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14 Practical Tips for Performance Review Time

What if performance reviews could engage team members to be their best? Here are practical strategies to make performance reviews more positive!

It’s that time again- performance review time. Whether you are a manager or employee, this time of year likely does not bring overwhelming feelings of joy. In many cases, it may seem like an inconvenience or even a waste of time.

But what if performance reviews could produce a great conversation that engages team members to be their best?

This article outlines practical strategies to help turn the stress-inducing performance review into a constructive, positive experience. 

Tips for Managers

Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations is one of the most important components of an effective performance review. If expectations are not set, how will your employee’s performance be measured? How will you or the employee know whether they are underperforming or exceeding expectations?

Ideally, expectations should be set at the beginning of the performance review cycle to ensure your employees know exactly what is expected from them and how it is measured throughout the cycle. Clearly defining and documenting performance objectives throughout the year ensures accountability between managers and employees.

Effectively Document Feedback

Whether on a notepad, Excel spreadsheet, or an online performance management system, documenting feedback throughout the review cycle is vital to the review process. Keeping an organized log of feedback makes review time much easier for you and your employees.

If you haven’t been documenting notes throughout the year, take time to do this now. Intentionally write down as many things as you can remember about your employee’s performance, workplace behaviors, and important conversations/comments from the past several months. Having these items written down before you give your feedback will show your employee you truly care, and it will give you more tools to coach them effectively.

Frequent Check-Ins

Remember that chat you had in the hall with your employee back in February? Chances are, you probably don’t. Though these conversations may seem insignificant, the culmination of these side conversations can be extremely helpful to reference when coaching your employees.

When it comes to check-ins, the intention is key. Some managers do not see the point in a formal check-in process because they communicate with their employees every morning.  While this is a great way to stay in the loop of day-to-day operations, it is not effective for long-term employee development. Through intentional questions and documenting these check-ins/one-on-ones gradually, you can create an open, transparent dialogue that moves beyond your daily “hallway” or Slack conversations into real coaching and development opportunities. 

Multi-Rater Feedback

Oftentimes, managers have an unintentional siloed, one-dimensional perspective on employees. Even though you work around them and frequently check in, there are many experiences your employees have that you as their manager do not directly see. However, others who are inside and outside the organization engage in unique interactions with your direct reports. Through the use of 360° feedback, or multi-rater feedback, these interactions provide greater insights beyond the scope of your individual perspective.

If your organization does not utilize 360° Feedback, you might consider implementing a process that allows you to send and receive feedback throughout the organization. By asking for feedback, you gain a more holistic view of your employees. Feedback from co-workers or clients gives you insight into their true character and performance that may go unnoticed by you. This knowledge can be beneficial when preparing to coach and evaluate your team members.

Evaluate Your Own Performance as a Manager

Spend some time reflecting on how well you think you have done managing your employees over the recent review cycle. Is there room for improvement? What can you do to ensure your employees are staying engaged?

Managers have the greatest influence over whether or not organizations thrive. It should come as no surprise that there is a direct link between the engagement of your employees and the type of relationship they have with you. While you are not their only source of high engagement, 70% of the time you are their greatest success factor. 

Gaining the will of your team is critical. As you reflect on your performance as a manager think about specific ways you can gain this mutual trust, such as a one-on-one lunch or public recognition of a job well done. You will be pleasantly surprised at how candid employees will be when they deeply trust you.

Facilitating Effective Meetings

The secret to effective meetings is a solid framework that guides the conversation. An hour or two is a short time to discuss an entire year’s worth of performance.

Having an effective meeting structure is essential for maximizing your time spent during the review session. Utilize an agenda that organizes the discussion while prioritizing the most important topics. Although every job and organization is different, we believe that effective meetings consist of three main transferable components:

  1. Prepare ahead of time
  2. Have a manual or digital way to document and drives the discussion
  3. Do not forget the context (in this case it would be the performance review)

The third point is a simple reminder that the review conversation should be just that: a conversation. It is not meant to be used as a way to solve all the organization’s problems but rather as an open dialogue for the employee’s ultimate benefit. 

Give Constructive Feedback

This may seem like a given, but it can be difficult to give an employee honest feedback that is not positive. You may worry your comments will upset them and, sometimes, it does. However, if you have given frequent feedback and recognition throughout the year, your crucial conversation will be better received.  It’s false to assume that employees only want positive feedback! People want to know where they stand and receive coaching on how they can be better.  

