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Which Way Is Up?

How do you know if your employees are contributing to your company’s success?  What do you look at in your performance reviews?  Most executives dread giving performance reviews. And the people receiving them don’t exactly look forward to them either.  The biggest issue is that they are often meaningless – they don’t really measure anything important, they don’t add value, and they don’t change the person’s performance.  “End of year” reviews are common, so if you haven’t done yours yet, here are some tips to improve the quality of your reviews and make them more meaningful for both you and the employee.

Prepare.  Don’t wing it, or talk off-the-cuff, from a “gut level”.  Have notes and really think through what you want to discuss.

Dialogue.  Don’t talk at people. Most employees are asked to do their OWN review before the boss reviews them.  Read them, and ask questions on how your employee reached their conclusions, then really listen.  Meet them at their model of the world before imposing your own view.  Learn about any personal or “work/life balance” issues that could be impacting performance.

Talk big picture.  Don’t focus on just one thing that is at the top of your mind, like one recent minor error.  Is the person contributing well overall?

Be balanced.  For most employees, you can talk about positives first, then discuss an equal amount of “developmental areas” – areas where your employee has room for improvement.  Remember that accuracy is important.  If your employee is either outstanding or a poor performer, appropriately discuss more of the positives or negatives, to ensure an accurate review.

Be constructive.  Telling someone “I need you to stop doing X” is not helpful.  Prescribe the behavior you DO want: “I’d like you to try to be more Y” – and give a concrete example.

Don’t wait for once a year.   Review time shouldn’t be the first time your employee hears from you.  Give feedback continuously.  Experts believe brief monthly reviews are the best interval.

And the number one thing you can do to improve reviews:

Be specific.  Without goals to measure against, all you really can review are behaviors that are out of context.  Provide that context by giving each person specific measurable performance objectives at the beginning of the year, and your reviews will be more meaningful and go much easier next year.