Written by: Steve Seibold, Human Resources Advisor
Performance reviews can cause a range of emotions from employees and supervisors including anxiety and anticipation. While it is one of the necessary evils of the workplace, performance management can be ineffective or detrimental if not done properly. We are going to discuss why performance reviews should be done, how to effectively do them, and when to do them. Auditing your current program would be a good way to see if it is accomplishing the desired outcomes – see Auditing Your Performance Review Program in Resources on the Tilson website.
To answer the question of why performance reviews are necessary, it’s best to begin by identifying the end result so that there is more clarity to the purpose. Below is a list of outcomes to consider:
- Performance reviews clarify job responsibilities and expectations,
- They enhance individual and group productivity,
- They develop employees’ capabilities to the fullest extent through feedback and coaching,
- They drive behavior to align with your organization’s core values, goals, and strategies,
- They provide a basis for making decisions about promotion, demotion, and merit increases, and
- They improve communication between employees and supervisors.
After understanding why performance reviews are necessary, the next step is to determine the most effective approach. To begin, it’s important to establish clear expectations for both the employee and supervisor. Brene Brown has coined an old phrase, “Clear is kind and unclear is unkind.” This certainly applies to job duties and expectations. A foundational tool to set these expectations is the job description. Every position within your company should have an up-to-date job description that outlines the roles and responsibilities and should be used to identify what will be measured. Identifying what each role does and how it will be measured will help employers find the right person for the position, set clear expectations for performance, and help ensure your organization’s success. Contact your Tilson HR Advisor to direct you to job description development tools. After the job description is in place, then goals can be set that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely).
The final question is when or how often should performance reviews be done? Traditionally performance reviews were conducted once each year and were tied to pay increases. This format is still in place with many employers. Annual performance reviews can be effective if supervisors keep good notes throughout the year, set measurable goals to achieve, and avoid the pitfall of recency which is only discussing the most recent time period. Performance assessment, however, is an ongoing function of supervisors and should include coaching, developing, disciplining (if applicable), and reviewing employees through the year. Surveys consistently show that employees crave feedback on job performance and is one of the main indicators of job satisfaction. Regardless of the frequency of the actual performance review, there should be no surprises when the employee and supervisor meet because there has been an ongoing dialogue throughout the year.
Theoretically this all sounds good but what are some practical things that supervisors can do today?
- Start by reviewing job descriptions or creating them if they do not exist. Tilson can provide guidance on how to develop job descriptions and how to revise existing ones.
- Meet with employees to review the job description and set SMART goals.
- Schedule regular 1:1 meetings with employees with active participation from employees to set the agenda of what is discussed. Document these discussions for future reference.
- Schedule performance reviews on a set schedule so both supervisors and employees know when to expect them and what they will look like. Refer to the Employee Performance Guide on the Tilson website under Resources for a template to organize this discussion.
Performance management is a key part of a supervisor’s responsibilities and employers need to put guidelines into place to ensure performance reviews are effective, contribute to employee satisfaction, and ensure business success.