Instead of approaching this task as a chore or an obligation, let's begin by changing your mindset! This is an OPPORTUNITY to thank your team for making you look good all year! It's a chance to make them feel appreciated and cared for, which ultimately serves to motivate them and make them more loyal, productive members of your team. If you succeed at motivating your employees, a little time spent can propel your team to the next level… thus making you look even better! Using Helen Keller quote below, is a great way to begin thinking about this process.
Performance reviews are the time to motivate your high performers and encourage your average people to do better. Low level performers should be dealt with throughout the year. Performance issues need to be dealt with as they happen.
Do your homework. This member of your team has been waiting all year, do not take this process lightly. Ideally, you have been journaling about your team's highs and lows throughout the year. I do this using the notes feature in MS Outlook. It's a quick and easy way to keep track. Each member of my team has a bunch of notes that I convert at year end to a document. I use this document to include real examples of their performance. This practice has meant more meaningful exchanges between us.
Real examples give your conversation credibility.
Don't forget to review your remarks from last year. Did they meet their goals? If not, what prevented them from achieving them? Was it something you put on their plate that stopped them from getting there? This is an important factor in this conversation.
Part of your homework is to speak with others who interact with this person. Other managers, peers and in some instances, customers… if you can get 360 degree feedback, this will also add credibility to your conversation. Whether the news is good or mediocre, real information is far better than the old, "good job this year". If there is a difference in how different people see this employee, that can be a point of exploration during your performance discussion.
Be aware of your own biases. Have you had issues with this employee before? Do not carry negative feelings forward. Do you believe certain employees are more important than others? Of course, some may have more inherent value than others, but be sure you are fairly assessing each, based on the requirements of their job. Be sure you are being objective.
Think about THIS employee; What are their career goals? How can you, keeping in mind your company and departmental goals, help him/her achieve these goals? Has this employee has been overworked. Have they been given the opportunity to work to their potential? Have they been proactive and taken on any additional assignments? OR; have they just gotten by, meeting only the most basic requirements of their job? If it's the latter, hopefully you have spoken to them during the course of the year. Remember, it's never good to for someone to hear negatives for the first time when they are anchored to their raise and bonus. Performance should be an ongoing conversation throughout the year. Surprises are a bad thing at year end!
Here are easy steps to get performance reviews right.
1. Begin with updating the employee's job description. I email each person a copy of their job description prior to our meeting and ask them to make any necessary edits. This serves you in two ways; you always have it on hand for reference and it makes sure you are aware of any additional tasks/responsibilities the employee has taken on. Reaching out and getting information from your employee prior to sitting down helps you get a broader focus… you will see things from their perspective BEFORE you sit down. I like to give the employee at least one week to complete their prep for our meeting. Your meeting should be scheduled at this time and ideally the conversation should last at least one-half hour to one full-hour of uninterrupted time.
2. Ask the employee which 3 things the employee likes best about their job and which 3 areas related their job, the department or the company could use improvement. On the items they list for improvement, listen to their ideas on how to improve… if you are unable to use their ideas, discuss why with them. This allows for a good dialogue between you and your employee. It's important to understand both the motivators and de-motivators for each employee (and it can be different for each person). When you care enough about the employee to ask the right questions, you eventually develop a trusting relationship; a key attribute of good working rapport.
3. I always ask the employee if they are getting enough support. Is there anything I can be doing that would help them succeed? Do they have enough resources? If the answer is NO, make sure you get specific ideas on how this can change. When you ask questions during this conversation, they should be open ended to encourage further conversation.
4. I also ask for some goals. Goals should be related to the mission of the company, be appropriate for this employee and they also should be very specific. This is a collaborative process where you should include the input of the employee with your recommendations. S.M.A.R.T. goals are a good way to go. That is SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RESULTS-FOCUSED and TIME BOUND goals. When your goals are S.M.A.R.T. it is easy to discuss the progress toward and achievement of these goals. I use a goal setting sheet that discusses why the goal is in play, how life improves when the goal is achieved (it may be a benefit to the employee or to the company) and what obstacles we think may arise. Generally, in my group, each person gets 2-4 goals for the coming year. This process ensures that both of your expectations are addressed. This is also the time to discuss any formal training initiatives you may have planned.
5. At the end of the meeting, get buy-in. Many managers preach AT the employee rather than speak WITH the employee. That is a bad dynamic and it is not likely that the employee will feel motivated in the end. Your goal should be to come out with a job description and goals for the coming period that you both agree on. Does this work for you? With the changes we've made, is this description reasonable?
Buy-in is important! If you take the preach approach, the employee is not engaged and they have not agreed to the reasonableness of your assessment. Both parties need to agree if you want this process to be a success.
6. Finally, Thank them for their work. Appreciation is important! Employees leave their managers, not their companies. It is frequently the bad manager, the lack of opportunity for growth and development that pushes employees out the door. Remember, you couldn't do what you do without them and THEY NEED TO HEAR IT (they don't just know).
Managers, respect does not automatically come because you have a title. You need to show your people that you care about them and their aspirations. When you don't provide meaningful feedback, you wind up having employees that do not respect you, because in their minds, you don't respect them to engage. You are not aware of their accomplishments or their talents and when that happens, often, employees will take their talents elsewhere.
Use real examples of behaviors to ensure a clear understanding of your observations and have the guts to be honest. If you have been doing your job all year, this conversation will be a good one. Retain your top talent and move your team forward by taking performance reviews seriously, preparing in advance and giving your people the appreciation they deserve.