Running Your Business

Making the Employee Performance Review a Meaningful Experience

You can make employee performance reviews less awkward and more enjoyable by making them more informal and focusing on the future rather than the past.
Posted by December 21, 2016

An employee performance review can feel awkward and stale if it’s not done right. But your reviews don’t have to be this way. You can create a process that’s beneficial to both your business and your employees, as long as you’re willing to be a little creative and put in the time. Here are five ideas to get you started.

Prepare for the Review

A recent survey found that 98 percent of staff felt that annual reviews weren’t necessary. Unfortunately, part of this is because many employers don’t take the whole review process very seriously. As the business owner, you can help alleviate this problem by training your managers on how to conduct a successful, meaningful performance review. For example, encourage them to research each employee ahead of time and take a thoughtful approach to the process. Train them to focus on projects and specific areas that employees can work on, rather than personality traits and generalities that can’t be changed.

Use the Review to Look to the Future

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that some companies have quit doing performance reviews completely because they give off a “judge and jury” feel. A review shouldn’t just involve checking off a box or ranking someone on a numerical scale. Instead, look to the future. Based on your employee’s performance and interests, suggest conferences or seminars that could help him advance his career and receive promotions. To help make your review process more valuable for both your employees and your business, use it as an opportunity to incentivize employees. Give each employee clear goals and the opportunity to obtain the training they need to move up the career ladder. Not only will this give your employees valued opportunities for professional development, but your business will benefit from the new skills they will bring to the table.

Make It a Two-Way Conversation

Don’t allow the employee performance review to become a one-way conversation. Before the review, ask employees to write down their ideal goals and objectives, along with specific workshops and seminars they’d like to attend. Ask them where their passions lie and if there are other areas of the business that they would like to learn about. Request honest feedback about their department and their work environment. If you think honest feedback will be difficult to obtain, give employees anonymous surveys to fill out before their reviews. If there’s something you can fix, do it. Make sure your employees know that these reviews result in real, positive change.

Don’t Avoid the Uncomfortable Moments

Let’s face it, not every employee review is going to be fun. You may have some employees who need to improve in certain key areas in order to keep their jobs. While you should certainly raise any concerns about performance in an employee’s review, it’s important that employees receive regular feedback. Don’t save criticism for the review itself. If there’s a problem, address it immediately so the incident is fresh in the employee’s mind and she has time to fix it. Don’t wait until the six-month review to let an employee know that there’s an issue.

Be Flexible and Creative

Just because you’ve always done performance reviews doesn’t mean you have to keep doing them. The Washington Post reports that nearly 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have quit holding performance reviews entirely. For example, GE recently quit doing reviews and now relies on an app instead. The app provides timely feedback immediately after assignments and encourages more frequent conversations. According to Fortune, IBM also has an app that lets employees suggest short-term goals and receive feedback.

If apps aren’t your thing, you can use regular, informal check-ins instead. Encourage managers to have quarterly or even weekly one-on-one coffee breaks or lunches with their employees. This offers managers and employees a regular opportunity to discuss strengths and weaknesses in a less intimidating format.

Exactly how your company handles performance reviews is up to you and your staff. You can continue having regularly scheduled reviews or adopt a less formal approach that relies on casual check-ins or app-based feedback instead. The key is to emphasize the positive during reviews and deal with the negative in real time. Focus on the future and give your employees clear goals that will help them develop their skills and get the training they need to receive promotions. Reviews can be a positive experience, rather than a dreaded or awkward one, if you follow these tips.

Have you figured out a unique way to improve employee performance reviews? Let us know on Twitter.

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