ATTENTION SUPERVISORS! That mostly dreaded time of year is here, when annual or year-end employee performance reviews are due, and the time-consuming venture becomes almost as exciting as doing your taxes.
But, the pain of conducting reviews shouldn't have to be comparable to giving birth or having your wisdom teeth removed without anesthesia.
In my career as both an HR executive and a business consultant, I find that most managers lack proper training on conducting year-end reviews, making it a very painstaking process for both the supervisor and their staff.
If you are an employer or supervisor, let me help relieve some of the stress and strain of your performance evaluations.
Here are a few guidelines:
Conduct a Pre-Evaluation Staff Meeting.
Employees dread the performance review meeting as much as the supervisor because it feels like going before a firing squad. Even if the employee is a high achiever and excellent performer, he/she will still dread the moment.
Ease their minds by conducting a pre-evaluation staff meeting where you gather your reports and collectively come up with an agenda. You will often find their agenda is not far off from yours, but because they had buy-in, it will ease the tension and set expectations ahead of time.
This is NOT where everyone points fingers or starts casting aspersions. This is merely a meeting where an agenda is established and everyone gets on the same page. What is the message you want everyone to walk away with in the end?
The agenda should be strictly focused on these key targets:
What is the company trying to achieve
How do we each play a part in helping the company achieve its goals
What have we each contributed
How well have we contributed and where can we improve
What can we do to help support one another in overall performance
What tools are necessary or processes need to be updated to accomplish company goals
When concluding this meeting, ask employees to conduct a self-review and write down three goals they wish to accomplish and have them bring this information to their evaluation meeting.
After the meeting, set up appointments with each report. Each meeting should last no more than 30 minutes, and should be easily accomplished in light of the preparation. Not to mention, if you consistently give feedback throughout the year, employees pretty much know how well they have performed ahead of time.
Create a Comfortable Evaluation Space.
Nothing says "dictator" like conducting evaluation meetings with the supervisor sitting behind his/her desk and the employee sitting on the other side. The employee may feel intimidated or like they are in the hot seat, waiting for the shoe to drop.
Instead, create a comfortable environment by coming out from behind the desk and positioning your office chairs in a way where it appears to be a more casual conversation.
This will ease even the slightest tension in the room and convey a message that you are interested in what the employee has to say, consider yourself an equal, and are intent on listening to their input.
Offer them a drink (non-alcoholic, of course) and start your meeting with "first and foremost, I want to personally thank you for your dedication and service to our team and company." Gratitude will automatically set the tone and make employees feel appreciated.
Even if the employee is the worst performer, gratitude usually always serves as a motivator for increased performance.
Focus on the Positive.
This can be a challenge with employees who are low-achievers or under-performers, but making them part of the solution often turns them around.
There are a few things to consider before addressing low performance issues:
Home life often affects work life. Although you cannot legally delve into a person's personal life or allow it to be a consideration in performance reviews, be considerate of the fact that everyone has challenges outside of work that you most likely will not be privy to.
It can be a strained marriage, rebellious child, financial distress, health issues, family drama, ailing relative, or any combination of stressful situations contributing to their lack of performance.
On the other hand, it may just not be a good fit for the employee, but nonetheless, you have to focus on positive solutions. Invite the employee to come up with ideas to resolve challenges or under-performance.