For the past few years, some major companies (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture, PwC) have reported that they are eliminating Performance Reviews for their employees due to the overwhelming time it takes managers to complete them and the fact that, in the end, they are not terribly accurate. While this sounds like a major change in performance management, the fine print of these articles does support that these more formal reviews are being replaced with regularly-scheduled (often quarterly) one on one meetings between employees and their managers. These meetings focus on more immediate feedback, are skewed to positive feedback and identify development opportunities for feedback that supports the need for future assignments and/or performance improvement. These more frequent meetings encourage a collaborative approach between managers and their employees and support an approach in which performance is viewed as a continuous process for employee engagement and commitment.
Regardless of how often you review performance and what form you use, following are some tried and true Do’s and Don’ts that make this process more effective:
Do: Use Effective Language
- Be specific and descriptive with your examples.
- Emphasize words of encouragement.
(E.g. “Your last monthly report was very effective in that you included two-year historical trends for comparison to the current year data.”)
Don’t: Speak in Generalizations
- Avoid words like always and never.
(E.g. “You never include important data in your reports.”)
Do: Focus on Performance
- Frame your feedback of the employee’s performance based on its results and impact.
(E.g. “The training you provided the newest member of our team was not only well organized, but also resulted in him getting up to speed much more quickly in his job.”)
Don’t: Focus on Personality
- Personal characteristics and traits are not up for review; only behaviors.
(E.g. “You are too pushy.”)
Do: Frame Problems as Development Opportunities
- When an employee is not performing to full potential, work with her/him to identify what additional knowledge and skills are
- Identify development opportunities that include cross-training, mentoring, research and both online and classroom training.
(E.g. “What additional knowledge and skills do you feel would best support you in ensuring your optimal performance in this project?” What suggestions do you have for ways to obtain this additional knowledge and training?”)
Don’t: Surprise Employees with New Feedback That They Have Not Heard Throughout the Year
- All feedback should be provided to employees as soon as possible after the observed behaviors.
- If you are surprising your employees with feedback that they have not heard all year, you are breaking a cardinal rule of performance feedback: NO SURPRISES.
(E.g. “Seven months ago, you gave one of you team mates incorrect audit data from which he made inaccurate recommendations.”)
Do: Encourage Employee Input
- Whenever providing coaching and feedback to employees, solicit their feedback initially.
- When completing a mid-year or final review, ask the employee to begin the process with his/her self-assessment of his/her
(E.g. “How would you evaluate your performance on this project? What went well? What didn’t go as well as you had hoped?”)
Don’t: Use Overly Negative Words
- Avoid personality traits.
- Avoid volatile words that can elicit emotional reactions from employees.
(E.g. “Your work is sloppy and you approach it in a very lazy way.”)
Do: Balance Positive and Constructive Feedback
- Be very specific in your positive feedback, in order to reinforce the behavior you want the employee to continue displaying.
- Be very specific in your constructive feedback, to reinforce the behavior that you want the employee to improve upon.
- Constructive feedback is an opportunity for further employee development.
- All feedback should be behaviorally based; not personality based.
- Own all feedback, both positive and constructive.
(E.g. “The bar graphs you added to your monthly report added great clarity to the report narrative.”)
(E.g. “Some of the percentages in your trends report were not accurate. How can you ensure their accuracy going forward?”)
Don’t: Become Defensive or Apologetic
- Never provide in anger.
- Never tell an employee that you are sorry for the feedback, as long as it is accurate.
(E.g. “I wanted to give you a higher rating, but Human Resources told me I couldn’t.”)
In summary, a less formal and more frequent approach to performance reviews may provide a much more positive result for you and for your employees.