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Why Bother With Performance Evaluations?

I’ve never met anyone who gets excited about the prospects of a performance review. The exception might be where an employee feels confident that they are a star worker. But one reason why these reviews get a bad rap is because of the way they are conducted or whether they and meaningful or meaningless.

I offer two important principles:

No organization should conduct performance reviews if they have no meaningful outcome.

No employee should ever be surprised by anything that is discussed in a review meeting.

Too many managers conduct an annual formal review because they are instructed to do so. Either they don’t think through how the process can be helpful, or, at worst, use it to “play gotcha” and call out bad behavior.

A useful review should be used to review progress against previously established goals and to reset goals for the future. A poorly done review isn’t about goals but behaviors and work habits. The truth is that anytime a worker is falling behind their work, or has poor work habits, there needs to be an intervention and an improvement plan well before a formal review. In those instances, the review meeting can be used to discuss if the goal to improve behavior has been achieved.

Don’t use this meeting to discuss compensation. Schedule another session if the subject comes up. This is a time for goal setting.

Here are some tips to think about BEFORE meeting with your employee:

  • What were the employee’s goals for the previous period since the last reviews?
  • Were the goals met?
  • What unique role did the employee play in achieving these goals?
  • Were there any problems along the way?

DURING the meeting, ask your employee those same questions. Let them talk first. You will learn a lot from their response.

Then offer your feedback. Remember to be realistic and encouraging.

Finally, discuss goals for the immediate future.

I like to conclude the meeting by asking if there is anything I can do to help? If you have a good relationship, be prepared for honest feedback.

Even when you need to bring up things that need to be improved, the tone of the conversation needs to focus on improvement and change rather than accusations and negativity.

Following the meeting, I always encourage the manager to commit the highlights of the conversation into a memo. The draft should be shared with the employee. Did he or she hear something different? If there is disagreement, it’s best to work out at this stage. A final memo signed by both parties can be kept on file to be used as the starting point for the next evaluation meeting as well being reviewed at regular one-on-one status meetings

Done correctly, evaluation meetings could shed their bad reputation and foster better understanding and communication.

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