Annual performance reviews are an interesting phenomenon. In general, each party involved is less than thrilled to participate in the process. Managers feel like it’s a waste of time. Employees are wondering if they are going to get rated poorly. And HR, we feel like we’re herding cats by pushing both parties together. I have a few tips for annual performance reviews to help everyone get the most from them.

It’s not a time for surprises. If managers are holding the bad news to let it all out at once, it will not have the intended effect of improving performance. It’s going to make the employee feel hurt and betrayed because it was kept from them for so long.

Take out the “annual” part. It might surprise you, but managers need to be talking to their people more than once a year about their performance. They should be getting feedback on a daily basis on how their work is going. If the “daily” part sounds like a lot of work, you’re overthinking it. Take thirty seconds to tell someone thanks for finishing the report. Give them a pat on the back for finding that software bug. Send them an email telling them about one specific thing they do well that you are thankful for.

Offer (gentle) critical feedback. Everyone screws up at some point. At that juncture it’s the manager’s role to offer critical feedback (if necessary) to correct the issue. It doesn’t have to be (and should not be) confrontational, dishonest, or mean-spirited. It should be timely, to the point, and related to the specific performance issue.

A true story

Educators have a performance review system that is about as jacked up as you could possibly imagine. In some schools, the teacher gets a note on the last day of school telling them they are fired and will not have a job in the coming school year. Can you imagine working for ten months straight, thinking you are doing a great job, and suddenly finding out that your boss disliked your performance all along but never notified you until it was too late to fix the problem? I have a teacher friend who told me that their principal once said to them “Do better, or else” without offering a single piece of feedback on performance or a suggestion for improvement.

This disconnect certainly doesn’t apply only to schools (as you will see in later posts in this series), but it makes my blood boil to know that good teachers aren’t getting recognized for solid performance any more than mediocre teachers are being counseled for poor performance. Reviews are a tool to help bring people together and to facilitate communication.

sonar 6 angry birdsAt Sonar6, we love performance reviews (obviously) and we love any sort of discussion on the topic. So we’re proud to help bring you this series of posts from upstartHR. They’re very nearly as cool as our award winning color paper series.

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