewing their performance and shown an interest in their career development.
This week I want to highlight the not so nice side of employee performance reviews and how managers can start considering how this year’s review will be different than the years preceding it.
Why is the ‘normal’ employee performance review so wrong?
A common misconception about performance reviews is that they are focused on the employee’s performance within the last six months to a year. This shouldn’t be the case. Staff reviews should give employers a chance to evaluate how they run their business, by letting employees voice their opinions, grow and hopefully become better team members.
Reviews are often held once or twice a year and often by a member of the management team who doesn’t necessarily work with or closely to the employee on a daily basis. The infrequency of the reviews by someone who doesn’t usually liaise with the employee leads to the feeling of ‘obligation’ rather than it being a normal part of the job.
Quite often in bigger companies, the scoring system is generalised across multiple departments. This causes an issue as every staff member is being judged in the same manner, regardless of their working differences and job responsibilities.
Whilst it’s understandable that recent happenings in one’s mind stand out the most, it’s one of the biggest downfalls of performance reviews. The ‘Recency Effect’ causes managers to focus on a recent event, positive or negative, and use this as a marker of an employee’s performance instead of reviewing their performance over the entire period. Employees who know this often ensure they are the best they can be in the run up to a review.
In smaller companies, feedback might only be based on one person’s perspective. If there is only one Director and a team of five employees, it can be hard for the MD to not be biased. Without collaboration, the feedback can be subjective and not offer a full picture of employee performance.
Employee performance reviews are more often than not closely linked to salary and potential pay rises. This leads to stress for the employee who focuses on the outcome as well as the employer who may not be offering a pay rise. In turn, this devalues the process of the review, giving feedback and improving performance.
With those points in mind, I’ve included some tips below for employers and managers to help them prepare for conducting a successful performance review.
What changes should be made to the current employee performance review?
Apart from changes to the annual or twice yearly review, it’s imperative for employers to give feedback as situations occur, rather than wait until review time. Everyone responds more positively to immediate feedback, and in doing so, employees can work on their performance each day instead of being loaded with information once or twice a year.
With regards to the performance review, the process should go as follows:
I’ve mentioned before about how important it is for employers to refer back to individual job descriptions and here is no different. The document should provide information on the employee’s duties of their role and standards they are expected to achieve. As this should have been issued when the employee first started working at the company, both the employer and staff member should have a copy and refer to it during the review.
Before the Performance Review
Each employee should be given a self-appraisal form to fill out before their individual review. This enables the employer to receive information on how the employee rates their performance within the company and any issues they may like to be addressed. Employers should these out at least three to four weeks before the review and should be returned no later than a week before. This gives the employee plenty of time to prepare for the review and the employer a sufficient period to prepare comments and areas for discussion.
Questions could include:
- What have been your main accomplishments over the last six months/year?
- Which actions concern you most or disappoint you?
- Do you feel you have developed any skills or overcome weaknesses in the last six months/year?
- Do you feel you and your manager communicate well? What changes would you like to see moving forward?
- What are your top three priories for the next six months?
- Is there anything about the company you would like to see improved or do you have any ideas on how you could see certain aspects of the business working differently?
Employers should focus on where the review will take place and the time allocated to it. All meetings should be in a private location where there will be no interruptions, such as phone calls or other work related distractions and a positive atmosphere will more than likely create a positive communication. More than enough time needs to be considered so employees don’t feel they are being rushed through the review or feeling undervalued as a team member.
Many employers go down ‘the sandwich review’ route which means they give positive feedback to start, then negative feedback, and finish on positive feedback. This doesn’t work, as the initial positive feedback will feel insincere and the employee won’t listen to the follow up positives as they will be focusing on the negative feedback.
Instead, employers should focus on the positives to begin with. Anything the employee has achieved or is doing well in should be mentioned. Praise needs to be offered where it is due and if the employee has been in the company for a few years, then they should be told how they have improved since their last review.
Negatives, although they are not nice, need to be addressed. If the employee is lacking in certain areas or hasn’t achieved goals that had been previously set out, the employer needs to inform them of this. It’s imperative to be specific and mention exact goals and instances where the employee has underperformed so it doesn’t seem like a generalisation or make the employee feel they are underachieving in their role overall.
Get Feedback and Set Goals
Employees should be offered the chance to voice their opinion and give feedback. Employers need to ask the staff member how they might improve on their own performance and ask what they can do to help them achieve it. This will give the employer better insight into whether the employee needs more training or possibly alter their role somehow.
Setting new goals and sticking to them is an important part of performance reviews, otherwise they are a waste of time. Employees need to commit to improving on their weaknesses and progressing even more in the following months. Goals should be written down and signed by both the employer and employee as the document will be used at the following review.
Finish on a Positive Note
Every appraisal for each employee will be different, however it’s important to always end on a positive note, whether the review was good or poor. Employers need to ensure the employee knows they will do what they can to help them meet objectives in the months following the meeting.
Always Follow Up
The most important step of the review process is to follow up on the commitments made to the employee. If an employer has stated they will help an under-performer, they need to speak to a supervisor and ensure steps are being taken to aid them in their role.
This isn’t just for the employee’s benefit, but also to protect the employer. If a business has to terminate employment, there must be evidence that the employer has given the employee an opportunity to improve their performance. If this is not apparent, the company could be left open to a claim of unfair dismissal.
When a performance review is well prepared for and properly conducted, it assists an employer in seeing which of its staff members are making the most valuable contribution and which are letting the side down – useful information to have in today’s tough business climate, where every euro must count.
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.