Let’s face it, this time of year managers and employees alike are starting to think about performance reviews. Stress and anxiety levels rise and less than favorable opinions about performance reviews are muttered between peers. To top it off, a recent Leadership IQ study of 48,000 leaders said that only 13% of those leaders find reviews useful.
Effective performance reviews are an opportunity for honest and open communication. Although past performance is discussed, you can inspire and engage employees by placing focus on plans for the future. As leaders, we need to change the perception of performance reviews from ineffective, uncomfortable, and criticism focused to collaborative and positive, even when communicating negative results.
There are 9 actions managers can take to conduct performance reviews to encourage and motivate employees.
- Hold Reviews On Neutral Ground: Get out of the office! One of the worst places to hold a review is on your turf. Employees will feel more relaxed and are more likely to contribute to a conversation in an environment that is neutral.
- Know Your Team: Attitude and performance are two key components of every team member’s position. The two are often linked together and at times there are outside forces causing employee unhappiness, poor attitude, and unsatisfactory performance. Be friendly enough to know what’s going on in their life. This doesn’t mean you need to be friends with employees but you should know them well enough to talk casually about their life outside of work. This will help develop trust and allow you to see the whole picture.
- Have Systems And Processes In Place: Employees want to belong to a company that understands how to manage people and has consistent performance review processes in place. Share your process with employees early on to avoid surprise and to create mutual respect between both parties.
- Hold Informal Meetings: Make performance management part of your culture. Schedule informal reviews throughout the year to improve communication, build rapport, and provide a benchmark to ensure goals are consistently met. Keep in mind; employees will support what they help create. This is a great time to reassess tasks and collaborate with team members.
- Prepare In Advance: Plan for reviews. Leaders typically get anxious 6-8 weeks before the review but wait until crunch time to prepare. Effective leadership manages performance year round. Document performance along with specific metrics and store them in an electronic folder to maintain uniformity and organization.
- Avoid Using Stock Phrases: Reviews need to be specific and meaningful. Avoid generic phrases such as; “Jane, you really did a great job this year.” Instead, provide clear-cut examples; “Jane, your input on our project in the 2nd quarter really made a difference to the bottom line and engaged our clients.” The more specific your language, the more impact it will have.
- Provide Alignment: Employees are motivated when they see how their day-to-day work applies to the big picture. Educate employees so they understand how their job duties contribute to the overall goals of your firm.
- Talk About The Future: Recreate your performance appraisals to include future plans and goals for your firm and employees. While past performance is reviewed, employees will be motivated when you incorporate a vision that helps move them forward. Discuss career ambitions, new responsibilities, and professional development. Employees are likely to be receptive and motived when you talk about where you see them in the next 12 months versus placing the entire focus on the past.
- Ask Good Questions: A good leader must listen, ask questions, and position employees so they feel comfortable during reviews. Start with discussion and questions; “Tell me about your highlights during this performance period.” “What areas would you like more help?” “How have you used your skills and competencies?” Team members will realize that the review isn’t just a one-way drill.
In conclusion, employees spend more time each day with their managers and co-workers than with family. A quality relationship is critical to the level of engagement and success of a team. Train managers to plan for and deliver performance reviews that empower and strengthen employees. Employees won’t leave a company, but they will leave a manager.
“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” – John Maxwell
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