It’s that time of year again when most companies ask their managers and employees to embark upon the annual performance review process.  I have been in the HR field for 25 years and have implemented a variety of processes in a few of the companies I worked for.  I have heard all the arguments about getting rid of the performance review process, how it is antiquated, no longer helpful, and doesn’t work.  It is probably one of the most written about management topics.  However, of about 100 large US companies surveyed, 93% of their salaried employees received an annual review.   While I am a believer that something is broken with the current process, it isn’t going away.  And, I am a firm believer that everyone needs, deserves and wants feedback.  Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith summed it up nicely in her late 2012 Forbes piece.

Customer Feedback, Employee Feedback

Any company who has customers or clients gets feedback from customers or clients.  In fact, most companies seek out that feedback rigorously to improve the quality of their products, services, and overall reputation in the marketplace.  Conducting performance reviews for employees is simply no different.  I always find it so interesting when there are so many objections against it.

As a manager, think about your employees as the company, and you are the customer – now let’s get down to the feedback.  Where are they (employees) exceeding expectations and where are they (employees) falling short?  With this as the backdrop, I am convinced that regardless of your company’s process, forms (hard copy, online), rating systems or none, part of compensation review or not, these are the top 3 things that really matter.

Top 3 Things for Success

  1. Have the discussion.  I have been known to tell many managers – use a napkin to jot notes if you must, but whatever you do, have a discussion with the individuals that report to you.  Tell them directly, and honestly how they are doing.  Take the 3 great things they did, and 3 things they can improve upon.  Make sure they know where the company is headed, the department and where they need to focus for the next year.  And finally, repeat this every 6 weeks or more.  With the multi-generational workforce today, some like feedback daily, some not so much.  You need to find the right balance and deliver it through the right mechanisms – the key is more often.
  2. Use a form.  Yes, that’s right use a form.  Even the most talented of managers need a framework to structure the feedback discussion – it just helps.  Use whatever your HR department has provided.  Edit it if you need too – make it work for you and your staff.  In writing is always better  – it just is.  Employees like to reference information, go back to it and review.  As a manager, you simply can’t remember everything about everyone who works for you.  So write it down.  As I mentioned earlier, I am a firm believer in a one-page form with no ratings.  That’s my bias.
  3. Ask how you are doing.  Indeed.  It’s also time to find out what your staff thinks of your managing abilities.  How are you doing?  What can you do better?  How can you help your team improve? How can you get out of their way?  Marshall Goldsmith, the preeminent executive leadership coach, put together a terrific quarterly check-in questionnaire for more senior leadership, but you can customize it to any level.

As you prepare to conduct your performance reviews, think about your customers or clients.  Imagine if they didn’t give you the feedback you requested to improve your product, your services, your ideas?  It would leave you in the dark about what to do next, how to strategize for the future.  That’s how your employees feel when you don’t give them feedback – in the dark.  Your company relies on your customers or clients feedback.  Your employees rely on your feedback. [Tweet “Your company relies on your customers or clients feedback. Your employees rely on your feedback.”]

The Bottom-Line

These are the top 3 things for a successful performance review each and every time. Doing reviews consistently, employees will perform at higher levels and an improved company bottom-line will result.  [Tweet “Doing reviews consistently, employees will perform at higher levels and an improved company bottom-line will result. “]

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As the CEO & Founder of East Tenth Group, Michelle leverages 25 years of business and experience as a strategic advisor and executive coach to help drive actionable people solutions and provide practical insights on business strategy to senior leaders. she and her team and are fiercely committed to the development and growth of people and companies because we believe that when people thrive, business thrives.

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