Performance Review Best Practices Part II: Using Mock-Reviews
(2 minute read)
The worst thing you ever want to hear in a difficult performance review is, "well, I never knew that was so important to you."
One of the biggest problems with performance reviews is that, too often, employees don't discover what their evaluation criteria is until the are sitting face to face and looking at below average scores. Of course they're frustrated with the performance review process. Growing consensus amongst leaders is that performance reviews must be part of an ongoing conversation.
Here's a performance review best practice that I picked up in the Marine Corps, and it proved an effective way to drive a performance driven culture in my platoon.
What do I mean by employ mock-reviews? Take into consideration how often you perform a formal review of your employees. If your employees receive an annual review, then consider inserting a quarterly "mock-review" into your counseling program (This assumes of course that you already have a counseling program in place. If you don't, you're performance review process is probably doing more harm than good).
Employing a mock-review is exactly how it sounds: you are evaluating your employee's performance on a quarterly basis against the same criteria and standards to which they will be held on their official review. Of course, it is an unofficial record that bears no weight in an employee's compensation or promotability (you probably shouldn't share it with anyone else but the employee for that matter), but the important part is that the employee is getting a clear shapshot of the employer's expectations, and where they fall at that given time.
Tell Employees How to Increase Their Score
It's one thing to say, "Susie, if I were to evaluate you today on your Professionalism, you would have a 3 out of 5." It's another thing to say, "Susie, today I would rank you a 3 in Professionalism, but if you would like to improve to 4 when we do your official annual review in six months, I will have to see and improvement in X, Y, and Z."
By giving Susie, in this case, clear, measurable, and attainable criteria for improvement, the supervisor has given her the power to improve her score. If Susie takes advantage of the feedback, she gets a better review and the company gets a more professional employee. Should she not meet the goals specified, then she's dug her own grave. Employee's don't hate managers that hold them to a standard. They hate managers that never communicate the standard, and hold them to a seemingly arbitrary expectation at a time when they have the most to lose.
Ultimately, performance review best practices will always entail buidling a process for setting and communicating clear expectations of an employee, and building a counseling rhythm that echoes those expectations over and over again. You can only inspect what you expect, and building the processes to effectively communicate to employees the employer's expectations will always be a good investment of company time.