How to build a great employee performance review

August 7, 2018

How to build a great employee performance review

Performance reviews are not a new idea. They have been around for decades and HR professionals and managers have developed a whole range of different opinions towards them.

Maybe you think they are a necessary step in every employee’s working year or maybe you think they are archaic and should be abolished and replaced with daily catch-ups.

Whatever your opinion, you need one in some shape or form even if you opt out of the formal term ‘appraisal’.

The key to a great employee sperformance review is simple: focus on how you should do it, then what you want to include in it – in that order.

What makes an employee review good?

Knowing the company goals and how the role of every member of staff fits into that is important. After these are known, they have to be communicated and finally they have to be achieved.

Stress, personal differences, misunderstandings, laziness, illness and a number of outside factors unique to your niche can hinder the achievement of your ultimate goals.

A good review strategy will help you minimise the effects of everything which is out of your control when it comes to staff.

There are materials available if you need a detailed step-by-step guide but make sure your employee review process works before getting into too much detail. What makes one good?

1. It fits your management style

How often do you normally check-in with your staff? Informal meetings are important and will help your formal reviews feel more natural and less stressful as all parties involved will be well acquainted with what is going on.

The baseline for formal appraisals is once or twice a year but you don’t have to stick to this for the sake of being like everyone else. Less than once a year will make your employees feel neglected but too often will pull them away from valuable work.

Try what works and don’t be afraid to change it if you feel your employees are unhappy with the process. Continuous improvement is a buzzword in HR and in this case, it’s the only way to go.

If you have zero internal forms and it works, don’t add one for your review process. Ask your employees to make a bullet point list of their achievements, challenges and goals before one of your one-to-one meetings, then take notes and agree on objectives.

If you prefer a more formal approach, take the time and devise an appropriate form. Make sure every field on it has a specific purpose and will be addressed. There is nothing worse than writing something up only to have no one look at it.

2. It is achievable
Performance reviews take time – their preparation, execution and follow-up will take away some of the time staff use for daily work so make sure you schedule it around the peaks and troughs of your industry.

Take time every few years to see if the format of your appraisal form is still applicable. Does anything have to be removed or added? Make sure filling in the form doesn’t waste precious time.

3. It is fair

Research has found that staff don’t always think their performance appraisal was fair but there are things you can do as an HR professional to mitigate this response.

If you want to review one member of staff, you have to review all of them in the same way, making sure your process is transparent. Don’t use different forms for different roles and try to assess how employees feel after the whole cycle is done.

4. It promotes the right conversations

There are a number of reasons why staff might feel awkward or intimidated to ask for a raise or for a change in their role.

The performance review is the perfect way to address topics like pay, promotions, disciplinary actions, flexible working. It gives you and the member of staff a chance to step back and evaluate the situation.

5. It is rewarding

Appraisals should be beneficial for both you and the member of staff. You get to steer their talents in the right direction and retain them, and they get the satisfaction of fulfilling their duties above standard.

Research suggests that such behaviour should be properly rewarded, for example with a raise or a bonus, to avoid detrimental effects.

A fair reward system in place following the review process will create a positive working environment and promote healthy competition.

As a manager, how do you make all of this happen?

1. Keep track of accomplishments

If you manage more than two members of staff it might be difficult to remember what has happened throughout the year. A folder on your PC or a page in your diary will go a long way – just make little notes about behaviours which you think are praiseworthy.

If you would rather not, ask the people who work most with the person you are reviewing and look back through calendars to make sure you don’t miss any important events. Then discuss and reward them appropriately.

2. Give continuous feedback

When an employee walks into their review meeting, nothing should be a surprise. Make sure you have regular meetings throughout the year and keep touching base.

Continuous feedback ensures work flows smoothly and the review process at the end is nice and easy.

3. Listen and don’t interrupt

The performance review is sometimes the only chance an employee will get to properly unload about the challenges of their job.

Not dissimilar to a therapist, listen properly to their words. Don’t interrupt or gaslight them, make sure they have finished before you compare their account to yours.

If you handle this badly, you might create tension or lose valuable talent.

4. Weigh mistakes against achievements

When you prepare your final decision of the appraisal, look at the bigger picture. Acknowledging staff mistakes and providing support rather than punishment builds trust and confidence.

5. Address ambitions and turn them into measurable and achievable goals

You know best what the major business goals are and in an ideal world all employees will know too. If a member of staff comes up with a crazy creative idea, it is ultimately your decision to let them run with it or squash their enthusiasm.

Don’t curb creativity but don’t set unrealistic expectations either.

Similarly, always assess your current workforce before promising someone a career path within your management they can’t pursue.

6. Explain what happens next

At the end of the meeting, it’s time to make exciting promises or cautionary comments. Make sure whatever you say at this stage is something you will definitely action.

Trust in the workplace is hard to mend once broken and there is nothing worse than to promise someone a pay raise and never make sure it’s done.

Now it’s time to make it great

If you’ve followed the advice so far, you have the foundations of a good performance review process. But what is it that makes it great?

Research has found that if you want to facilitate continuous improvement, some or all of these six themes have to be active work motivators:

  • Encouragement
  • Interaction
  • Commitment
  • Evaluation
  • Creative freedom
  • Common values.

For you, this means that the review you have just done needs to become a key part of your management strategies. Ask yourself questions while keeping staff’s feedback in mind.

Are the challenges of the job getting people down? Are the goals still applicable? Does this new opportunity fit with this employee’s ambition or is there someone you’re forgetting?

Don’t let the files sit in a folder somewhere forgotten. Use them to uncover all the potential talent in your team.

About the author

Polina is a freelance writer and multimedia journalist, with a personal interest in psychology and HR management. You can learn more about her and read more of her work by visiting her website here.

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