Four keys for preparing for an annual performance review

There are a lot of things in life that you can successfully do last minute. For instance, holiday shopping can be put off until December 23 and you’ll probably still get the Lego kit that was at the top of your kids’ wish list; laundry can be saved until midnight on Sunday and it will still be just as clean as if it was done Saturday morning; sales reports can be pulled the very hour they’re due and it makes no difference. However, annual performance reviews are not one of those things.

The beauty of an annual performance review is that it takes into account an employee’s work over an extended period of time, offering an accurate evaluation of an employee’s performance. In short, it’s like watching a video as opposed to viewing still pictures. But when adequate preparations aren’t made, annual performance reviews are actually more detrimental to employees than monthly or quarterly reviews would be because you’re more likely to make assumptions based on the most recent performance rather than an entire year’s. For successful and productive reviews, take a look at these four keys to preparing for annual performance reviews:

  1. Prepare all year
    Annual performance reviews are often not executed well because preparation isn’t at the forefront of most managers’ minds throughout the year. Since the nature of the review requires evaluation of an entire year’s work, employees’ work should be considered and noted all year long. When you consistently take note of both exceptional and unsatisfactory work, you save yourself the chore of going back and searching emails and files for documents and correspondence. Doing so also provides a fair evaluation of work and helps in identifying progression or digression.
  2. Engage employees
    While you are conducting performance reviews, they’re most effective when employees are engaged in the process and take ownership in both their work and the feedback they receive. Motivate employees to engage in performance reviews by requesting they prepare for the meeting in the same way you are. By asking employees to evaluate specific projects or assignments they completed, you lessen the chance of someone being blindsided by your feedback. Additionally, encourage employee buy-in when it comes to succession planning and promotions by asking employees to consider their goals and come prepared to share them.
  3. Think beyond the work
    Before sitting down with an employee, take the time to think through their affect on core business goals and your department goals. You may be able to say that an employee met all the evaluation requirements, but do you both understand the direct impact their actions have on the organization? Discussing the affects their actions have can provide a measure of their success, whether that is a quantitative or qualitative measurement.
  4. Look back and look forward
    Part of an annual performance review involves using the past to help determine an employee’s likelihood of success in the future. Before heading into an annual performance review, take time to think about the feedback you’re going to give, goals you plan to set and the next career-path steps you would like the employee to take. It’s a common mistake to wing it on these parts of the review, but in all reality, this section requires just as much preparation as gathering materials and reviewing work. Listen to your employee and take what they’re saying into consideration, but attempt to mainly stick to what you planned so that you don’t lose focus or allow yourself to be swayed too far.

What tools do you use to prepare for performance reviews? Let us know in the comments section below.

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