3 Best Practices for Effective Employee Performance Reviews
If employee performance evaluations are a source of stress for you, fear not—you are not alone. There comes a time in every organization’s evolution where friendship and loyalty are no longer enough to drive employees to their highest potential.
Whether you are part of a new startup looking to put a performance review process in place for the first time, or a seasoned manager seeking to sharpen your feedback loop, here are 3 employee performance review best practice that will instantly improve your delivery and confidence when executing the challenging, but necessary annual performance reviews.
1. Avoid counseling during your performance reviews.
If an employee is learning about a performance deficiency for the first time during their annual performance review, consider that a leadership failure. Too often, leaders side-step the difficult conversations about an employee's sub-par performance or counter-cultural attitude and don't hold
employees accountable for improvement until they are held accountable to do so by the performance review process. Performance reviews are an employee's report card, in most cases tied directly to promotion and compensation opportunities.
Periodic documented counseling sessions, at least once a quarter, provide employees with opportunties to improve performance and change destructive attitudes in measureable ways before impacting their promotability or compensation. Documenting counseling sessions is a way for leaders to 1) Track clearly communicated milestones for ongoing accountability, 2) Build trust and rapport with employees, and 3) Justify remarks in annual performance reviews. They can be leverage when going to bat for an employee's promotion or salary increase, or show due-diligence in the unfortunate scenario that an employee must be let go.
In short, counsel your employees regularly, and the performance reviews will build themselves. Having a solid performance review software is a great way to house records of counsling sessions, but unlike performance reviews, counseling should remain confidential between the counselor and the employee, and never passed from one supervisor to another when that employee comes under new leadership. In the military, we always destroyed our old counseling papers when a Marine joined another unit. They deserve a fresh start, and the official performance reviews should document the necessary parts of one's professional profile.
2. Have a balance of subjective and objective criteria in your review.
Numbers don't tell the whole story, and neither do feelings. Together they come together to paint the most accurate picture of employee performance.
In order to balance the subjective and objective, it helps to grade people on subjective performance attributes, like attitude or professionalism, on an objectively scaled system (1-10), with reinforcing remarks citing specific historical examples where the employee demonstrated poor or superior performance. Both the number score and the anecdotal remarks help paint an accurate picture of employee performance.
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3. Performance reviews must communicate the reviewer's relative value.
An employee may be happy to learn that they scored a 7 out of 10 in professionalism. Their smile may fade, however, when they learn their evaluator's average "professionalism" rating was an 8.5. An employee needs to know not only how they perform as an individual, but where they fit amongst their peers.This helps them build more certainty in their future with regard to career and compensation opportunities within the organization.
This is essential information for upper management to know as well. Each reviewer is going to have a different relative value, so in order for senior management to properly weight the scores of supervisors evaluating similar employees, they must take into account the scoring style of different leaders. One reviewer's "2" might be another's "4".
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