• Nyree Fiddes: Principal - The Fiddes Group

How to Conduct a Great Performance Review

Managing people and providing feedback to them about their performance on a regular basis is critical to the success of every business. Conducting effective performance reviews enables you to discuss openly how well each person is doing in your team, while at the same time demonstrating to the people you manage that you are aware of their skills and knowledge and their actual job capability.

Lots of employees and managers alike dread doing performance reviews. Here are some of the myths or reasons why…

The Myths

It’s all about the paperwork. HR just wants a piece of paper to put on their file. Performance reviews only matter if you’re permanent. Doesn’t matter what I say or do, my manager has already made up their mind about me. Doesn’t matter what I say or do, my staff member won’t accept the feedback I can offer to help them do their job better. I’ve been here longer than you: you can’t tell me how to do my job! It’s all talk and promises, but the training and development never happens. Who cares if I’m performing or not, it’s not going to make me a millionaire.

But this is the reality…

No one really likes doing performance reviews, but its part of business life. The simple act of sitting down twice a year with your people makes them feel good about themselves, good about you as a manager and good about the company they work for.

So: how can we make this easier? Well, here are The Fiddes Group's top tips for performance reviews.

Employees: Preparing for the Review

  • Preparation is crucial for any meaningful meeting. Be honest with yourself about your performance over the past 6 months when you are completing your self-assessment. Highlight your successes as well as areas where you would like to grow & develop. This is a great time to mention any career aspirations or goals.

  • Wait 24 hours, then re-read your self-assessment to ensure you have addressed all the key areas. Then give it to your manager.

Employees: Participating in Performance Review Meeting

  • Go into the meeting prepared for a 2-way discussion. If you have been honest with yourself about your performance over the past 6 months, noting your successes as well as development opportunities then nothing that comes up should be a surprise.

  • Actively listen to the feedback you are being given, if you are not sure about a specific issue then ask considered questions to better understand the feedback.

  • You may want to make notes of growth or development areas and suggestions on training. Try not to avoid discussing an issue because it makes you uncomfortable. The only way to become comfortable with it will be through resolution.

Managers: Preparing for the Review

  • Preparation is crucial for any meaningful meeting. Read your staff members self-assessment before you write your review.

  • Write your review for your staff members. Wait 24 hours, then re-read your reviews to ensure you have addressed all the key areas and your feedback is fair, considered, relevant and quantifiable.

  • If you’re not sure about a comment you’ve made, run it past your manager.

  • Schedule the Performance Review meeting and arrange to hold it in as private a place as possible.

  • Never give your staff member the review you’ve written and ask them to “just sign it and give it back”. It is a worthless exercise which diminishes you as a manager and as an individual.

Managers: Participating in Performance Review Meeting

  • Go into the meeting prepared for a 2-way discussion. If you have been honest with yourself about your staff members performance over the past 6 months, noting their successes as well as development opportunities then nothing that comes up should be a surprise.

  • Make sure you are honest with yourself about your management of them: have you been the best manager? Did you ‘drop the ball’ at all? We are all fallible. The problems come when we think we are not.

  • Actively listen to your staff’s feedback on your evaluation of their performance, if you are not sure about a specific issue then ask considered questions to better understand their point of view.

  • You may want to make notes of growth or development areas and suggestions on training. Try not to avoid discussing an issue because it makes you uncomfortable. The only way to become comfortable with it will be through finding the solution.

  • Be aware of attempts to evade questions, and probe deeper if required or ask questions again if you don’t get an answer.

  • Pay careful attention to your staff member’s body language and facial expressions. Some people find performance reviews difficult or confronting and can respond emotionally to feedback. So take your time. Pause for a few moments if someone is upset. Remind your staff member of the positives they have achieved, and then gently discuss how to make any improvements required. Remember to be kind and considerate of your staff member’s feelings.

Tips for Success

  • It’s not about the paperwork. It’s actually about the discussion.

  • It’s about retaining your key talent. Let you staff know how they are doing…don’t we all want to know that?

  • Be nice. Use nonverbal gestures like smiling, leaning forward, and nodding your head to make your staff member feel comfortable. The more comfortable they are, the better it will go.

  • There’s no point telling someone they’re great when they are not. All you are doing is creating more work for yourself. Your staff member won’t understand what the issues are when you do eventually have to “performance manage” them, because you’ve told them up till then that ‘everything was fine’.

  • Take notes. After several review meetings, it's easy to get people mixed up. Make sure you write notes on any changes to the review or training you have agreed to.

  • If your assessment of your staff member comes as a shock to them…then you haven’t been doing your job of managing your people very well.

  • Keep it professional, keep it relevant and keep it quantifiable.

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