Three Keys to Conducting Effective Performance Reviews

November 25, 2014

Ongoing communication with employees is a cornerstone of peak performance, but it often falls short when put into practice. Performance reviews provide necessary feedback to staff, but are only effective if done properly, which means:

  • the reviews must be consistently administered;
  • the measured performance objectives must be job-related;
  • and the feedback given must be honest and specific.

To help your evaluations rise to the occasion, focus on these three things:

  1. Frequency. A typical review cycle requires us to remember and regurgitate an entire year’s worth of information at once, which is wrought with pit-falls. The most common of these is a psychological phenomenon known as the “Recency Effect” – a focus on the most recent event, which then becomes the basis for generalizing an entire year. To combat this, consider breaking the review process into bite-sized pieces. Instead of conducting a performance evaluation once a year, it might make sense to hold more frequent sessions with your employees. If you are meeting with your staff on a regular basis, say once per quarter, you don’t have to remember as much. The topics you discuss will be in the forefront of your mind and the feedback will be more timely; allowing for more coaching opportunities with staff.
  2. Process. A second area worth discussing is your current review process. If you are not already doing so, consider adding a self-review element. Allowing employees a chance to evaluate their own performance is a more collaborative approach and splits the responsibility for remembering everything between the two of you. Employees are often times harder on themselves then you would be, so allowing them to participate in this process can help diffuse defensiveness when discussing areas of weakness.
  3. Delivery Mechanism. Is your evaluation form working for you or against you? Rather than creating a multi-page series of objectives and ranking criteria, consider a more conversational approach. Develop 4 to 5 questions that you and your employee can both answer regarding the employee’s performance, behavior and goals. Then meet to share your thoughts and develop future goals and a plan of action based on that conversation. You might ask about:
  • Accomplishments and areas of strength;
  • Weaknesses or areas of concern;
  • Review of previously set goals and reasons/roadblocks for uncompleted tasks;
  • Development of future goals; and
  • Ways in which you can help them be successful.

These are just a few ideas to help you provide timely, relevant feedback to your team.  

Contributed by Jodi Schafer, SPHR, Owner of Human Resource Management Services, LLC.