Performance review tips | Tips for conducting a better performance review

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Performance review tips can help managers better achieve goals. Performance reviews tips can help you strike the right balance between praise and constructive criticism

Performance reviews are a lot like walking a tightrope. If you withhold positive feedback, you’ll discourage and demoralize employees. On the other hand, if you hesitate to point out problem areas, you’ll never see improvement.

To achieve that elusive balance and make the review a productive one, start preparing for the next round of performance appraisals once the last round has been completed. If you’re dissatisfied with the reviews you’ve given in the past, take steps now to improve the process before other priorities and deadlines force you to put it on the back burner.

Performance review tips

Maintain a consistent review schedule

Performance appraisals should not be a one-time event. In addition to providing ongoing feedback throughout the year, let employees know what time of year that reviews typically take place. Seventy-seven percent of employees polled by our company said they consider performance reviews valuable, so providing them with adequate time to prepare is critical. Give your staff the opportunity to identify their achievements from the past year and areas where they would like to improve.

Keep “tickler” files on each employee

Whenever you hire a new staff member or immediately after your review the performance of a long-time employee, set up a file in which you will document the good, the bad and the just-average aspects of that employee’s job performance and work habits. You can use the file not only to catalog accomplishments but also to track performance-related issues such as tardiness or consistent failure to meet deadlines. By keeping a performance file on each staff member, you won’t have to rely on memory when you find you need to discuss something that occurred months before the actual review meeting.

Solicit third-party input

Although the appraisal will be based on your observations and assessments of an employee’s performance, you shouldn’t rely solely on your own perceptions – particularly if your interactions with the individual have been limited. Seek input from colleagues and others who work closely day-to-day with the employee. Inquire about the person’s strengths, weaknesses, areas that have improved over time and special abilities. Ask specific questions. For example, how does this employee handle challenges and overcome obstacles? What contributions has he or she made to team-based projects? Does the employee seem committed to continuing professional education and skills development? Compare the feedback you receive with what you’ve directly observed.

Allow sufficient time to make an assessment

Don’t wait until the day before the review to start tracking and critiquing a staff member’s performance – this is unfair to the individual and will not give you an accurate, comprehensive picture of his or her abilities and achievements. Instead, try to observe the employee in a variety of situations over an extended period of time. Ideally, you want to see how well he or she manages both independent and collaborative assignments.

Create a conducive setting

Choose a quiet, private place for the review and try to schedule it at a time when interruptions can be kept at a minimum. When structuring the session, incorporate time for a two-way dialogue so that the employee can respond to your feedback and offer input of his or her own. To prepare for the meeting, organize all documentation – previous evaluations, memos from the employee’s supervisors, comments you’ve gleaned from colleagues and your own notes. Give the employee sufficient advance notice so that he or she can also prepare.

Set the appropriate tone

The review itself should be handled in a professional manner and treated as a conversation, not a lecture. Open the discussion by talking about the employee’s accomplishments and positive attributes. When it’s time to shift to negative or problematic areas, focus not on mistakes but on ways to improve performance. Most employees will not be surprised by anything they hear during a review. However, if there’s a gap between an employee’s perceived versus actual performance, be sure to explain the difference and suggest ways performance goals might be met. As you speak with the employee, invite comments on your observations.

Once you’ve reviewed past performance, begin talking about future expectations. Clarify his or her job requirements and responsibilities as these can change over time. Also inquire about the employee’s professional development goals and discuss how you both might work toward meeting them. Throughout the meeting, be courteous and tactful. If you must criticize, focus on behaviour rather than personality. Remember that encouragement is the best incentive for improvement.

Maintain an open door

Because employees may need time to digest the feedback from a review, encourage them to come to you afterward if they have questions or concerns. If you show that performance is not a once-a-year issue but a matter of ongoing importance, your staff will focus less on the formal review itself and more on the feedback and guidance they received. They’ll be motivated to see feedback as help with their performance.

By preparing well in advance for performance reviews and developing a systematic, consistent appraisal process, you’ll turn what could be an uncomfortable time into a chance to dialogue with team members and set goals for the future. Who knows? You and your employees may start to look forward to these feedback sessions and your employee retention may improve.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International, has more than 350 locations throughout North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and offers online job search services at www.roberthalf.com. For more information, please call 1.800.474.4253.

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