What Makes For A Successful Employee Performance Review

Next to employee discipline, the formal employee performance review and appraisal sessions are probably the most dreaded leadership activity. Some reasons leaders so detest the traditional performance appraisal are because they:

  • Put the leader in a position of being the 'expert' on the team member's past performance
  • Have the leader acting as a 'Judge'
  • Can be about assigning blame, rather than the team member wanting to take responsibility for fixing future performance
  • Are often adversarial, or end up with the team member feeling disgruntled, reacting with passive resistance or noticeable defensiveness
  • Don't enable performance improvement
  • Are more about filling in the forms than in have a real dialogue
  • Waste a lot of time

employee performance review - teeth pulling "I'd rather pull a tooth than endure
an employee performance review!"

No wonder leaders are often hesitant to deliver performance appraisals to team members and team members fear receiving them. Most people would rather pull their own tooth out than have to endure the annual employee performance review! And some of that is due to the psychological principle called loss aversion.

Fortunately, in recent times, the ways in which appraisals are conducted, have under-gone some major re-thinking.

In fact, you may have noticed that instead of using the word appraisal, the term now often used is 'Performance Feedback and Development', which better reflects what you should be aiming to do, when you are sitting down with your team members at review time!

An employee performance review -- in a high performance organization that is focused on bringing out the best in people -- looks like this:

  • Is an ongoing series of discussions between the team leader and team member, rather than an annual event
  • Gives more focus to the future than the past, and
  • Seeks ways of improving the way work is done, by identifying the systems/procedures that are getting in people's way and need changing to enable improved performance
  • Identifies skills and abilities that are a strength for the individual
  • Identifies weak areas and then the focus is upon finding ways to work around those weaknesses (not try to fix them)
  • Leaves fixing mistakes (made by team members) to the performance management process and instead focuses on improving overall performance and career direction
  • Understands that development isn't just about assigning people to training courses. Development is also done through in-job-assignments and special projects
  • Has been designed to meet the specific needs and culture of their organization
  • Teaches all team members how to build stronger relationships during, and get the most from the feedback after, the performance review
  • Promotes candid two-way communication between the leader and the team member, and assists the latter to take responsibility for improving his or her performance
  • Separates the compensation conversation from the performance appraisal
  • Encourages the team member to share their perspective on how both, the organization as a whole, and you, the leader, are going


Employee Performance Reviews At Their Best

A performance feedback and development session that works, involves a number of things.

First and foremost, for it to be a true success for the team member, you the leader and your organization ... it truly should be nothing more than a session that formalizes the regular (e.g. fortnightly or monthly) sit down sessions you have been having with the team member throughout the year.

Those regular sessions are about identifying what has gotten in the way of better performance (regardless of the level of performance), and how you and your team member can work together in the future, to improve it.

It's really that simple.

employee performance review can be like pulling teeth

The most important goal of any employee performance review, is to improve performance in the future ... and not just improving the team member's performance. Leaders can get valuable information from team members to help them to make their jobs more productive and rewarding. For example, you may well identify systems or procedures that hinder terrific performance.

You can make the employee performance review (whether you are doing it on a regular basis throughout the year, or you are leaving it to the 'old' way of an annual review) far more effective when you involve team members right from the get go AND you have the mindset and intention that the team member feels responsibility for enhancing and improving his or her own performance -- they don't abdicate their success to you 'the boss'!

Go to the next article in this series: Which provides a sample performance review process - and shows you just how to do this.

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