Many managers, understandably, may feel anxious about conducting performance reviews. While they may be challenging for some supervisors, these discussions are valuable for strengthening bonds with top performers and getting underperforming employees back on track.
The following five steps can help managers ensure the reviews they conduct are positive and productive for all:
1. Ask for input. Employees often feel they lack influence over their evaluation, and many fear being surprised by negative feedback. Prior to the meeting, ask staff for input, including on whether they think their performance goals were met, their key accomplishments and how they can improve.
If there are significant discrepancies between your assessment and the employee’s, these are areas that can benefit from discussion. Requesting feedback on the front end also helps ensure you’ve considered all relevant information, especially details the employee believes are notable.
2. Don’t rush. Allocate adequate time to reflect on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and factor in his or her input. As managers know, it’s easy to overlook an individual’s accomplishments made earlier in the review period. You can avoid this pitfall and make evaluations easier by creating an informal record of significant performance-related events as they occur.
3. Focus on specifics. When it’s necessary to highlight an employee’s shortcomings, use specific examples. For instance, rather than saying, “You seem to lack initiative lately,” consider: “There’s been an increase in service-related complaints from your clients.” Also, avoid generalizing (e.g., “You never follow up with clients in a timely manner.”) Keep the focus on factual details that can help employees improve specific aspects of their performance.
4.Tailor feedback to the individual.Adapt your evaluation style to the personalities of individual staff members. For example, highly confident top performers may be more motivated by being tasked with an important new assignment. On the other hand, less confident staff members could be energized by praise and reassurance. Don’t avoid offering constructive criticism to more sensitive employees, but balance negative feedback with positive comments.
5. Seek solutions.Appraisals are intended to reinforce strong performance and correct problems that arise. With this in mind, be receptive to doing whatever is necessary, within reason, to help employees improve. For instance, if a staff accountant needs to strengthen his soft skills, offer mentoring or additional training in this area.
Use the appraisal to really tap into the needs, concerns and aspirations of your team. Take steps to retain key staff members by reminding them how valued they are and discussing their career potential within your firm.
Although staff evaluations can sometimes seem like an extra administrative burden for managers, keep in mind that the amount of time and effort invested in the process can pay big dividends in the form of improved performance and better relationships with team members.