Providing constructive feedback is the best way to coach your employees. Although the conversation can be difficult, these crucial conversations help grow and develop your team members in the long term.  Just make sure the feedback is balanced and frequent.

Set New Goals and Expectations

After you complete your evaluation of past performance, it’s important to discuss what’s next. Most of your performance management conversations should focus on how a team member can continue to grow and maximize their value to the organization. You should work to understand their strengths if you do not already and help team members figure out how they can best apply their strengths in their role.  

Your organization’s goals and priorities are likely to change.  This may mean your team member’s goals should change as well.  A manager’s role is to make sure their team members are aligned with the most current and pressing priorities.  

After new goals have been set, you should revisit these goals on a frequent basis. It is not helpful to set goals only to look at them 12 months later. We have a great article about coaching on personal goals where we go into more detail on this topic. 

Tips for Employees

Record Your Wins 

No matter how big or small an accomplishment may seem, it is important to keep a running list of all of your wins. Not only will these serve as useful talking points with your manager, but they will also serve as intrinsic motivators.

We have all had a bad week where we felt like we did not accomplish anything and did not do our best. Weeks like this inevitably will happen, but remembering the things that have gone right can keep you focused on achieving the results you know you are capable of obtaining.

Monitor Day-To-Day Activity Changes

Does your day-to-day look completely different from what it looked like several months ago? Even if your daily job functions are the same, it is not a bad idea to reflect on how your role has evolved over the past year. 

Keeping these changes in the back of your mind will be helpful when entering the review conversation. Your manager may not always notice how your role has changed. The progression of these changes can serve as great talking points, especially when discussing topics around compensation and merit increases.

Share Personal Goals and Vision

There are certainly some of us who are workaholics and live at the office 24/7, but most people have hobbies and activities they enjoy doing outside of work. Just because your manager is your boss does not mean you cannot share your personal goals. and vision with them. Hopefully, you have the type of relationship where you feel comfortable sharing these things. 

By sharing your personal goals with your manager, you show you are motivated and passionate about pursuing something outside of the work environment. This not only serves as an intrinsic motivation for yourself but can also build camaraderie between you and your manager. Chances are your manager cares more about your personal development than you think!

Frequently Check In

Make a conscious effort to check in with your manager throughout the year. If you read the earlier Manager portion of this article, you know that a good manager will be checking in frequently with you as well. However, taking initiative as the employee to reach out first shows that coaching and development are a priority for you.  This frequent communication also serves as an effective feedback loop to ensure you are meeting expectations throughout the year.

Not only will this help your manager, but it will give you clarity as to what your priorities are and insight into how well you are performing. This will keep you from wondering how you are doing and allow you to be laser-focused on accomplishing your objectives.

When you check in, you might consider addressing these three questions:

  1.  What were your accomplishments since you last checked in?
  2. What are your current key priorities?
  3. How can your manager best help you?

Be Coachable

Very few people enter into a role as a true expert and chances are you will mess up far more times than you can imagine. Showing that you are coachable starts with how you handle your mistakes. When you make a mistake don’t sulk and make excuses for why there was a negative outcome, but rather take this opportunity to show how coachable you are to your manager.

When it comes to review time, think of your manager as a coach rather than your boss. When you receive feedback you may view as negative, try not to get defensive but rather acknowledge that there are areas you can improve and ask questions on how you can achieve better results. This not only shows your manager how coachable you are but will also show them that you are committed to further developing yourself.

Be Prepared

When heading into your performance review the worst thing you can do is to not be prepared. When your manager asks you how you think you have performed this year don’t give them a blank stare. Show that you have prepared for your review by arriving prepared with notes, talking points, and questions.

At the appropriate time in the review, highlight your wins and have an update on your personal and professional vision and goals. Coming prepared will make your manager much more likely to trust you with greater responsibilities.

Whether you are a manager or an employee, utilizing these strategies will help turn your performance review into a constructive experience. We all want to be engaged where we work and work with others who are engaged as well. Both employees and managers are responsible for making this happen.

If you are looking for a better way to manage your performance reviews, our team would be happy to walk through a tour of the WorkDove software with you and show how easy it is to create and facilitate performance reviews. Request your free live demo today!

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