3 Steps to Effective Performance Reviews

hand pull crumpled paper with customer service evaluation iconWe’re in the fourth quarter of 2015. For many organizations, that means it’s performance review time.

Performance reviews are typically once-a-year post-mortem activities. In other words, they focus on the past. They typically emphasize misses – what a team member didn’t do well – and minimize legitimate contributions.

For many, performance reviews are painful. A 2013 study found a majority of players believe that performance appraisals are unfair. Dr. Satoris Culbertson, the lead researcher, explained, “If employees see them as unfair, or if they don’t see the purpose, it is likely to lead to dissatisfaction with the process, which also leads to job dissatisfaction, turnover and less commitment to an organization.”

Years ago, a colleague was working with the senior leadership team of a multi-national manufacturing organization. He had conducted interviews regarding their annual performance review process and found that players throughout the organization hated it. Players found it unfair with little benefit to their development or to the next year’s performance planning.

To make a dramatic point in a meeting with those senior leaders, my colleague referred to their performance review process as “morally bankrupt.”

The stunned silence that greeted his comment helped my colleague realize he might have gone too far with that description! He was promptly invited to do no further work with this client. That was unfortunate, because this client really needed help creating a more effective feedback process.

Every player deserves to know how they’re doing. And, there is universal dissatisfaction with most appraisal discussions. If you want to boost the effectiveness of your feedback process, try these three steps:

How & What. Don’t just evaluate performance – evaluate citizenship and values, as well. Players deserve feedback on the “what” (the extent to which they deliver on performance expectations) as well as on the “how” (the extent to which they model your organization’s values and behaviors, treating others with respect in every interaction).

Including values expectations in the feedback process expands the benefit of the discussion. This values emphasis means that the title – “performance review” – covers only one aspect of the partnership! I suggest changing the term to “contribution review,” which indicates feedback on more than just performance.

Relevant. Ensure that feedback is gathered from people the player works with on a regular basis. Sometimes their direct boss isn’t at all aware of what the player does daily – how they deliver on their goals and how they treat others in daily interactions.

Data from co-workers, project team members, functional team colleagues, and internal and external customers can provide a much more accurate picture of the players contributions over time. In addition to those data points, include perceptions from the player being reviewed!

Frequent. Feedback isn’t effective if it only happens once a year. Feedback needs to happen regularly, at least once a month. Effective feedback doesn’t require a cumbersome form – it simply requires regular conversation with brief documentation of what’s going well, what needs tweaking, and action steps to maintain the good and close gaps on the less-than-good.

Performance feedback is simply “information” that can be examined to see how to better serve, how to contribute more effectively, and how to treat others respectfully along the way. If your current approach doesn’t provide that information, tweak it. Now.

How effective is your team’s review process? What great practices have you seen that make feedback beneficial and relevant? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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