Performance Reviews That Inspire Employees

The new year has arrived and that means it's performance review season! While your team is trying to get ahead of their new year’s resolutions, the office stress levels may feel like they’re ramping up. When it comes to annual reviews, research has shown that a jarring 60-90% of employees and managers report that they dislike the evaluation process. Even further, 58% of managers say that their employee performance reviews are not effective. It’s time to rethink the mundane once-a-year performance review process! Performance reviews should be dynamic throughout the year.

An annual review meeting still has its place, so use it to set the stage, outline individual goals for the coming year, and identify how those goals help the company grow. As a manager, this meeting should be your moment to celebrate big wins, reinforce positive behaviors, and partner with your team to build their path to continuous development. Make the performance review process less intimidating by focusing on these six tips:

Write your evaluation first.

Often, performance reviews involve two essential parts: the employee’s self-evaluation and the manager’s evaluation. If that’s true in your organization, as a manager you need to make sure you write your review first. This is your chance to show your employee how their workplace successes directly align with company goals as well as where they need to continue to develop to be successful long-term.

Analyze tasks that need more work or skills that need fine-tuning. What projects have they taken the lead on and successfully completed? Where would they want (and need) to grow? How you can help them develop the skills they’ll need to get there? Once you’ve written your evaluation, read your employee’s self-evaluation. This will give you a good understanding of what they feel they’re succeeding at and what they want to work on. It’s also a great time to check if the feedback in your evaluation is in alignment with theirs. If they see themselves in one position and you see them moving to another, that opens the door for transparent conversation around their career development. Once you settle on a clear plan, be sure to document your evaluation so it’s easy to refer to during regular check-in meetings.

Decide how to measure new goals.

Is your reviewee a visual learner or do they do better without the day-to-day statistics? Do they need strict deadlines or flexible time periods with little-to-no supervision to complete projects? Get to know each employee to understand the best way to motivate them and show their success. Whether they like hearing from you on how they’re progressing on their overarching goal or prefer to personally manage their small tasks daily, figure out what works best for each individual and stick to it.

Set a few Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you and your employee can track. Be specific and make it tangible, such as making calls to 20 clients per month or visiting a job site twice a week. Define what success looks like by answering the following questions together: What is the exact goal? How are you sharing and monitoring progress? What does it look like to surpass the goals? How does it align with supporting the company’s success? How will progress be measured? What factors will indicate the goal has been met? Be sure you and the employee are aligned on expectations in order to set them up for success.

Merge the big picture with individual goals.

As a manager, it’s your job to juggle your workload and track your team’s projects and morale, all while staying laser-focused on the company’s strategic goals. During the evaluation process, connect the dots between your employee’s passions and goals with where the business is heading. Ask about their interests both in and out of work. Have an artist on your team? Maybe your marketing team could use someone to help create graphics. Are they good with data? They could potentially take the lead on your next audit. Finding a way to bring your team’s passions into their work is a great way to create motivation and balance. Keep your ears perked for any projects that might suit their individual skills. The business goals are always the team’s true north—it’s up to you to help combine your team’s desires with what the business needs to succeed.

Keep moving forward.

The performance review is the perfect time to review the previous year’s goals. If they came up a little short, discuss the challenges they faced. Keep the conversation focused on the future and build solutions together. This may involve more of a coaching approach. How can you help them move any past roadblocks in the coming year? Are there process changes that you can agree on as a team to help set them up for success in the future? Can you build in extra time in their schedule to accommodate professional development opportunities? The past is a great learning tool, but it isn’t meant to impede on the present. As a manager, help your employees find a productive work style so they can continue on the journey to reach their goals.

Performance should be a regular topic.

Performance reviews are not meant to be the end of the professional development discussion. Keep the momentum by committing to touch base during regularly-scheduled one-on-one meetings. Give your team an open forum to share ideas for next steps or projects they’ve been mulling over. Allow them to discuss issues they’ve been facing and work together to create a plan to move through them. Sometimes goals may need to be adjusted depending on changes in business needs. Meeting regularly allows you to keep track of the progress they make on goals set during their review, but it also gives them a space with your undivided attention to let you in on what’s going on in their world.

Not sure how to enhance your employee’s skillset? Here are 3 ways to encourage and provide employee growth.