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6 Key Tips to Help You Have Effective Employee Performance Reviews


These Tips Will Result in Employees Who Are Motivated to Contribute and Grow

Over the course of my career, I’ve hired hundreds of people. Some were exceptional employees who were major contributors to our success. Others didn’t work out, but what I have learnt from all hires is that consistent review and updating of the recruitment and onboarding processes is key to getting it more right than wrong. Getting new talent into the business is itself a challenging task but considerably more important is ensuring your organisation nurtures that talent. One of the effective ways to encourage new talent is by managing an effective employee performance review process that is engaging from initiation. A recent blog from Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme has confirmed the planned overhaul of their annual performance appraisal which is to be replaced with a more fluid system to give their employees more timely feedback. Their conclusion aligns with my own personal experience that regular, quarterly, two-way communication meetings foster outstanding employee performance as opposed to a single annual review.

So what 6 key tips can I share based on my own personal experience:

1. Never try and go into a performance review without preparation and ensure you schedule sufficient time in your diary for the task of preparing for the review. If you wing it (and many try to) performance reviews fail. You will miss critical opportunities for feedback and improvement and the employee will not feel encouraged about their successes. You need to accept that preparation is key along with the spirit in which you approach this conversation, this makes the difference in whether it is effective or not. If your intention is genuine, to help the employee improve, and you have a positive relationship with the employee, the conversation is easier and more effective. The employee has to trust that you want to help them improve their performance.

2. Conversation is the key word when you define a performance review meeting and the intent is to have an equally balanced conversation. If you are doing all of the talking or the meeting becomes a lecture, the performance review is less effective. The employee will feel as if they were yelled at and treated unjustly. This is not how you want employees feeling as they leave their performance reviews.

You want an employee who is motivated and excited to work in your organisation and within an environment that helps them grow, develop and contribute. Over time the type of conversation during a review will alter as the employee’s career develops, but I’ve always found it extremely useful to have a bank of questions that help achieve the objective of the meeting being more of a discussion than a lecture. The open-ended questions help challenge the norm and force the employee to think about and articulate their long-term career objects. Aim for performance review meetings in which the employee talks more than half of the time. You can encourage this conversation by asking questions such as:

  • What would you like to be doing in 2 years time?
  • How do you think you have performed in the last 3 months?
  • What has worked well? What hasn’t worked well

 3. No matter the components of your performance review process, one of the outcomes is to ensure you both leave the meeting with clear agreed goals. Hopefully encouraging conversation with open ended questions will help align the employees key goals both short term (3 months) and long term (12 months) as it is imperative that the employee knows exactly what is expected of their performance as it will be the key topic of ongoing reviews.

4. During preparation and goal setting, you need to make clear how you will evaluate the employee’s performance. Describe exactly what you’re looking for from the employee and exactly how you will assess the performance. Discuss with the employee their role in the evaluation process. If your organisation’s performance review process includes an employee self-evaluation, share the form and talk about what self-evaluation entails.

Make sure that you also share the performance review format with the employee, so that they are not surprised at the end of the performance review time period. A significant component of this evaluation discussion is to share with the employee how your organisation will assess performance.

The employee needs to understand that if they do what is expected, they will be considered a performing employee. An employee must do more than just perform to be considered an outstanding employee.

5. When you meet with the employee, spend time on the positive aspects of their performance. In most cases, the discussion of the positive components of the employee’s performance should take up more time than that of the negative components.

For your above average performing employees and your performing employees, positive feedback and discussion about how the employee can continue to grow their performance should comprise the majority of the discussion. No employee’s performance is completely negative—if so, why does the employee still work for your organisation? But, don’t neglect the areas that need improvement either. Especially for an underperforming employee, speak directly and don’t mince words. If you are not direct, the employee will not understand the seriousness of the performance situation. Try and ensure you use examples from the whole time period covered by the performance review and not literally just the recent events. Recent events color your judgment of the employee’s performance. Instead, recognise that you are responsible for documenting positives such as completed projects, and negative occurrences such as a missed deadline, during the entire period of time that the performance review covers. 

Encourage your employee to do the same and come prepared for the meeting so that together you develop a comprehensive look at the employee’s performance during the time period that your discussion covers. The employee should never hear about positive performance or performance in need of improvement for the first time at your formal performance discussion meeting unless it is new information or insight. Effective managers discuss both positive performance and areas for improvement regularly, even daily or weekly. Aim to make the contents of the performance review discussion a re-emphasis of critical points.

6.  Collaborative online sharing of review fosters a culture of transparency and openness that helps nurture outstanding talent. Many companies use a form that is filled out in advance of the meeting to allow the employee to digest the contents before their discussion of the details with you. This simple gesture can remove a lot of the emotion and drama from the performance review meeting. However, at MindGenius we have taken the additional step of using MindGenius Online to manage all our reviews ensuring we have considered preparation and agenda. The review is available to both the manager and employee to review and update at all times and has created fantastic review meetings with no surprises in performance or feedback. If you would like to know more about our process then download a MindGenius Online template.

If you take these performance review tips to heart and practice these recommendations in your performance review meetings, you will develop a significant tool for your management tool bag.

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