There’s only one very important thing left to do before the end of the year. One that is sure to set the tone for the start of your New Year. Yet so many people put it off until the last minute. No, it’s not your new year’s resolution. It’s finalizing your employees’ end of year performance reviews.
Everyone comes to work to do a job, but how often do we get to sit down and talk about what worked, what didn’t and how to make it better? Leaders and managers are often frazzled with the task of cramming 12 months of goals, process improvements and experiences into one review. What’s more stressful is not only having to write the review for each person on your team? Knowing that you will need to address the feedback openly and moreover, face-to-face.
Often what happens is management finds themselves wrapped up in completing projects before the end of the year or setting the stage for next year. As such, the critical first step of the process takes a back seat: formulating the review.
Tips for Writing Performance Reviews
Before you can jump into the performance review process cold, follow these three easy steps to help get you started with the first step, the review itself.
Set Aside Time
This is important. Time is ticking at this point of the year. Everyone is looking forward to the holiday season and the New Year. Start early and schedule time on your calendar to write each review. The last thing you want to do is rush.
Senior leadership has a deadline and so do you, so two weeks before everything needs to be done breakdown your reviews and make it more manageable. One review can easily take an hour to complete and if you have a large staff you don’t want to cut corners and slight anyone on your professional feedback.
Do your Homework
Yes, reviews require homework. Don’t walk into it blind. Read a blank review and fully understand the questions being asked. Map out the goals for your specific department. These are the goals that need to be assessed against the individual and measured. Read previous reviews to give an accurate accounting of an employee’s historical level of progress and performance. Having a good understanding of a person’s performance track record is instrumental in gauging abilities, drive and willingness to stretch to achieve established goals.
Give it a Second Read
Write the review, put it down and re-read it later. This is important for technicality. You want your review to be professionally written and easy to understand. Also, by reading the review again you can add any small details you may have missed. Your objective is to be helpful and thorough.
7 Tips for Conducting a Performance Review
Only after the review is written are you ready to conduct the performance process. For some, this skill is easier than it is for others. And, having the aptitude to conduct a positive and effective review (especially when the remarks are anything but) is truly a skill.
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this isn’t intended to be painful. In fact, the review process is one of the most valuable means to connect with your staff during the year. So take the time to do it right.
Slow & Steady
The cliché is true that “timing is everything”. Don’t rush through the review conversation. Similar to when you were writing the review, schedule enough time for a complete conversation that includes the review and all follow up dialogue. Find a quiet, non-distracting area where your meeting can’t be easily interrupted. This makes all the difference for the reviewer and the reviewee.
Be Firm but Honest
Reviews are not about pointing fingers. They are not interrogations even though they have the stigma attached at times. Reviews are an opportunity to give full transparency on an individual’s performance.
Don’t sugar coat or feel the need to give everyone a perfect score. There is no perfect score. There is always room to develop and grow. Keep the conversation focused on the review materials. This way, the conversation is following a point by point cadence of what was expected and subsequently provided.
Don’t tell your staff, show your staff. If someone hears generic words and sentences with no substance your review loses impact. Provide the individual with specific examples of behaviors that were above exemplary and below exemplary. This makes the review more personal. When a subject becomes personal, people tend to care about the end result and the resolution.
Highlight Gems as often as Opportunities
Strike a balance in the conversation. No one wants to feel like the bad guy in the room. This is one of the best ways to keep it constructive. Draw attention to the positive attributes, as much as the negative. Often, it’s easier to lead with the more negative comments and follow with the more positive comments to give a full picture.
Open the floor up for questions, comments and concerns. Feedback from your staff helps the entire department move forward in a collaborative and constructive way.
If an employee leaves the review shut down, the review is then counterproductive. Likewise, if the employee left the meeting completely indifferent with the conversation, it is equally ineffective. Always show an open posture, tone and dialogue so that the review process is helpful and efficient.
Identify a Plan to Follow Up (and Stick to It)
This is an important one. Some staff members know in the meeting what they want to say. Others need a bit more time to process the conversation and collect their thoughts. Stop by to ask in a day or two if they have any feedback about their review.
Provide Options for Additional Conversation
Open the floor up for a conversation with someone other than you. Different leaders argue over this idea. However, sometimes you don’t feel comfortable talking to your direct manager. Let your staff know this option exists, if they are not comfortable talking to you. There are other people in leadership they can talk to. A Human Resource contact is ideal.
Reviews don’t have to sneak up on you. They don’t have to be painful. With a little time and planning, your reviews are the perfect close to a year of hard work.