Let’s face it, performance reviews have a bad rap.
They can take hours to prepare for, feel punitive, and are often treated as a tick and flick exercise – a mere preamble to employees asking for more money or an upgrade in status.
But they need not be like this.
In fact, they’re critical touchpoints in the employee experience. They’re rare moments where employees get to focus on their own performance and development, receive critical feedback from managers and prioritise their activities.
There are three types of conversation managers have with their people;
Performance reviews are special – because they are a formal touchpoint where we get to have all three. Getting better at them is guaranteed to drive engagement and deliver exceptional results. Culture Amp’s research shows that a people feeling like they are making good progress in their career and development is a consistent high driver of engagement and retention.
Here are my tips for an exceptional performance review:
They’re two separate conversations. Performance reviews are about the employee’s performance and development. Salary is about the value of their contribution to the business. The outcome of the performance review guides remuneration decisions. Putting them together in the same discussion simply muddies the water and devalues both.
Empower employees to prepare their documentation prior to the meeting – assessing their own performance and drafting their own goals for the period ahead. This gives the manager a chance to understand their perspective before the meeting; but also send a message that employees are active participants in their own career progression, not passive recipients. Your role as a manager is to facilitate that process and align their aspirations with achieving business outcomes.
A performance review is a 1-2hr conversation split into two halves. In the first half – assess performance, development and behaviour against goals set from the last performance conversation. In the second half, set goals for performance, development and behaviour for the next review period. This means we only need to have one major review each year, minimising time drain on the business.
For performance conversations to be effective, we need to be able to objectively say whether something was achieved or not achieved. We need to state goals in clear, measurable terms. This does two things – it removes subjectivity, and clearly describes how the role adds value within the organisation.
Make it a two-way conversation by both giving and asking for feedback. Remember that if you’re the manager in the situation, there is a power differential – so go to extra lengths to make it safe for your people to give you feedback. Ask for the 1%’ers – how can you do something different or better – even just 1%. And say thank-you for the feedback – it takes effort and courage to give!
Performance is amplified if we encourage people to use their strengths. When setting goals; ask questions like “What do you enjoy doing? What are you naturally gifted at? What are you most interested in doing more of?” Help people move into the direction of their natural strengths and talents. If this means redesigning job descriptions and team structures – be flexible in your thinking and where you have the discretion to, do it.
Ideally, the annual performance review is boosted with quarterly check-ins. These are important opportunities to celebrate small wins, build an achievement mindset and recalibrate priorities as the business needs evolve. It creates a sub-conscious expectation “I will be asked how I’m going – I’d like to share a positive news story”.
In times of uncertainty, it is even more important to carry on with routines that keep people connected and focussed. If a lockdown is on, don’t be tempted to wait until face-to-face time is possible; or when you have more time. Running performance conversations like clockwork facilitates learning, adaptivity, and promotes engagement. It also sends a clear message that the employee experience is a clear and unwavering priority.
If you want to power up performance conversations in your business, contact me today about my Inspire Leadership Development Program.