Performance Reviews: They’re Not A Once a Year Thing

A client was experiencing some employee performance issues and asked us to present training to their managers on a new employee performance evaluation form. Terrific. However, they weren’t thrilled when I told them that the training should only focus about 10 percent of the time on the actual use and mechanics of the form. The bulk of the training needed to focus on managing performance and preparing for the reviews all year long. They couldn’t expect a form to solve the performance issues they were experiencing.

We suggested seven core ideas be included in the training to help the managers and employees address the performance issues they had:

  1. Building trust between the managers and employees.
    It’s pretty tough for a manager to critique an employee’s performance and have her comments well-received when there’s no trust or respect between them. Trust and respect take time to earn. Start now.

  2. Determining and communicating clear job duties.
    A basic listing of what the person filling the position is expected to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis is a big help. It needs to be clear to both the manager and employee what tasks the employee is expected to perform.

  3. Determining and communicating the performance standards.
    Once it’s clear what the employee is supposed to do, it also needs to be made clear to what standard the work is to be done. If the performance rating scale has “Excellent” as its highest rating, the employee needs to be told what “Excellent” performance looks like, so he or she knows the standard you will use in the rating process. If the managers don’t know what “Excellent” looks like, how are the employees supposed to know and perform to “Excellent” standards?

  4. Communicating and documenting job performance all year long.
    There should be no surprises at review time. Too often, that’s all it is: a series of things done wrong all year long that were never addressed at the time. To prevent this, when an employee does something really right or wrong, acknowledge it, address it with the employee right away, and document it. The employee can then keep doing things right and correct things that need to be corrected.

  5. Coaching, re-aligning, and developing.
    Good managers monitor their employees’ performance constantly. Performance that starts to veer off-track can be quickly refocused, and missing skills can be addressed through training or other means. Good managers are vigilant.

  6. Evaluating Job Performance.
    This is the actual rating of the employee’s performance. If good and not-so-good performance has been documented all year, the actual form completion is just a matter of pulling the file and citing the examples tracked all year long. Specific examples of each item rated are crucial. These specific examples again let the employee “see” what levels of performance were expected in each category rated.

  7. Holding Performance Review Meetings.
    This meeting should hold no surprises about past performance. All of those should have been addressed in real-time. The Review Meeting should review the rating form — which again should be no surprise — and then focus on developing goals and plans for the next year or rating period. These goals and plans can then be a guide for both the managers and employees to track the next year’s performance.

If your managers start to complain about having to complete their employee performance review forms, you might ask if they’ve done their job well all year long. If so, the performance reviews and meetings are a great time to positively plan for the future. If not, share with them how to they can make the process a win-win in the future.