SPOILER ALERT – there is a way to conduct simple mid year performance reviews.
It’s that time of the work year again – performance review time!
For most, it’s the mid-year touch point. But if your company operates on a July through June fiscal cycle, it is time for a full year performance discussion instead.
Either way, as a leader you know that all performance discussions are important.
It is important to the individual receiving the feedback, to you as the manager providing the feedback, and to the organization to have an ongoing record of how employees contribute on the job.
But we also know that despite the well intentions of performance review processes, they can easily become way too complex, feel punitive rather than supportive, and be an administrative nightmare.
You’re probably nodding your head vigorously right now.
Trust me, I know.
Focus On The Discussion, Not The Process.
As a person who has designed and redesigned over 50 performance review processes for organizations with 10 to 100K+ employees, I’ve experienced all kinds.
Even some organizations that eliminated formal performance reviews altogether after questioning the return on the investment of time and energy for managers and employees alike.
I could debate the pros and cons of performance reviews forever. But I’ll save that for another time and post.
In my 25+ years career helping people thrive in organizations, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work. And I’d like to share a few tips in the hope that you can use one or more to improve your future performance conversations.
Because as a leader, you are uniquely positioned to have performance discussions with those that report to you, as well as be on the receiving end of performance feedback from your own boss and your team.
The performance discussion tips I offer below are system agnostic.
In other words, it shouldn’t matter whether your company’s performance review process is supported by a technology system (ie. WorkDay, SAP, PeopleSoft), is homegrown or you use pen and paper.
Simplify How To Conduct Mid Year Performance Reviews.
Let’s break it down into best practices before, during and after the performance discussion.
And note that although technically it is a review process because it requires several steps, the most important part of the process is the “discussion”. The two-way dialogue between you and the employee, which should be fair, direct, and transparent.
It is human nature to desire to “belong” and to want to be held in high regard.
Which is why performance discussions are such high stakes.
The employee feels like they’re being put under a microscope and can be unnerving even when they know they bring their ‘A game’ to work every day.
So as a general rule, it is important to prepare for the dialogue. To be very clear about your intended messaging. And to always check for understanding and impact throughout the conversation.
Ok. Let’s get started.
Before The Performance Discussion.
1.Always prepare for the performance discussion.
2.Give your employees at least 2 weeks advance notice so they have time to prepare also. Put a calendar appointment on the books for at least 45-60 minutes.
3.Ask your team member to send you the answers to 4 questions at least 1 week before the performance discussion:
- What is working?
- What is not working?
- What needs to change going forward (including new or adjusted goals)?
- What do they need from you (as their manager) to perform their job well?
Note: If your organization has a separate self-evaluation template, your employees should feel free to use the same responses to answer the above 4 questions. Their responses to the above questions can supplement, rather than replace, any other company required documents.
4.You should complete the 4 questions for each employee too and have them as notes during the scheduled discussion.
5.Review your employee’s responses before your scheduled time together.
During the Performance Discussion.
6.When possible, performance discussions should be held in person. If remote, be sure to use a video call. Reading non verbal cues will add to the meaning of the conversation.
7.If in person, either use a private and neutral room (not your office). If your office is the only available option, ensure that you do not conduct the conversation with a desk between you. You want to connect with your team member during this time. Your office reinforces the power differential, particularly if you are sitting behind your desk.
8.Stick to the facts (rather than emotions or subjective assessments) as much as possible – include progress towards goals, status of project deliverables, metrics, customer feedback; the more tangible data available to support the discussion, the better.
9.Make eye contact when giving positive and constructive feedback (even though you have your notes, try not to use them to distraction) to assess whether the employee is listening and understanding your comments. Also check in and ask whether they understand or have questions.
10.Avoid taking notes during the conversation too. Not only is it distracting, but it leaves the employee with the impression that your priority is the process rather than them. And the employee should definitely be the priority.
11.Always start with positive feedback first, followed by constructive feedback if any. (Hint: Even high performers have room for improvement. After all, no one is perfect or does their job perfectly. So, don’t shy away from giving constructive feedback.)
12.Your feedback should focus on both the “what” and the “how” since both are relevant in performance. For example, if Jenny hit her sales goal (the “what”) but received complaints on borderline ethical behavior (the “how”), both aspects of her performance need to be acknowledged.
13.Thank your team member for their contributions and for being a part of the team. Verbalize your appreciation for all the work they do for you, the team, and the company every day.
14.Ask your team member for feedback on you – what’s working, not working, and/or should be different going forward. (Yes, this takes courage and vulnerability on your part – but it’s no different than what your team member is going through themselves as part of the conversation.)
After The Performance Discussion.
15.If either you or your employee made specific commitments or agreed to action items during the performance conversation, note it in your calendar and follow up.
16.Document the conversation and feedback provided. In most cases, you shouldn’t have to start from scratch. You can combine your and the employee’s written responses submitted before the scheduled meeting. Then fill in any relevant comments that may have come up during the conversation..
17.In every future 1:1 with your employee, save 5-10 minutes to check in on how things are going in general or to provide real-time feedback. DO NOT HOLD YOUR FEEDBACK UNTIL FORMAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW TIME. Feedback is best and most effective when it is ongoing.
Keep in mind that the performance review is really just a summary conversation which has two primary purposes:
- to let the employee know whether their performance has met expectations and
- to determine what, if anything, about the employee’s performance has to shift to meet business needs.
And although both of those matters should be ongoing conversations throughout the year, the performance review is supposed to be dedicated time to focus and go deeper on both.
Many organizations complicate the performance review process by combining it with other implications such as salary raises, promotions, etc.
This practice unfortunately increases the complexity of the process and turns the focus to the wrong things.
But at the end of the day your employee wants to feel valued and to belong – just like you and me.
This basic fact remains true no matter what performance review process is used or how frequently formal performance discussions occur throughout the year.