The performance review is a necessary part of most jobs. It is a valuable way to keep track of how an employee progresses; to take stock of their successes, as well as their failures. They are essentially just a summary of an employee’s work history over the past year, there should be no surprises. Yet, despite this they are almost always universally despised; by both managers and reports alike. But it need not be this way, with a bit of planning, the performance review process can be a breeze. Whether a first time manager or a company is just implementing an annual review process; this step by step guide will light the path for you to success.
The main reason why both managers and their reports famously despise carrying out performance reviews is because the traditional review process was extremely ineffective from the perspective of both time and usable output. In a study by the advisory service CEB, the average manager reported spending about 210 hours—close to five weeks—doing appraisals each year. Aside from the obviously labour intensive nature of annual reviews, they also don’t do the environment any favours as they generate large amounts of tedious paperwork. They also do not provide adequate feedback as 90% of managers feel that annual reviews fail to yield valuable information.
Before I go in to detail on how to schedule ahead and plan your year, it is worth mentioning that it is not obligatory to follow the calendar year when planning your reviews process. It might be easier to offset it by a few weeks or maybe even a month so that the key elements of the review process do not happen at the end of the year, or clash with an end of quarter, as these are most often some of the busiest and stressful times of the business year.
For the purpose of this article I will assume the reviews process follows the calendar year…
Month 1- January
At the beginning of the year it is important to meet with an employee and define priorities and set goals for the upcoming year. Perhaps the best way to set goals is by using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, Time-bound) framework. Once you and your employee have sat, discussed and set goals for the coming year, you should write them in email form to the employee. That way you both have a record of what was agreed upon for the coming year. Having it in email for is also a useful reference point for you and your employee for the coming year, should either of you need to refer to it.
Months 3, 6 and 9
Every 1-3 months, depending on your business needs, you should hold ‘catch up’ meetings with your employees. The purpose of these meetings is to have regular catch ups with your employees; which is a key component of a continuous feedback process. During these meetings the idea is to evaluate the employees progress, discuss their goals and to see if they need tweaking. As the contemporary business landscape is so fluid and ever changing, it is only logical that priorities in the business may change. Therefore these catch up meetings are an important chance to evaluate process and to ensure the employee is heading in the right direction. Be sure to write down notes from each of these meetings as those will form the basis of your performance review notes at the end of the year.
Month 10- October
In the 10th month of your review calendar, it is a good idea to hold a meeting with the employee and request that they begin to prepare for their end of year performance review. Ask them to prepare documents, and be able to demonstrate that their SMART goals have been met or (in the case of long-term goals) are on track to be met. If goals have already been met, then they should be thinking about new goals and where they would like to go for the following year. This is a very important step as it means the performance review meeting will be more of a two way conversation rather than a one-way monologue, without input or opinions of the employee.
Month 11- November
In the 11th month of the review process, 4-6 weeks before the final performance review meeting, you need to begin preparing your notes. As a manager it is important that you lead by example; and being prepared for the performance review meeting is an important step in this. If a manager is unprepared for a performance review meeting, it gives a very poor message to the employee: it says that you weren’t bothered to prepare, and also that you value your time more than that of your employees. Respect is earned, not given; and ensuring you are well prepared and take the work of your employees seriously, goes a long way towards ensuring you are.
Month 12- December
About 3 weeks before the final (and official) performance review meeting you should be gathering all the appropriate information documentation, and thinking about what you will talk about in the performance review meeting. All the notes that you took during the course of the year at the more informal catch up meetings will prove invaluable here. It is of course difficult to recall things that happened almost a year ago, so these notes will be very useful when evaluating your employee’s performance over the past year.
Once the day of the final performance review meeting arrives, you will thank your lucky stars that you followed these guidelines for stress free performance review planning. With the performance review, preparation is key. If you work consistently, throughout the year, keeping notes and regularly checking in with the employee and their progress, the end review process can actually be an enjoyable -yes, I said enjoyable- conversation. As the employee has also (hopefully) prepared for the meeting, it can now be a productive, two-way conversation, which focuses on things the employee did well, as well as things that were less successful. But the key with a performance review is to be constructive, and also to ensure that your employees feel valued.
Back to the future
The above tips will certainly help you to streamline your performance review process. Following these steps will help to form a logical process by which the performance review process is planned, as well as implemented. It will save time (as well as blood, sweat and tears). However, a paper, or even an MS word doc type performance review system, is outdated, overly time consuming, and frustratingly inefficient. Perhaps it’s time to think about a software solution for your performance management. While these solutions may cost a bit of money to implement, the time and frustration that they save, more than make up the difference. Click here to find out how a software solution can work for you.
Photo by Ian Prince