By Will Bridges
Annual performance reviews are par for the course in many businesses. While some people dread them, they offer a great opportunity for employers to sit down with employees to discuss issues and concerns, and to ensure that everyone is happy.
Without forward planning, however, it can be difficult to ensure that both parties are getting the most out of the process. To ensure annual reviews are efficient, effective, and a good use of time, the following criteria should be considered:
Often regarded as a bureaucratic exercise to be ticked off the “to-do list,” if done properly and prepared for, annual reviews can be of real value to everyone involved. Before the meeting, it is important for you (and the employee) to consider the topics you wish to raise and what you they want to get from the review.
Taking the time to plan beforehand and looking into specifics related to the employee in question will go a long way to ensure the meeting is not a waste of time.
Reviews should be private and confidential; therefore, the location of the meeting should reflect this. Choosing a setting that allows for confidential discussions, such as a small conference room with a round table, will help the conversation flow more naturally and put employees at ease.
If such a room isn’t available and there are only larger rooms with long tables at your disposal, choose to sit adjacent to the employee rather than at opposite ends of the table. Making employees feel relaxed rather than as though they are on trial will improve communication and make the review more effective.
As with any meeting, it’s useful to have an agenda as it ensures that you cover everything you need to. An agenda will also tell employees from the very start what to expect during the review and will help to put them at ease.
While the agenda doesn’t have to be in-depth, it can be a good way to give an overview of what will be discussed. In general, a review may cover these four topics: 1) past performance, 2) current performance, 3) future goals, 4) personal development.
The agenda for reviews may vary depending on how your company operates, but a clear rundown of what will be discussed helps everyone feel at ease and also allows you to keep track of everything you wish to discuss.
4. Promote discussion
Reviews should allow for open discussion on both parts; therefore, it’s important to encourage employees to give their opinions and raise any issues they wish to talk about. Finding out what employees think and whether they require extra support can provide real insights into them as people and also helps you know how to aid their personal and career development.
5. Be honest
To get the most from a review, it’s important to be honest about both the good and bad. Giving due praise and credit is always appreciated and shows employees that their efforts haven’t gone unrecognized. Equally, honest feedback also relates to things employees need to improve on.
Sugar-coating feedback is something many employers do in order to avoid confrontation; however, this can be detrimental. Giving honest and thoughtful feedback, and allowing employees to respond will ensure that the dialogue is effective and that everybody gets the most from the process.
6. Separate pay
Talk of pay raises can mar or overshadow performance reviews, leading some to believe they should not be included as part of the review and instead should be the subject of their own meeting. However, this isn’t always possible and every company has its own way of dealing with such issues.
That said, if discussion of pay raises will be part of the review, try to avoid leaving the subject until the end. Broaching the subject at the end of the meeting can result in an “elephant in the room” situation, with employees knowing the topic is coming and that, fairly understandably, being their main concern. Introducing the topic more naturally in the flow of conversation can avoid this situation and help with the effectiveness of the review.
Pay raises and ranking employees against set criteria can be sensitive issues and stir up emotions. Therefore, standing by your reasoning and keeping your resolve is necessary.
7. Reach an agreement
For reviews to be truly effective it’s important for both you and your employee to be on the same page at the end of the meeting. Coming to an agreement on achievements, future objectives, and pitfalls will help you both reach a mutual understanding of the employee’s working life, expectations for the future, and what support the employee needs to be successful.
An increasingly popular method of review hands the reins over to the employee and asks them to review themselves. For some employers this method proves more effective as it encourages open discussion from the off. Giving employees a list of questions to answer and bring to the review will ensure they are fully engaged with the process and that their opinions are heard.
Getting the most out of annual reviews requires proper planning and careful consideration. Taking time to think over the specific needs of each employee will ensure that reviews meet their needs and also act as opportunities to voice any thoughts or concerns.
Developing a method that works for your company is vital and will allow you to tailor your reviews to meet the needs of the business and reflect the company’s values.
Ultimately, annual reviews needn’t be seen as an extra piece of bureaucracy, and instead, if viewed and undertaken properly, they can be beneficial to all involved.