Performance reviews can be one of the most dreaded tasks of the year for both managers and employees. Some performance reviews take hours to complete and others have very little substance or meaning. The process can be cumbersome and virtually impossible if you aren’t in-tune with your employees.
How can we take the pain out of performance reviews? The real answer has to do with you.
- Establish an environment of trust. Without trust, constructive feedback can be difficult to deliver and cause your employees to go on the defenisve. You should be able to provide constructive feedback in a professional manner and trust that your employees are not only open to the feedback, but also interested in improving their own performance. On the flip side of that, your employees should be able to trust that your feedback is genuine and your motives are pure and based on your desire for their success within your organization. Establishing trust requires you to be trustworthy. Take a look at your actions – can your employees trust you?
- Be a leader. Establish your position in the department by setting performance and behavioral expectations up front. Then model the appropriate behaviors, including dress, communication style, and performance every day. A good leader never says “Do as I say, not as I do.” A good leader is not a dictator or a best friend. A good leader is kind, genuine, honest, appreciative of the resources on their team and honored to have the opportunity to lead them. A good leader is committed to training their team, in hopes of either producing the next shining star, or even hiring their own replacement. Defining this line might require you to avoid a few team happy hours in the beginning, but it will really pay off when you have to review performance.
- Establish the purpose of the performance review. Some organizations use generic performance reviews that cover generic behaviors such as teamwork, independent decision making, and initiative, while others are more focused on production goals or number of people served. Regardless of the format, the most important thing for you to do as the manager is establish the purpose and importance of the performance review within your department. Will it be the determining factor for pay raises? Is it something that you will review throughout the year to monitor progress? Or is it just a formality required by HR that you will complete, but prefer to set goals and outline daily tasks and expectations in another manner? It is not a bad idea to show your new employee the performance review in their first few weeks on the job so they are aware of how their performance will be measured. Performance reviews shouldn’t be a secret; instead they should be a blue print towards success!
- Communicate regularly. No employee should ever be surprised by what is written in their performance review. It is your responsibility, as the manager, to communicate with your employees regularly. It doesn’t matter if it is after the completion of a big project or an eight hour shift; they still want to know how they did before they come in to work tomorrow and do it again. This doesn’t have to be done daily, but it does have to be done regularly.
It is much easier to communicate positive performance than poor performance. Positive performance can be easily discussed and recognized during regularly scheduled team or individual meetings, via e-mail, or when you are standing next to the employee who is in the middle of their shift.
However, addressing poor performance in a group setting or via e-mail/voicemail is completely inappropriate. This type of communication requires face to face interaction in a one-on-one environment. The employee needs to see your body language to feel the trusting environment and know you are genuinely trying to help them improve and succeed within the organization.
All four of these suggestions will help you eliminate the “gotcha” factor during your next round of performance reviews. Just remember, your employees are just like you. Don’t you like knowing that your manager thinks you and your department are on the right track? We all like to know what we are expected to do, why we are expected to do it, and then eventually how we did. If you don’t communicate that to your employees, you cannot expect them to perform at that level.
If this is all new to you – get your team together and talk them through what it is you would like to change, what type of environment you would like to establish. If you are genuine, most likely they will trust you and want to work with you. You can even involve them in updating the performance review to reflect current goals and expectations. The key is the build a trusting environment, not to introduce a new management theory or style that eventually turns into the “flavor of the month.”
If for some reason you, as the department manager or leader, don’t know your organization’s goals, how your department fits into those goals, and how you are doing, set up a meeting with your manager immediately. You might need to walk them through this article too!