What Makes a Successful Employee Performance Review?

An employee performance review - often known as the performance appraisal - is a whole different beast in a high-performance organization

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 inspiring the team member 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 - Like Pulling Tooth

"I'd sooner 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 sooner pull their tooth out than have to endure the annual employee performance review! Some of that is due to the psychological principle of loss aversion.

Employee Performance Reviews Have Undergone a Major Rethink

Fortunately, in recent times, how appraisals are conducted, have undergone some major re-thinking.

You may have noticed that instead of using the word appraisal, the term often used is 'Performance Feedback and Development.' This better reflects what you are aiming to do when you sit down with your team members at review time!

An employee performance review in a high-performance organization 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
  • Recognizes skills and abilities that are a strength for the individual
  • Identifies weak areas, with a focus upon finding ways to work around those weaknesses (not try to fix them)
  • Leaves correcting mistakes (made by team members) to the performance management process and instead focuses on improving overall organizational performance and career direction
  • Understands that development isn't just about sending people to training courses. Growth happens through other activities like  in-job-assignments, special projects etc
  • Are 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 in taking 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
access team coaching

Employee Performance Reviews at Their Best

A performance feedback and development session that works involves many things.

First and foremost, for it to be a real success for the team member, you the leader and your organization ... it should be nothing more than a session that formalizes the regular (e.g. fortnightly or monthly) sit down meetings you have had 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 that simple.

Employee Performance Review

The Goal of Any Employee Performance Review Is To Improve Performance In the Future

The most important goal of any employee performance review is to improve performance in the future. And we don't mean only improving the team member's performance. Leaders can get valuable information from team members that helps them to make their jobs more productive and rewarding. For example, you may well identify systems or procedures that hinder high-performance.

You can make the employee performance review (whether you are doing it regularly 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 performance. They don't abdicate their success to you 'the boss'!

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

Read the article on no rating performance reviews

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