The Whys & Hows of Staff Performance Reviews

By Deborah S. Hildebrand

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]W[/dropcaps]hether you call them performance reviews or employee appraisals or something else, the importance of regularly evaluating the work performance of your staff in relation to individual, departmental and organizational goals is an important part of managing others.

biz people mtgUnfortunately naysayers will frequently cite that performance reviews take up too much time, don’t get the intended results, are often inaccurate, are an uncomfortable process, are just a waste of energy or some other equally poor excuse for not spending time to utilize this important tool.

Next time you have the opportunity to complete evaluations of your staff consider the benefit to your employees and you as well as how you can make the process go smoother.

Why Do Reviews

Most anyone in a supervisory or management position knows by now that the purpose behind performance reviews is to ensure that employees understand how well they are doing their job in relation to defined goals and expectations.

Well, then it is only logical that you, too, should be evaluated on how you are doing in your job as a leader and coach. That means your boss is going to evaluate you on how you are developing your team. And how will she and you gather this information if you don’t document each team member’s performance?

To help you understand the benefit of conducting regular reviews on how employees are performing, here are some things to consider.

  1. Regular communication with employees is part of your job and helps to establish a good work relationship, improve morale and productivity, and can enhance problem-solving and team creativity.
  2. Employees want and need to understand how they are contributing to the organization, so by establishing individual, team and department goals which align with the company objectives you give an employee a sense of purpose, their personal line of sight to the organization’s vision.
  3. Developing expected outcomes and evaluating how well an employee has met these outcomes will help them to understand how they are doing and to move forward and tackle their next challenge.
  4. Without guidance from you, employees cannot do their best work.

When to Do Reviews

For all those individuals out there who have their lips fixed to protest this entire process, when to do reviews is probably the primary issue. The reason is that too many organizations have turned evaluating an employee’s on-the-job performance into a formal yearly ritual that can sometimes cause both the employee and the supervisor more pain than good.

Instead employee performance should be reviewed and evaluated more frequently and on both a formal and informal basis. Why wait until the end of the year to advise an employee that they screwed up on a project they completed six or eight months previously?

Instead, you have at your disposal a variety of ways in which to shape and mold your team members into high performing and productive employees who can make a solid contribution to the continued success of the organization.

Here are just a few:

  1. STOP BYS (Spontaneous Thoughts On Performance By Your Supervisor). Coaching, guiding, leading, supervising, training, any activity that you do to assist your staff to reach their peak performance can, and should, be done impromptu on a weekly and even a daily basis.person weathervane
  2. Milestones. There is a saying about not trying to eat the whole elephant. Instead it is important to break large projects into manageable pieces. Each piece or milestone has a goal and completion date. Instead of evaluating someone’s performance just at the end of the entire project, guide them along their path by following up at each milestone.
  3. Quarterly Reviews. Annual reviews are just too infrequent and because of this have become a very involved, time-intensive, paper-laden process. Like milestones, breaking this annual formal process into smaller, more manageable quarterly updates and utilizing a simple evaluation tool to track accomplishments, benefits supervisors and employees by providing more frequent feedback.

How to Do Reviews

Simplify, simplify, simplify. One of the biggest complaints from supervisors is that the entire performance review process takes up too much time and is too complicated. That means the evaluation tool needs to be simple, yet still as objective as possible and both the supervisor as well as the employee need to be responsible for providing input into the process.

Another difficulty is that most performance review processes look at the year in review and point out what went right or wrong. While it is important to identify problem areas and recognize achievements throughout the year through the use of things such as STOPBYS, milestones and quarterly reviews, at year end it is time to start planning for the next year by establishing new individual, team and department goals.

If you are a supervisor responsible for evaluating the performance of your team, here are ten suggestions to help you be more successful in this task.

  1. Educate your team on your review process and the company goals so they understand what to expect and how you use both informal and formal coaching to guide them in a regular and timely manner.
  2. Advise your team members, well in advance, of their responsibility in the process so that they can monitor their own performance and document their personal achievements or correct their shortcomings on an ongoing basis just like you do.
  3. Utilize the assessment tool regularly to document each team member’s progress. Don’t tuck it away until the end of the year and then suddenly pull it out and try to fill in the blanks.
  4. While informal, impromptu assessments and feedback are at your discretion, any formal process is a joint effort. Give your staff members plenty of time to prepare written self-assessments to share in that process.
  5. Prepare yourself in advance of any formal meeting by reviewing the information beforehand and focusing on facts and examples of performance, not personal opinions.
  6. During the formal review process, focus on major issues that have the most impact on individual performance. Petty annoyances or minor issues should be dealt with through informal means.
  7. For formal reviews, set aside time in a quiet place where the two of you won’t be interrupted.
  8. Involve each team member in their own goal setting process so they are committed to reaching their objectives.
  9. Don’t blindside anybody. Make sure your expectations are clear from the start and any areas that require your immediate improvement are handled at the time of occurrence. Nothing on a performance review should come as a surprise.
  10. Throughout the year focus on your own development as a leader by further enhancing your ability to provide feedback and develop good relationships with your team members.

bizpeople hockey checkBy incorporating performance feedback and planning into the work environment throughout the year, you de-stigmatize the process and make it a natural part of the workplace.

Just like the coach of a sports team, the idea is to win each game. Your role as leader of your team is to help them win, too, by focusing on how to reach the goals that will help the organization be a success.

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