Conducting an employee performance review can be a pressure-filled event both for the employee and the manager. Both parties can see it as a referendum on their general job performance – the employee for their role on the team, and the manager as the head of your team or department.
As a manager, you're a leader. No matter how well or poorly your employee performed, it's on you to make the review go as smoothly as possible. By following the steps outlined below, you can ensure that no matter what information is shared during the review, both you and your employee come away from it with a positive outlook for the next performance period.
Do your homework
Before you begin the review, read your employee's review from the last performance period. Be aware of the goals they set and if possible, know whether they achieved them or not. If you're not aware, make a point to ask about this in the review. If you have an employee's personnel file on hand, review this as well so you can soak up any other pertinent information that may come up. You should know how long the employee's been with the company.
Make sure you are familiar with every component of the employee's job responsibilities. Have a comprehensive understanding of what they do so they won't have to waste time explaining it during the review.
Schedule it for an appropriate amount of time
Well in advance of the review date, ask your employee to send you a calendar invite that works for both of your schedules. The sooner you get it on your calendar, the less likely you'll have to postpone due to a scheduling conflict.
Regarding timing, give yourself at least an hour for the review. Any less and your employee may feel overlooked or that you haven't given them the proper amount of time. Any more and you may stray off topic. 60 minutes should be plenty of time to summarize the work they've done, how their work is aligning with your expectations, and what goals and objectives they should be striving for going forward.
Hold it in the right place
As far as your location, you have three main options:
- Your office - If you have an office with a door that shuts, that should suffice.
- A conference room - If your office is an open floor plan, ask your employee to reserve a conference room somewhere in your office. Since it's only two of you, you should be able to reserve one of your company's smaller spaces.
- Somewhere outside the office - For a more relaxed setting, suggest you take your employee to lunch or for coffee to discuss the review. This allows you to maintain a professional demeanor without the stuffiness of an office setting. It may make your employee feel more comfortable, allowing them to open up and speak more frankly than they would in the office.
No matter where you hold the review, there are two key components you should look for in a location:
- Privacy. Your employee will no doubt want to keep the details of the review confidential. Even if they don't, you shouldn't allow their business to become the business of everyone in the office.
- Your employee's comfort. Provide options to the employee and let them decide. Performance reviews can be nerve-wracking experiences, so letting them pick the location should put them at ease.
Provide constructive feedback
A review is a perfect opportunity to provide constructive feedback, whether that takes the form of praise or criticism.
Regarding criticism: be sure to deliver it in a professional manner. No one likes to hear about their weaknesses, but the key is to frame it as an opportunity for improvement. Always focus on how the employee can use the criticism to improve their performance. Emphasize that it is not a personal commentary but strictly an observation meant to help. Encourage them to have a "solutions mindset."
Give acknowledgment for major accomplishments
Delivering positive feedback is a powerful way to reinforce productive habits your employees exhibit. Keep a running tally throughout the performance period of your employee's "wins" and discuss them here. Applaud them for where they have taken ownership of their career. Examples could include:
- Major sales
- New business won as a result of the employees' work or actions
- A key product, deliverable, or project spearheaded or developed by the employee
Mentioning these key wins is a great way to show your team that you're paying attention to their results. You're actively engaged in their career development. Ability to recognize superior achievement goes a long way when employees are evaluating you as a manager and leader.
As a general strategy for career improvement, it helps to recommend that your employees keep track of their own accomplishments to bring up during reviews.
What to consider when evaluating the employee's progress
As you consider the employee's performance, several factors should inform your decision:
- Consistency. Did the employee exceed expectations at a consistent level? Were they able to maintain a strong performance level over the entire review period? Did their performance ever dip, and if so, why?
- Progress in relation to their stated goals. If the employee was there for the previous review period, they should have previously defined goals. Were they able to achieve everything they set out to? If not, what obstacles stood in their way?
- External factors. No employee works in a vacuum. What were some possible factors outside the employee's control that could have factored into their performance?
- Acknowledge your role. Did your leadership or management abilities put the employee in the best possible position to perform their role? What could you have done differently? Pose this question to your employee and insist on complete honesty. It will help both of you improve in your roles.
Help them set reasonable goals for the next performance review period
Once you've evaluated the employee's performance and how well they achieved their goals, you're now ready to set expectations for the next review period. Help them set realistic but optimistic goals that align with their work stream and capabilities. Give them a road map for completing their goals and ask if you can check in at a time that's convenient for them to see if you can help with their progress.
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