10 ways to make performance reviews more effective

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 10:25 AM

A solid, robust and effective performance review makes the difference between a tickbox exercise and a way of working which really adds value to the business.  

Our top 10 tips follow.

  1. Avoid the ‘once-a-year’ review. Whilst regular 1-to-1 meetings may happen, weekly or monthly, aim to have the more formal, meetings bi-annually, or quarterly.

  2. Make sure there are no surprises.  Don’t let the formal performance discussion be the time that the person gets to hear positive or negative feedback for the first time but use it to re-emphasise the most important elements.  Effective performance review is about regular discussion and conversation, rather than storing up praise or criticism and releasing it at the formal meeting.

  3. Set meaningful goals. Your discussion needs to focus around what is expected of your people: they need to understand exactly what performance looks like – and they can only do this with clearly defined goals, expected behaviours and performance standards ideally supported by a team planning or delegation process.  This will cascade broader organisational or team objectives. Look to give the individual contributors the opportunity to set their own objectives as this not only saves the time of the manager but also increases the commitment to and motivation to achieve the goals.  Furthermore, research has shown that we tend to set more challenging goals when we set them ourselves than those if given to us by our managers.

  4. Document the discussion and the progress made.  To ensure a common understanding about what has been achieved, the next steps and any amendments to objectives which have been discussed, make time to record accurately the meetings and do this on an on-going basis as “little and often” is far more beneficial than a twice-a-year approach.  An online, easily accessible performance management system such as Head Light’s Talent Performance can help do this.

  5. Agree how performance will be measured - and how you'll know when objectives have been exceeded. You may need to think about this before the meeting but use the time in the meeting to get feedback and ideas from the individual. However this is finalised, all parties need to be clear how performance will be evaluated.  As well as developing a common understanding of how the objective will be measured, you need to also establish how you know when the objective has been exceeded.

  6. Pull together and draw from a range of examples to support the performance conversation. Make sure you use a system – paper-based or online – that brings together examples and evidence as to how the objectives have been achieved.  An online talent management system such as Talent Performance features a Wall on which people can post feedback and with user access 24/7, it means feedback can be given in real time.  You may want to solicit feedback from others more formally as part of a 360 degree feedback review.

  7. Prepare, prepare, prepare If you want your people to take performance review seriously, then you need to invest in adequate preparation time.  Collect and consider the evidence and supporting documentation and comment – and make sure that you allow the individuals to do the same.  Encourage them to think about goals for the forthcoming year, to review their own development and to identify gaps and to explore their career plans.

  8. Spend time on the positive It’s easy to forget the positives as all too often we focus on the areas for development or improvement.  For those employees doing well, seek to strengthen performance further or look at how they can apply transferable skills as this is likely to be rewarding and motivating.  Look to see if they can be a coach, mentor or trainer in these areas.

  9. Don’t hide from the negative The areas of performance that you do want to improve should be clear: this is the time for straight talking.  Illustrate your points using examples drawn from the time period covered by the performance review.  Ask the individual to reflect on things that went less well than he or she would have liked, what has been learned and how it would be done differently next time.

  10. Aim to motivate You’ll be looking to leave the review meeting with an employee who is motivated and excited about his or her ability to continue to grow and perform.  Developments in neuroscience has shown that we are hardwired to look for certainty in the future and so setting clear goals, milestones and review periods help to create a stability and optimism. If you are excited about the next 12 months you team are more likely to feel positive too.  Give them as much responsibility, ownership and autonomy as you can.  People need this to feel valued and capable – and a thank you never goes amiss.

You can read more about how you make your Talent Reviews more effective by reading our We think.. article but clicking on the button below.

Read the article Making Talent Reviews more effective

 And learn more about how to make the transition to continuous performance management.

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