Three Steps for Successful Performance Reviews

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Photo By Brittany Beach for Editor At Large

Studies show a large majority of employees and managers dislike their company’s performance review process. That’s a shame, because a performance review should be a positive experience for both parties. It’s an opportunity to dedicate some uninterrupted time to having a frank and meaningful conversation about expectations, accomplishments and goals. Like other aspects of a business, achieving a successful outcome requires planning and thoughtful execution.

The first and most critical step to a successful performance review is articulating expectations. Against what criteria is the employee’s performance to be reviewed? Those need to be specific, concrete, measurable, and unambiguous, and made clear to the employee at the beginning of the period of work to be reviewed. They should be directly related to the employee’s role and responsibilities, and it should be clear to the employee how they relate to the overall mission, work, goals and culture of the business. The employee should be apprised of their progress periodically throughout the performance period. A performance review is not the place to reprimand an employee for some lack or fault that occurred weeks or months ago. Performance issues should be dealt with as they happen.

The second step is preparation. In advance of meeting with the employee, gather together whatever documentation you have relative to their performance criteria. Review it carefully and make note of any areas you want to emphasize. Once you have identified the specifics and facts, take some time to organize the material and compose an outline or brief of the conversation you want to have with them.

The third step is to focus on achievements, goals and strengths. A performance review should not be treated as an audit of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Discuss with the employee what they have accomplished and how they have contributed to the company, paying particular attention to what they have done well. Talk to them about how they feel about their work and role in the company, challenges, frustrations they may be facing, what they hope to achieve, and their career goals. If there are lingering issues about work habits, interpersonal behavior or problems meeting deadlines and fulfilling deliverables, review them and engage the employee in arriving at a solution to correct them. Keep the conversation on a positive note throughout. Make the employee feel they have been heard and their views respected. Conclude by giving the employee a general assessment of their performance and set a time to discuss the performance criteria for the next review period. Decisions about compensation, bonuses or other rewards should be made at a later date.

Employees need to know that they are being held accountable. They also need reassurance that their performance is not being evaluated in a vacuum or haphazardly. When expectations and evaluations are aligned, managers and employees can focus on what they do best, which is the happiest outcome for everyone.

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