Making the Most of Annual Performance Reviews

Some managers view performance reviews as a dreadfully time-consuming policy enforced by HR, while others value it as a time for their employees to give transparent feedback.  Like them or not, performance reviews are a vital part of an employee’s progression in your company.  Here are some tips to help you make the most of your annual performance reviews:

  1. Come in prepared.

Lacking preparation is a sure way to fail a performance review.  Your employees will pick up on the fact that you’re winging it, and they likely won’t value your feedback as genuine or thought-out.  Instead, establish an agenda beforehand and personalize each appraisal with the employee’s personality and their relationship with you. Also, consider the rebuttals that you’ll likely hear from them and devise how you’ll phrase the response.

  1. Choose the right environment.

Schedule your performance reviews in a location that is private and allows for confidential and discrete discussion.  Be aware of your proximity to the employee as well, as it’s better to sit adjacent to them at a small table than it would be to talk across a long conference room table.  This will help to improve the flow of conversation and make it more personable.

  1. Begin with the agenda.

Start off the discussion by laying out exactly how the appraisal is structured.  This will help the employee know what to expect from the review, so they won’t be caught off-guard by any conversation topics.

  1. Be genuine.

Your employees know you; your personality, the way you present yourself in certain situations, and the little idiosyncrasies that shape you as a person. So be yourself- they’ll respect that.  This will help you be positive without seeming artificial, while also being disciplinary without seeming defensive.  Most of all, active listening is vital in these situations, so you can be constructive with your feedback.

  1. Focus on goal setting.

Many managers want to focus on an employee’s past performance so extensively that they’ll forget the main purpose of the appraisal – to always be improving and growing within their career.  Set out to establish goals for your employees that are reasonable and relevant and will help them reach the next position in their job.

  1. Encourage open discussion.

If you do all the talking, the appraisal becomes more of a lecture than an honest discussion.  Don’t let your employees leave the meeting feeling like they were treated unjustly and weren’t given the time to speak their minds.  Employees need to be motivated to make an impact in your company, but they won’t reach that level unless their voices are heard.  Ask them open-ended questions like, “what do you want to achieve for the company this year?” and be cognizant of any vague feedback you receive.

  1. Balance praise and criticism.

This is a time to recognize your employee for their outstanding performance while also pointing out where they need improvement.  However, a steady balance is needed so the employee walks away feeling valued.  The last thing you want is to lose a top employee to competition because you focused on too many of their negatives. By the same token, don’t let a subpar employee feel like they’re doing everything perfectly, because then they won’t have an incentive to change their detrimental behaviors.

  1. End on the same page.

Always try to end a performance review with the feeling that you have a complete understanding of an employee’s achievements and failures, their future goals, and how they plan to get there.  Similarly, your employee needs to feel a sense of understanding exactly how they can reach the goals in your feedback.  So, ask the question, “What can I do to help you as a manager?” This way you’ll make sure that nothing is left on the table.