10 Tips for Conducting a Productive Performance Review

Performance reviews give you a chance to thank your staff, outline your expectations for them and make sure they're feeling happy at your business. However, if not handled well, they can also waste time, resources and have a negative impact on team morale. Check out this blog post to find out more.

June 20, 2023

Performance reviews are one of the most effective ways to assess, motivate and engage your employees.

But they can go wrong so easily; becoming meaningless, time-consuming and downright negative.

So this week, I’ve created this list of important considerations to help you ensure that your performance review process is efficient, fair and ultimately productive.

So let’s start right from the beginning…

1. Actually do them.

Pretty self-explanatory - right?

Unfortunately, for one reason or another, there are still a huge number of managers out there who refuse to do performance reviews.

If you’re one of them, then you’re really missing a real trick.

Recruiter Pro Tip Why bother? Because…
  • You’ll be much better informed about the way things are at your company.
  • You’ll get a chance to set your expectations for staff, so there’s more clarity.
  • You’ll get an opportunity to say “thank you” to employees.
  • You’ll also get an opportunity to discuss any issues, in a professional, formal setting.
  • You’ll gain insight into how happy your employees are.
  • Together, you’ll find ways to improve their performance.
  • They’ll feel more secure, valued and included.
These are just a few of many benefits, but in the long run, they all amount to a happier, more engaged and more productive workforce.

In my opinion, performance reviews are that important, they should be compulsory!

2. Be prepared.

You should take performance reviews seriously; don’t fall into the trap of only doing them as a token gesture.

Prepare yourself and your employee before the meeting and come up with specific, value-driven advice and issues to discuss.

If you show up unprepared, rush through the process and don’t really say anything meaningful, then the entire thing looks disingenuous and pointless.

Recruiter Pro Tip It’s important to take a look back at the employee’s entire record for your performance review. This will help you to assess their performance within the last time period (3 – 6 months) and make sure nothing has gone awry; hopefully their performance will have remained the same (if good) or improved. It’s also really easy to focus on more recent events, especially the bad ones, but you really need to consider the big picture to make sure you have a well-rounded, fair and clear picture.

And remember, they may also have questions for you, so be ready for those too.

3. Set the agenda.

The best way to ensure that both you and your employee are prepared is to create a meeting agenda and send it across to them.

You should also ask your employee if there’s anything they’d like to discuss and include that in the agenda too.

Formalising the review process will help to set clear expectations so nothing shocks or discourages your employee; you don’t want them to feel like you’re ambushing them.

It also means that there will be some structure to the review meeting, you’ll both get more out of it and it’ll be easier for you to make a record of everything that is discussed.

If you’d like a bit of help setting an agenda, click here.

4. Be positive.

People might scoff at the old and clichéd “sh*t sandwich,” but it is actually a helpful little metaphor when it comes to performance reviews.

You don’t want to overwhelm a staff member with negativity and criticism; that’ll just leave them feeling uncomfortable, unhappy and completely undervalued.

Remember to talk about the positives, thank staff for their hard work and, when discussing the negatives, be constructive; how can you work together to resolve the problem?

If there (really) aren’t any positives then you really need to consider why and whether this person is right for your team – click here to check out how to deal with underperformers.

5. Be honest.

Do you know what’s really not fair? When an employee thinks everything is going absolutely fine and then BOOM, they get sacked, made redundant or put through disciplinary proceedings.

You should be open and honest with all of your employees and your first step, whether during the performance review or not, should be to discuss the issue directly with them.

Never be rash and go straight to punishment (unless they suddenly do something awful) and never just assume that ‘they’ll get better’ without you saying anything.

They may not even know that they’re going wrong!

Managers who are too quick to discipline often face disloyalty and distrust in their ranks.

On the other hand, if they’re amazing, tell them so. Don’t be afraid to shower people with praise; it will motivate them to work just as hard (or harder) in the future.

6. Set some SMART goals.

Now obviously, a huge part of this process is going to be goal-setting for the future.

Before the review, thoroughly consider what your expectations are for the future, how they’ve improved so far and whether they actually have room for improvement.

You should also consider how you, as a manager, can support those new goals; could you offer more training, support or resources?

And always make sure those goals are SMART: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-based.

(Yes, it’s a cheesy acronym, but it’s still absolutely on point)!

7. Discuss their career development.

People want to know that they have opportunities to progress, grow, challenge themselves and thrive with your company – so your employee performance review is the perfect time to discuss this.

Ask them:

  • What are their hopes for the future?
  • Are they happy in their current role?
  • Could they benefit from further training?

It’s important for you to know whether your staff members are happy and if they don’t feel that there are enough opportunities, they may well leave.

Recruiter Pro Tip If a staff member does come to you with a progression plan, the worst thing you can do is ignore it and simply say ‘no sorry, there’s nothing for you right now.’ Granted, you won’t be able to offer everything to everyone; if the opportunity doesn’t exist, it doesn’t exist. But you should try to think of other ways to offer them more responsibility, training and development. Show them that you do value them and want to keep them around. Click here to discover the top 10 reasons your great employees might be leaving.

Of course, your performance review may also be a good time to discuss a pay increase.

Don’t hold back if you’ve got a great staff member; everyone has a right to try and negotiate on their salary and you shouldn’t be touchy about it.

Reward great work and you will see more of it.

8. Do them more often.

Most companies will do a performance review at least once every six months – but why not more often?

The more regularly you catch up with your employees, the more on top of things you’ll be and the quicker you’ll know about any negatives in the team.

Your staff will also feel a lot more loved, knowing that you’re trying to look after them.

If you have the resources, why not do a quarterly review?

9. Ask about YOUR performance.

Are you a good boss? How do you know?

It’s dead important to find out what your staff members think of your performance too.

You need to make sure that you’re supporting them fully and that you’re keeping them happy.

Just ask the right questions:

  • Is there anything I can do to support you more?
  • Is there any training or guidance you’d like to take part in?
  • Is there anything you’re not happy about?

Keeping an open line of communication like this will help employees to feel valued, listened to and happier in their work environment. It also means they’ll approach you more readily in the future.

To reinforce this, you could also send out an anonymous employee satisfaction survey to your team.

Show that you care about your employees, value their input and care about their happiness and they will, in turn, work harder and care much more about your business.

If you’d like some tips on how to set up a successful employee satisfaction survey – click here.

10. There’s much more to employee communication.

Last but not least, it’s important that your performance review is not the only time you speak to your employees.

You should say thanks, give feedback and just generally communicate with staff on a daily basis; how else are you going to understand what’s happening at your company?

Internal communication can be so valuable, if you do it right.

Click here to find out more.

Ready to go..?

After the performance review, its good practice to send out a summary of everything you discussed, particularly a list of the targets and goals you both agreed on.

This will give you both a guide for future reference and you can use it to assess performance at the next review. It’ll also help to iron out anything that may have been miscommunicated during your meeting.

If you’d like some more advice on employee engagement, management skills and staff retention, click here to subscribe to this blog.

Good luck.

Coburg Banks - Multi-Sector Recruitment Agency
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