No more grumbling: Make performance reviews more productive

Each year, managers focus on improving the core performance of their teams by evaluating the results of the previous year. This is often referred to as performance review season, and it’s a particularly stressful time for both employees and their managers—and for good reason.


Why all the negativity about performance reviews?

Employees generally see this time as a giant spotlight shining on everything they’ve done wrong at work, and some may become anxious as they anticipate getting passed over for a raise or promotion. Employers do not enjoy the tedium of meeting with every employee or using complex formulas to compute wage increases. Performance reviews can seem like a losing battle from both sides of the camp.

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However, there are some ways any employer can foster good will throughout the performance review process. Use the following as guidelines for managing your performance reviews this year.

Set the groundwork

Before launching into performance review season, take the time to review your performance evaluation form. Does it lend itself to clear and fair reviews, given all the different job types in your organization? If you had to use the form to accurately rate yourself, could you? If not, now may be the time to work with human resources to design a new instrument that’s clear, focused on major areas of a standard job, and uses a simple 5-point rating system.

(By the way, if you don’t have a standardized performance evaluation form, now is definitely the time to create one.)

Demonstrate respect during performance reviews

When Harvard Business Review and Tony Schwartz published the results of a study of 20,000 employees worldwide, they found that employees’ biggest pet peeve was not getting respect from their bosses. According to the study, when management treated employees with respect, 92 percent experienced greater focus and prioritization, 89 percent were more satisfied overall, and 55 percent were more engaged in the company. Therefore, be respectful when addressing employees during the performance review, which includes giving employees the opportunity to share what they think will help them to perform better.

Avoid linking reviews with wage increases

While it may seem natural for performance reviews to be connected with raises each year, don’t link the two together in the same sentence. Make it a practice to issue wage increases at least 30 to 60 days before or after the performance review period. This removes much of the stress associated with conducting reviews, and it gives employees time to approach you about wage negotiations before everything is set in stone, which is more productive (and again less stressful) for both parties.

Involve front-line managers in the performance review process

It’s critical that direct supervisors handle performance reviews, rather than department or division heads. Why? Front-line managers are in the best position to know how well performance is going in relation to the challenges of each role.

For the most accurate information, combine data from self-reviews, management and peer reports, and front-time managers.

Remember, conducting performance reviews doesn’t have to be a negative activity. Rather, they need to be part of improving processes and the earnings potential of both employees and the organization.


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