A performance review is one of the best tools a manager has to fine tune the performance of subordinates. A performance review is a regularly scheduled recap of the day-to-day engagements between managers and employees. It should always include a plan, large or small, for the employee’s continued professional growth. A performance review is not about money. Raises are about money.
A performance review is not about filling out forms. Audits and inspections are about filling out forms. The review – or appraisal – is about feedback. It is a conversation about how much meaning and purpose a manager can create with an employee. No performance review can be successful unless the manager has already given good feedback and direction regularly throughout the year, making assessments and adjustments along the way, and building rapport and confidence with the employee. Only then can it all be successfully summarized into a concise review. In other words, the review itself is the culmination of the interactions between the manager and the employee throughout the year. If a manager is saving things up for a year to spring on an employee all at once, well, that’s a performance review that won’t be helpful. In fact, it could probably do more harm than good. Do you know the vital steps to take before conducting an employee performance review? They’re at least as important as the steps you take during the review. With that in mind, here is a six-part checklist that covers all vital phases of the pre-review.
1. Hold periodic informal feedback sessions.
Your best bet for accomplishing this is to mark your calendar with dates and notes such as “Hold a ‘how ya doing’ talk with Hank” to remind you periodically throughout the year to sit down with employees to discuss their performance – outside the formal appraisal setup. That promotes a “no surprises” environment when you do the actual face-to-face appraisal later on. These informal talks create “check-up” points along the way, and help keep the manager and the employee focused on the worker’s development.
2. Keep a record of the informal sessions.
Nothing fancy, but try to keep notes of what was said, what was agreed upon and when you talked. Notes like that can help resolve disputes that might come up later during the formal review. This kind of documentation will allow you to respond with comments like, “When we talked in August, you said …”
3. Standardize your evaluation criteria as much as possible.
If you have two or more employees doing similar jobs, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the same standards to judge their performance – whether it’s straight productivity numbers, quality levels, revenue generation or other measurable criteria. The reasons for standardizing are threefold:
* It’ll make your life easier, in that you won’t have to reinvent the wheel for every review. You’ll have a predetermined set of standards that you can use each time.
* It’ll make more sense to your employees. They’ll have a clear understanding of what’s required and what they’re being judged on.
* It’ll help avoid lawsuits and charges of favoritism or discrimination. The main cause of complaints is fuzzy measurement. If Employee A thinks he’s being held to a different set of standards than Employee B, expect Employee A to complain – to a lawyer, in some instances.
4. Study the employee’s previous performance review.
Were goals laid out? Were promises made? Did subsequent events change any of the employee’s circumstances since the last review? It’s important to familiarize yourself with all of the components of the previous review, especially if the review was done by another manager. You don’t want to be caught off-guard or appear to be unaware of major agreements or problems.
5. Ask the employee to do a write-up of accomplishments.
Some people may expect you to remember everything. Fact is you can’t. No one can. That’s where the employee’s write-up, or “self evaluation,” comes in handy. You’ll (a) get a reminder of what the employee has accomplished since the last review and (b) have a basis for comparing your evaluation and resolving differences. The last thing you want is to walk into a review and get surprised by the idea that the two of you have totally different views on what happened since the last review.
6. Talk to customers, relevant co-workers and other points of contact for the employee.
Just about every employee does tasks that go unnoticed by a supervisor. It’s unavoidable, and no supervisor can be expected to know and see everything. A supervisor is, however, expected to do a little legwork to learn as much as possible about the employee. Did she, without being asked or recognized, help out another employee with a difficult project? Did she go the extra mile for an important customer? As a responsible supervisor, you’ll want to find out about those instances. And the more you can find about, the better. Multiple sources will give you a better balanced view, rather than relying on one source who says the employee is great – or terrible.
PERFORMANCE REVIEW PREPARATION CHECKLIST
Prior to the meeting
- Identify a time and date that is mutually convenient. Avoid re-scheduling!
- Reserve a private place free from phone calls and interruptions!
- Get employee input on his/her accomplishments, concerns, goals.
- (Optional) Get employee-provided list of references: co-workers, customers, etc.
- Seek input from those who interact and work directly with employee.
- Review and compare performance: expectations versus actual.
- Review skills, work experience, training/future training needs.
- List major positive and negative incidents (Be specific, do not generalize).
- Determine strengths and weaknesses.
- Prepare and prioritize a tentative development plan.
- Establish meeting objectives/agenda.
Conducting the meeting
- Establish an open and positive climate.
- Review the purpose of the review – Goal setting and problem solving.
- Discuss performance goals and achievements.
- Discuss strength and competencies, areas of potential growth.
- Discuss area of development/opportunity/formal training (if any).
- Encourage employee response.
- Seek agreement on appropriate goals, development and timetable.
- Summarize the meeting. If it is positive, end on a positive note. If it is not
- positive, reinforce what must occur and set clear deadlines for
- Prepare a formal, written review document.
- Get employee signature, agreement.
- File copies in personnel file, HR file.
- Provide copy to employee.